The Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts resurrected the Bristlecone Birkebeiner, a cross country ski race. They have cool photos on their Facebook page from past Birkebeiners. Birkebeiner is a name for a cross country ski race, with its origins going back to the year 1206, when the 18-month old illegitimate son of the King of Norway was smuggled to safety in a backpack by soldiers on cross country skis. For some Birkebeiners, racers carry backpacks with a weight simulating the infant.
You would think that with how cold Ely is, it would be easy to hold a cross country ski race, but it seems that warming trends and lack of snow the past two years have made it really difficult. This year the organizers set the date and said the race would be held no matter the weather--if it was warm, it would just be a mud run. That made it much easier to plan and save the date. Fortunately the weather was great, and over 30 people turned up with their skis.
The long race (12.2 km) started at 9 am, and then the short race (6.1 km) lined up to start five minutes later.
The race was held at Ward Mountain Recreation Area near Ely. I had never done the loop, so it was fun to see what the course was like. Most of it was a narrow path through pinyon and juniper, siwht some open areas. When we started the race, there were some people who took off so fast I didn't even know it was possible to move that fast on skis! I shuffled along, hoping to finish in time to see the kids' race, which would start 55 minutes later. The race had lots of little ups and downs. I crashed on one turn at the bottom of a little hill since I didn't want to ski into the sagebrush. I wasn't exactly smooth, but I really enjoyed being outside and getting some exercise. My friend Brooke finished ahead of me and got this photo of me near the finish--in about 55 minutes! Woohoo!
I went up to the Kid's Ski route, a 1-km out and back.
They had started it just a few minutes earlier (I needed a few minutes to recover at the end of my race), so it took a while to catch up to the kids. But I eventually did, finding Desert Girl in her tutu and Desert Boy with a very determined look and not minding that one of his boots wasn't very secure in the ski binding.
They both wanted to win a ribbon for being in the top three, even though they had very little experience with cross-country skiing (like two practices and that's about it).
They fell a lot and complained some, but they kept moving.
Desert Girl got passed and at the end was very frustrated because she finished fourth. It was a hard lesson for her to learn, but a good one, that you can't always win (and as a six-year old in her very first cross-country ski race, she shouldn't expect to!). I tried to emphasize that just participating and finishing made her a winner.
It was great to see kids enjoying the outdoors so much!
We did a photo of all the ribbon winners.
I think this girl was the biggest winner of all. She was the last person to finish the course, but she was nine years old and did the 6.1 km race and finished with a smile! Way to go!
I asked the kids afterwards if they wanted to do the race again next year.
They didn't hesitate to say yes. I think we'll be spending more time outside, so it's already a win for all of us. Thank you Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts for getting us outdoors!