A Message from Ben Popp, Executive Director

To the Community,

In recent days we’ve received a variety of communications from both those in support of and against the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation’s (ABSF) decision to dissolve our sponsorship agreement with Enbridge Energy (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). This amenable dissolution between our organizations was driven by our realization that the sponsorship was perhaps not the best vehicle for fostering thoughtful discussion about the environment and climate change. Additionally, it simply doesn’t align with the mission of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. Our decision to dissolve our sponsorship wasn’t a disparagement of Enbridge Energy, rather merely a decision that the $8,500 sponsorship may be a better fit with an organization other than the ABSF.

As a community, we realize that we all use fossil fuels in our everyday lives. From our cars and fuel consumption, to our clothing and sporting equipment, we are all dependent upon fossil fuels in some way, shape or form. As an organization, we fully understand that our snowmaking efforts, grooming, busing, and other activities, utilize fossil fuels and that we do have an impact on the environment. This is one of the many reasons why Birkie Green was born, to address solutions for how our organization impacts the environment and how we can implement environmentally friendly and sustainable practices whenever possible.

Recently, a member of the Hayward community posted an email from a situation that I thought was long since resolved. In 2016 I made an error in judgement and let my personal opinions get in the way of my professional capacity as Executive Director of the ABSF. In the heat of the moment, I sent an email to a Hidden Bay Graphics, a local vendor, canceling an order because of their political position. By the light of day, I realized that I had mis-stepped and personally met with the owner of the company to apologize. We reinstated the order and continued to order from the company for years until they split their business into two unique organizations. To this day, we continue to order Birkie bibs from Hidden Bay Graphics Sports. I was wrong and I addressed this situation 4-years ago, with knowledge of the ABSF board leadership. The ABSF’s recent decision to move away from Enbridge Energy was not intended as a political statement and my email to Jim Miller, 4-years ago, was not the political position of the ABSF.

There is much derision and vitriol in the dialogue within our country today. I am saddened that our decision to step away from a sponsor has caused a heated political reaction for so many. The ABSF is not a politically motivated organization, rather a group of nineteen local employees who create opportunities for healthy active outdoor experiences for all ages and abilities. The ABSF is not a bigger than life entity that operates without regard for the very communities in which we live. Our kids attend the same schools, we shop in the same stores, eat in the same restaurants, and worship in the same churches. As active community members, our staff also donates their time to other organizations and community efforts. This is our home.

We are a non-profit organization who does not receive public funding. We pay the city, county, and townships for the services provided during Birkie week and throughout the year. We try to give back to our local communities as often as possible by sourcing materials, vendors, and services locally, through our development work with youth in the area, and in support of our area schools. We have always said that we could not welcome the world to Hayward, Seeley, and Cable, WI, without the support of the communities in which we operate and without a dedicated and generous volunteer base. None of that has changed. We continue to be grateful for the support of so many who help to make Birkie events a possibility.

Thank you for your time in reading this and for helping to put divisiveness to rest. There is much going on in the world today and I’d like to think that as a community we can lead the way in thoughtful and healing conversation moving forward.

If you’d like to speak about this further, please let me or any of our staff members know.

Thank you-

Ben Popp
ABSF Executive Director