International festival going ahead after last year’s cancellation

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The 2020 Canadian Birkie Ski Festival in Strathcona County is going ahead as scheduled.

 

As one of only three Birkebeiner festivals in the world, the event first started in 1984. Since then, it has only been cancelled six times, including last year due to the extreme cold temperature.

 

“In the space of three days, we went from a year’s worth of work by an awful lot of volunteers to cancelling,” said the festival’s president, Jim Black. “We’re tickled pink that it’s going ahead this year.”

 

Cross country skiers who complete the full birkie ski 55 km either weightless or with a 12 lb pack, which represents the the origins of the event where two warriors skied over a range of mountains carrying the Norwegian baby prince to safety about a thousand years ago. Other distances include 31 km, 13 km, 8 km, 4 km or 2 km.

 

Just under 800 people have signed up so far, but the organizers are hoping to have 1,200 by the time the festival kicks off on Friday (Feb.7). The skiers will be on the move on Saturday and there is a kid’s race at William Hawrelak Park on Sunday.

 

“It sort of stretches over three days, but the main events are on Saturday,” Black explained.

 

Over 400 volunteers are ready to get to work for the festival, providing food, first aid, cheering on participants and more.

 

“One of the neat things about the birkie is that even if you’re the absolute slowest skier, you get welcomed across the finish line. We wait for everybody and there is a loud speaker and we call out your name, just make everybody feel very welcome.”

 

Registration closes on Wednesday at noon. You can keep an eye on the forecast this weekend here.



 


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