Knud Larsen Bergslien
Classic stride-and-glide Nordic skiers take heart: The board of directors for the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation has given its unanimous approval to inaugurating a new nine-kilometer classical-only ski trail for the first part of the 2007 cross-country ski marathon.
The move aims to relieve congestion in the race's early stages while luring more classic skiers to the 51-kilometer event. The cross-country ski marathon has been dominated by freestyle skiers in recent years as more Nordic enthusiasts have converted to the skate-skiing technique. At the 2006 Birkie, these freestyle participants outnumbered classical skiers by more than four to one.
Starting from the Cable Union Airport, the nine-kilometer classic trail will merge with the main Birkie trail at Timber Trail Road.
The introduction of a nine-kilometer classic-only segment also comes, in part, as a response to feedback from classic skiers at last winter's event. Among those surveyed at the 2006 Birkie, almost 60% supported the establishment of two classic tracks set along one side of the route from start to finish, almost 50% backed separate seeding for classic skiers, more than 40% favored an early start wave for classic skiers, and about one-third approved of a separate classic-only course or race date.
Birkie officials say the new nine-kilometer trail could be extended into a separate Birkie course for classic skiers in future years, and separately seeded waves for classic skiers are also under consideration.
Starting in Cable and finishing at Hayward, the 34th annual Birkie is the centerpiece of a Nordic skiing weekend scheduled for Feb. 22-24, 2007. North America's largest Nordic skiing extravaganza also features other cross-country ski races and related events for all ages and skill levels.