Birkebeinerrennet – a unique ski race and a mountain experience for cross-country skiers.
Birkebeinerrennet and its region has a very stable climate with good winters and a lot of wild snow in the high ground. The mountains and the meeting with Norwegian nature makes Birken attractive to foreigners as well as to Norwegians.
What makes Birkebeinerrennet special?
Birkebeinerrennet is a unique ski race over the mountain. 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. And of course the position of XC skiing in Norway with our skiing traditions, our stars, makes Birkebeinerrennet and XC skiing in a special position for all Norwegians.
Birken Skifestival offers challenges for everyone. We have different distances – Ingalåmi, the women’s race 5/15 and 30 km, StafettBirken 7,5 km x4 (the relay), TurBirken C/F 27 & 54 km, UngdomsBirken 15 km for 12-16 years and also the childrens race.
First race: 20 March 1932, 60 km, 155 participants
Highest number of participants in main race: 17163 entries in 2014
Worldloppet membership: founding member
The idea of the race was launched in an Oslo newspaper in the autumn of 1930 by Haakon Lie, a Lillehammer author. The main founders of the race were Lars Høgvold and Halvor Kampen from Lillehammer and Agnar Renolen and Peder Olsen from Rena. The first race took place on March 20th 1932, starting from Rena crossing mountains and valleys to finish in Lillehammer.
The underlying idea of the race was to commemorate an historical event from civil war-ridden Norway in January 1206. Two Birkebeiner skiers carried the 18 months old prince Haakon over the mountains and brought him to safety. Skiing in deep snow the staunch warriors wore leggings of birch bark, hence the name Birkebeiner (birch legs). In Norwegian history Haakon Haakonsson is known as a great king. He put an end to the civil war and during his long reign Norway had a heyday in the Middle Ages. The daring rescue of the prince made history and history made a ski race.
Start close to Rena, coordinates: 61°08’45.55’’N; 11°19’43.78’’E
Finish in Birkebeiner Skistadion close to Lillehammer 61°08’03.79’’N; 10°30’28.43’’E
Race centre in Hakans Hall, Lillehammer
Race office in Rena
About two thirds of the race is over barren mountains. That is why the skiers have to carry a pack containing the necessaries for severe mountain weather (windbreaker, spare gloves, food, drink, wax etc.) Originally the required weight of the pack was 5,5 kilos, which since 1993 has been reduced to a minimum of 3,5 kilos. The original length of the course has also been reduced to 54 km. The course can only be reached by road at three points. Safety measures are therefore of the highest priority. In regard to total climbs Birkebeinerrennet is the most demanding of the Worldloppet races.
The 54 km course crosses two mountains and the track takes you through breathtaking sceneries. Birkebeinerrennet is probably the most challenging long-distance cross-country ski race on the circuit.
The track takes you 9km through forrest terrain up to Skramstadsetra (640m.a.s.l), where the first drink station is situated. You continue to the first mountain top at Dølfjellet (820m.a.s.l), and then downhill for 17km until you reach Dambua (760 m.a.s.l).
From here the track climbes west crossing Raudfjellet(880 m.a.s.l) after 20km. You continue pass Nysætra in forrest terrain and reach Kvarstaddammen (660m.a.s.l) after 27km.
From Kvarstaddammen the track takes you through the forrest up to Midtfjellet (910 m.a.s.l) where you keep going west for 41km through the open mountain terrain to Sjusjøen (880 m.a.s.l). Going downhill from Sjusjøen, you enter the Birkebeineren Ski stadium, where the finish line is, at 490 m.a.s.l.
Course profile of 54 km CT