The legendary Birkebeiner ski race (Birkebeinerrennet), a unique ski race over two mountain (54 km)
The legendary Birkebeiner ski race is a cross-country race starts at Rena, and finish at Birkebeiner Ski Stadium in the Olympic town of Lillehammer. The 54 km, classic technic, race crosses two mountains, and the track takes you through breathtaking sceneries. All participants must carry a backpack weighing at least 3.5 kg throughout the race.
The Lillehammer region has a very stable climate with good winters and a lot of snow. The mountains and the meeting with Norwegian nature makes Birken attractive to foreigners as well as to Norwegians. With its track, wild snow, profile and demanding mountains makes it a real challenge to all XC skiers and a rite of passage under tough conditions.
The Birken Skifestival offers challenges for everyone
Throughout the week Birken Skifestival offers challenges for everyone. In addition to the Birkebeiner Race there are different distances: Ingalåmi, the women’s race 5/15 and 30 km, HalvBirken 28 km, StafettBirken 7,5 km x4 (the relay) FredagsBirken C/F 54 km, UngdomsBirken 15 km for 12-16 years and also the childrens race.
The Birkebeiner races - the historical background
The Birkebeiner races are based on the historic event of the rescue of Haakon Haakonsson. There was a civil war in Norway. After the birkebeiner chieftain Haakon died on New Years Day in 1204, the baglers saw a dangerous rival pretender in his son Haakon Haakonsson , who was born in 1204, a few weeks after his fathers death. His life was at stake, and the birkebeiners wanted to bring him to safety in Trondheim.
The party came to a small farm at Lillehammer, where they stayed in hiding over Christmas. They found it too risky to follow the route up the Gudbrandsdal valley, so they cut across the mountains to the neighbour valley in east, Østerdalen. Due to bad weather and difficult snow conditions the two best skiers.
The 3,5 kilo pack carried by the present day birkebeiners symbolizes the prince, who later became king Haakon. He made an end of the civil war, and under him Norway had a heyday in the Middle Age. The birkebeiner expedition made history.