Birkebeiner Skiers Improvise with Hamsterbeiner in Maple Grove

Photo: KSTP

February 26, 2017 06:07 PM

Thousands of people were devastated Friday when the American Birkebeiner was canceled due to warm weather and poor course conditions.

It's just the second time in 44 years organizers were forced to cancel the world's largest cross country ski race in Hayward, Wisconsin. It did, however, give birth to the first ever Hamsterbeiner at Maple Grove's Elm Creek Park.

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RELATED: Birkebeiner Canceled Due to Lack of Snow

Dave Gorringe, of St. Paul, has been attending the Birkebeiner for three decades.

"I finished the Birke 28 times," said Gorringe. "This was going to be my 29th, but no go."

Instead, Gorringe spent his Sunday morning watching less than 30 skiers race the 2.5K trail.

RELATED: Lack of Snow Hampers Birkebeiner Ski Race

"I wish there were more skiers here, but this is fun," Gorringe said. "They're enjoying themselves, competing."

After Friday's storm failed to bring much-needed snow to Hayward, Matt Libsch, the co-owner of Pioneer Midwest, scrambled to set up the Hamsterbeiner. It's a play on the "hamster wheel" nickname the Elm Creek loop earned in the skiing community.

"I thought earlier in the week it'd be kind of cool to do a ski race on Sunday for those people heading out of town," said Libsch. "Sergio Bonaldi is here from Italy, he's one of the top marathon racers in the world."

Bonaldi, however, didn't win the first ever Hamsterbeiner. That title belongs to none other than its organizer.

"It's awesome," said Libsch. "Nordic is a very small community, so I know every one of these racers out here and it's fun to see them."


Theresa Malloy

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