Canada has some pretty odd spectacles, but most pale in comparison to the Canadian Birkie Ski Festival. Sure, it’s widely known as Canada’s premier cross country ski festival, but it also features a legendary baby-smuggling twist. Don’t worry, the origin of the race adds plenty of clarity to what seems like a bizarre tradition.
First off, a little about the festival. The three-day-long Canadian Birkie is one of three Birkebeiner Loppets in the entire world. It celebrates both the sport of cross country skiing and Nordic legends, with events in Norway, Wisconsin, and one right outside of Edmonton, Alberta.
The Canadian Birkie Ski Festival is without a doubt Western Canada’s Nordic Ski event and has gathered thousands of competitors over the course of the years. The history of the Birkie relies on an old Nordic legend.
Back in 1206, a massive civil war was underway in Norway. The heir to the Norweigan throne was infant Prince Haakon Haakonsson and he was in pretty serious danger.
So, two Birkebeiner warriors did what every Norwegian soldier was born to do, they strapped on skis and carried that little royal baby 55 kilometres to safety. Today, Birkebeiner means “a person who is strong in adversity, never daunted by trial and hardships.” Pretty badass.
Anyway, the Birkie Ski festival started back in 1985 to commemorate this very cool legend. Skiers trek the 55-km course with a 5.5-kilogram pack attached to them to symbolize the carrying of Prince Haakon. It’s a tradition steeped in, well, tradition. If we get a chance to compete we’d probably dress our 5.5 kg pack up in some cute baby clothes, but that’s just us.
When: February 7-9, 2020
Where: 25 minutes east of Edmonton along Hwy 16 E, Lamont County, Alberta