The first Birken Race (Birkebeienrrenn) took place in 1932 with 155 male participants. Much has changed since then. Today several thousand people from around the world are experiencing the joy of skiing in the wild nature of the Norwegian mountains. The legendary Norwegian ski race is a 54 km cross-country race starting in Rena to the finish in Lillehammer.
The race crosses two mountains and the tracks take the participants through breathtaking sceneries. It was in this landscape the king’s son was saved in security in the 13th century and since then hundred thousand of Norwegians have taken up the challenge to go on the trip over the mountains. In later years the race and the Norwegian nature have made Birken attractive to foreigners as well as to Norwegians.
Competitors from all over the world
Birkebeinerrennet and its region have a very stable climate with good winters and a lot of wild snow in the high ground, and today competitors from all over the world join the races and create an amazing atmosphere. Competitors must be 16 years old by 31.12.20, and all participants must carry a backpack weighing at least 3.5 kg throughout the race.
The tradition of all participants carrying a backpack was established to symbolize the original Birkebeinere that saved the infant Norwegian king from the rivaling fraction, the Baglers.
Originally, the Baglers intended to be offensive – referring to their leggings of birch bark, indicating that they were poor and incapable. Today, however, the name carries a sense of pride, strength and endurance – something thousands of people, participating in this historical race every year, keep striving for.
The Legendary Norwegian Ski Race
With its wild snow profile and demanding mountains, Birken makes it a real challenge to all XC skiers and a rite of passage under tough conditions. The position of XC skiing in Norway with the country’s skiing traditions and its stars, makes Birkebeinerrennet a special event for all Norwegians.
Birkebeinerrennet is probably the most challenging long-distance cross-country ski race on the circuit, and the 2020 race begins on the 21 March.
Feature image (on top): Store norske leksikon
The Legendary Norwegian Ski Race, written by Tor Kjolberg