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Monday, December 4, 2023

New Birchleggings Club Fire Pit at the Mosquito Brook Warming Hut

 

A big thanks to Birchleggings Club Board Member, Gus Virkus, who donated a Fire Pit at the Mosquito Brook Warming Hut!

Gus set the wheels in motion when he first became a Birchlegger, and it has taken two years to come to fruition. The new Fire Pit will stay at Mosquito Brook, and it can be used by anyone. Hopefully it will provide some comfort to volunteers during the variety of area races that come by the warming hut.

Thanks, Gus!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Birchleggings Club Annual Meeting - September 22, 2023

The Birchleggings Club Annual Meeting was held on September 22, 2023, at the Samuel C. Johnson Family Outdoor Center at the Highway OO Trailhead on the Birkie Trail.

 

In attendance at the 2023 Birchleggings meeting at the OO trail lodge were the honorable BLC founder John Kotar (and 2nd BLC member after Dave Landgren) and American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) CEO/Director Ben Popp. During the meeting, we learned that Ben has skied 19 Birkebeiners. However, due to his responsibilities as the CEO for the ABSF over the past decade, he has not been able to slip away from his job to complete his 20th race. The 2024 -50th Birkebeiner offers a unique opportunity for Ben to ski his 20th Birkie in the “Open Track” race on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, in the company of Ernie St. Germaine. A goal might be for individuals to sponsor Ben & Ernie for $1 per kilometer each, such that $100 would be raised for the two of them for completing the race. Our goal would be to raise > $10,000 for these two legendary skiers coming down Main Street to wild, raucous cheers on Wednesday, February 21, 2024!

 

ABSF & BLC LIAISON: Louise Droessler (Birkie Enterprises Retail Manager) will serve as the liaison between the ABSF and the BLC. She will enhance and strengthen the essential relationship between the BLC and ABSF.   At present, the BLC lacks visibility and does not have a prominent link on the ABSF Birkie website. This is something that hopefully can be reviewed and addressed in the near future. We continue to lobby for a non-voting seat on the ABSF board. The BLC Bylaws are currently under revision and review.

 

BLC MEMBERSHIP: There are 314 (~16%) of the eligible 2,000 twenty-year Birkie skiers who are currently paid members of the Birchleggings Club. Increasing the percentage of BLC members can significantly enhance financial stability and provide creative new input to the organization.  Ways to generate new membership, particularly in the 40-50 year-old age group, were discussed.  A telephone survey/solicitation of ~100 BLC eligible skiers was completed with encouraging results. The opportunity to promote lifetime memberships can provide additional upfront funds for the organization. For reference, of the 11,010 skiers who have registered for the 2024 Birke Races (Birkie/Korte/PH/OT), 1,357 (12.3%) have joined the ABSF.

 

NEW BOARD MEMBERS: New board members were elected at the annual meeting.  These are David Rhude, Jim Haubrich and Gus Virkus. They will be introduced at the October BLC Board meeting. Brian Fitzgerald has volunteered to serve as an unofficial “liaison” to the ABSF for the Birchleggings Club. He lives in the Hayward area and can access and assist with such matters.

 

DEI & GENDER EQUITY:  We continue to honor DEI and hope to expand racial & gender diversity by supporting participation in “Silent Sports” and recruiting eligible 20-year skiers to join the Birchleggings Club.

 

 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

New Birkie Homecoming Bell Installed by the Birchleggings Club!

A new bell, called the Homecoming Bell, was installed near the Mosquito Brook Warming Hut this month by the Birchleggings Club to alert skiers that there are 14 kilometers to go before the finish in Hayward. The bell was donated by Marva Saha and family, who used the bell to summon home their children. It was located near Lake Hayward, close to the finish of the race.

Below is a note from the Birchleggings Club Homecoming Bell Project Planner and Coordinator, James Tenorio.

A big “Thank You” goes out to our hard-working crew that installed the Homecoming Bell at Mosquito Brook on Monday! They included Bob Britz, Steve Carmazon, Rick Enz, Connie Meek, and Scott Smith.

We also had some spontaneous help from a passing pair of female Birkie Trail hikers at the crucial moment of lifting the 215-pound post and bell into its concrete forming tube.

Special thanks are heart fully given to the Birkie Trail Crew for boring the four-foot deep hole for us. It would have been a nearly-impossible task for this bunch of old Birchleggings Club veterans to dig it by hand ourselves!  

Honorable mention goes to the last Ice Age Glacier for depositing hundreds of various-sized rocks into the site of the post hole. Many of those rocks now decorate the base of the post.

We once again say, thank you to Marva Sahs and her family for bringing the idea and the bell to the club. Their generosity will ring on for generations!

 

JT

Project Planner and Coordinator


 

 

 


 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Press Conference Video of the Electric Snowmobile Pick-up in Rutland, Vermont.

 Watch the Press Conference Video of the Tiaga Electric Snowmobile Pickup on August 8, 2023 by the Birchleggings Club in Rutland, Vermont!



Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Electric Snowmobile to Lead American Birkebeiner in 2024!


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Electric Snowmobile to Lead American Birkebeiner in 2024

Hayward, Wis. (August 2, 2023) The Birchleggings Club of the American Birkebeiner has generously donated a Taiga Nomad electric snowmobile to the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF/Birkie). The snowmobile will be used to film the live stream of their flagship event, the American Birkebeiner, and to conduct regular trail maintenance on over 100 km of ski trails. The Birchleggings Club is a non-profit organization, and close partner of ABSF, whose members have completed 20 or more American Birkebeiners in their ski career.

On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, members of the Birchleggings Club traveled from northern Wisconsin to Central Vermont Motorcycles in Rutland, Vt. to pick up the Taiga Nomad. Taiga, a Canadian company, has taken a novel engineering approach to pave the way for electric technology. Their vision is to completely transform the power sports sector by introducing groundbreaking electric off-road vehicles, ensuring sustainability without compromising on performance. This vision is in alignment not only with goals of the Birchleggings Club but with the Birkie Green initiative that has taken on by the ABSF in recent years.

One of the drivers arriving to pick up the machine is Paul Thompson, president of the Birchleggings Club. Thompson organized the fund-raising efforts and purchase of the machine in support of the ABSF’s Birkie Green initiative.

“Like many snow sports industries, the Birkie is not immune to the effects of warmer winters. In 2017 they had to cancel the event due to lack of snow – the second time in less than 20 years.  Acknowledging its own carbon footprint, ABSF is moving towards being a good environmental steward and in support of their efforts, our Birchleggings Club organized a fundraiser selling shopping bags made from recycled race bibs,” said Thompson. “In addition to removing race bibs from the waste stream, we raised enough money to purchase and donate the Taiga Nomad snowmobile in commemoration of ABSF’s 50th anniversary”.

Their efforts got a boost from Olympic cross-country skiing gold medalist, World Champion, and Board Member of Protect Our Winters Jessie Diggins, who trains at Stratton Mountain, VT. Diggins offered to lend her support by autographing multiple recycled bibs that were auctioned off at different Birkie and Birchlegging Club events. When asked about her reasons for supporting the ski industry going green, she said,

“In preparing for the first cross country World Cup to be held in the US in over 20 years, the Taiga Nomad snowmobile can send a message to the ski world that we need to cut our carbon emissions as quickly as possible.”

In addition to serving as President of the Birchleggings Club, Paul Thompson, is an active member of the environmental advocacy group Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), and has seen the effects of shrinking snowpack and warmer winters on his favorite sport, cross country skiing. He believes the shift to an all-electric snowmobile for covering the Birkie and performing trail maintenance is a clear signal of growing awareness by the skiing and snowmobile industry. It signals the recognition of the damage being done from a warming climate on peoples’ health, winter sports, and the Earth.

“The urgency of rising temperatures and CO2 levels and the need for systemic solutions are the reasons I work with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. In addition to switching consumers to electric alternatives, we lobby for Federal legislation that will drop CO2 levels quickly, using a market-driven, bi-partisan solution. Last month over 1,000 CCL members met with their respective members of congress in D.C. to advocate for action on climate change. We want to do our part so the Birkie and other beloved winter sports can survive the next 50 years and provide the fun and competition we have enjoyed for generations of skiers to come,” Thompson said.

Each February, ABSF hosts the largest cross-country ski race in North America, the American Birkebeiner, a 50-55 kilometer ski race that starts in Cable, Wis. and finishes on snow-covered Main Street in downtown Hayward, Wis. Throughout the week, over 12,000 skiers participate in a variety of ski events, from kids races and skijoring events, to the culmination of events with the ski marathon. In 2024, the organization will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the event. The introduction of the first electric snowmobile to their fleet is one way the organization hopes to do their part to secure the future of the race.

Ben Popp, ABSF Executive Director, said, “We’re excited and grateful to the Birchleggings Club for making an electric snowmobile a reality for our organization. We are constantly evaluating how we can reduce our carbon footprint, and access to electric off-road vehicles will contribute significantly to this effort.” ABSF has multiple solar arrays on its properties, in addition to two EV charging stations. Their newest development, Mt. Telemark Village, in Cable, Wis. will also boast a solar array capable of powering the entire property, including charging stations. “We are taking the necessary steps to ensure that future generations will be able to experience the life-changing power of connecting with each other in nature. We acknowledge the need to evolve as an organization to make this a reality and we are committed to continuing our Birkie Green initiatives to reduce our carbon emissions, increase our reliance on renewable energy, and construct sustainable structures.”

The Birchleggings Club and American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation are proud to continue their longstanding tradition of partnering to ensure the future of the American Birkebeiner. Learn more about their respective organizations online at www.birchleggings.com and www.birkie.com.

 

Photo credit: © Taiga Motors

 


Elite women’s skiers depart from the start of the 2023 American Birkebeiner behind a gas-fueled snowmobile, which will be replaced by the Taiga Nomad in 2024.

Photo credit: © American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation®

Media contacts:

Blair Flickinger
American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, Marketing Director
blair.flickinger@birkie.com
(715) 575-1168

Paul Thompson
Birchleggings Club, President
paul@coolplanetmn.org

Suzannah Ciernia
Citizens’ Climate Lobby Co-Leader
syciernia@gmail.com
507-301-8388

Friday, August 4, 2023

Tiaga Electronic Snowmobile to be Delivered on August 8th, 2023 by the Birchleggings Club!

 




 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

For Immediate Release


Suzannah Ciernia
Citizens’ Climate Lobby Co-Leader
syciernia@gmail.com; 507-301-8388

Judy Davis
Citizens’ Climate Lobby, VT State Coordinator
davisjud@gmail.com; 857-209-6494

When: Tuesday, August 8, 2023 10am EST

Where: Central Vermont Motorcycles, 360 West St, Rutland, VT

What: First Electric Snowmobile for Use at Birkebeiner Ski Race

 

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) hosts the largest cross-country ski race in North America every February in Wisconsin and will celebrate its 50th anniversary this winter. With top-notch skiers coming from every state and around the globe, the ‘Birkie’ is considered one of the more difficult marathon races in the world. 

 

On Tuesday, August 8 a team from the Midwest will arrive at Central Vermont Motorcycles in Rutland, Vermont to pick up the first electric snowmobile to be used for filming the iconic race: a Taiga Nomad.  Taiga, a Canadian company, has taken a completely novel engineering approach to pave the way for electric technology. Their vision is to completely transform the powersports sector by introducing groundbreaking electric off-road vehicles, ensuring sustainability without compromising on performance.

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the drivers arriving to pick up the machine is Paul Thompson, President of the Birchleggings Club, an elite group of skiers who’ve completed at least 20 ‘Birkies’. Thompson organized the fund-raising and purchase of the machine in support of the ABSF’s Birkie Green initiative.

 

“Like many snow sports industries, the ‘Birkie’ is not immune to the effects of warmer winters and in 2017 had to cancel the event due to lack of snow – the second time in less than 20 years.  Acknowledging its own carbon footprint, ABSF is moving towards being a good environmental steward and in support of their efforts, our Birchleggings Club organized a fund-raiser selling shopping bags made from recycled racer’s bibs,” said Thompson. “In addition to removing those used bibs from the waste stream, we raised enough money to purchase and donate the Taiga Nomad snowmobile in commemoration of ABSF’s 50th anniversary”.

 

Their efforts got a boost from Olympic cross-country skiing gold medalist, World Champion, and Board Member of Protect Our Winters Jessie Diggins, who trains at Strafford Mountain, Vermont. Diggins offered to lend her support by donating autographed bibs for auction. When asked about her reasons for supporting the ski industry going green, she said,

“In preparing for the first cross-country World Cup to be held in the US in over 20 years, the Taiga Nomad snowmobile can send a message to the ski world that we need to cut our carbon emissions as quickly as possible”. 

 

In addition to serving as President of the Birchleggings Club, Paul Thompson, is an active member of the environmental advocacy group Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), and has seen the effects of shrinking snowpack and warmer winters on his favorite sport. He believes the shift to an all-electric snowmobile for covering the ‘Birkie’ is a clear signal of growing awareness by the skiing and snowmobile industry of the damage from a warming climate on peoples’ health, winter sports, and the Earth.

 

 “The urgency of rising temperatures and CO2 levels and the need for a systemic solution are the reasons I work with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. In addition to switching consumers to electric alternatives, we lobby for Federal legislation that will drop CO2 levels quickly, using a market-driven, bi-partisan solution. Last month, over 1,000 CCL members met with our Members of Congress in DC to advocate for action on climate change. We want to do our part so the Birkie and other beloved winter sports can survive the next 50 years and provide the fun and competition we have enjoyed for generations of skiers to come”.

Monday, May 8, 2023

The Birchleggings Club Has Raised Money for the Purchase of a Taiga Electric NOMAD Snowmobile for the American Birkebeiner!

 

What began as a waste reduction project to convert over stocked Birkie race bibs into reusable shopping bags (Birkie Bib Bags) has taken on a life of its own!

The BLC  (Birchleggings Club) is thrilled to announce that the club has raised over $25,000 to purchase the performance edition of the all Electric NOMAD Utility Snowmobile from Taiga Motors in Montreal, Canada.  As far as we know, Taiga is the only company manufacturing EV Snowmobiles and Jet Skis. The BLC is waiting to hear from Taiga that their machine is ready to pick up this Spring/ Summer in Rutland VT, currently the only Taiga service center in the lower 48 states. BLC President Paul Thompson and Board member Ralph Bovard will drive to Montreal to meet with Taiga staff with the intention to invite and confirm Taiga’s attendance at the Birkie Expo at Birkie 50 in February 2024. Then drive to Rutland to pick up our Nomad and deliver to Jim Sokup, ABSF Facilities Manager and his trail team at ABSF. The Nomad will come with a level 1 and level 2 charger that will allow a fast charge of only 3 hours for a complete charge.

The fundraising campaign was given a boost when Olympian and Minnesota native Jessie Diggins endorsed the project and the idea of filming the lead group of racers without leaving a trail of gas emissions to ski through. Jessie donated 4 of her World Cup autographed race bibs and one autographed Birkie Bib to be auctioned off at Birkie #49 last February. The 5 bibs raised more than $3000 and helped to generate more contributions before, during and after the Birkie. The BLC has an agreement with the ABSF to loan the Nomad to the Loppet Foundation for the Loppet World Cup the week before Birkie 50 where Jessie and other World Cup skiers will be racing.

Attached are photos of the lucky Birkie skiers who won the autographed bibs from Jessie Diggins at Birkie 49. They are Joe Luedtke, Ryan Burke, Kevin Schoessow, Steve Weiss and Steve Poulin from SWIX. Steve is not pictured.

When asked about the significance of this project by the BLC, President Paul Thompson replied:  “As Birchleggers, we are committed to keeping the legacy and traditions of the Birkie strong and healthy. This can only happen with a healthy winter season with abundant snow. The ABSF has shown a strong commitment to Birkie Green and moving the ABSF towards being a good environmental steward. We want to do our part and lead our favorite event into the next 50 years for generations of skiers to come.

Donations are being received by the Birchleggings Club for the purchase of a second NOMAD for Birkie 50!

 

Joe Luedtke


 

 

 

 



 

 

Ryan Burke















Kevin Schoessow









Steve Weiss







Thursday, April 13, 2023

Birchleggings Club 2023 Awards Breakfast Wrap-Up

The annual Birchleggings Club Awards Breakfast took place on February 26, 2023, the day after the 49th Annual American Birkebeiner. Approximately 100 persons attended. The event was open to Birchleggings Club members, new and veteran Birchleggers, all skiers and their families. The Hayward Steakhouse and Lodge once again provided an excellent breakfast buffet.

As folks arrived and purchased their breakfast tickets, Birchleggers also were able to renew their Birchleggings Club memberships. Bidding also 

opened in a silent auction for a framed and autographed World Cup race bib worn and signed by Jessie Diggins. The bib was from her third-place finish in the 10 km Freestyle event at Falun, Sweden in 2019. A second bib on the auction block, also autographed by Jessie, was a 2020 Birkie classic-skier wave-5 race bib.

Paul Thompson, Birchleggings Club President, opened the program as people finished their breakfasts. He welcomed everyone and gave special general recognition to new 20, 30, and 40-year Birchleggers.

Dave Balsiger, Birchleggings Club Treasurer, continued the tradition of performing his song, Birkebeiner Morning. Even though many of us have seen changes in the Birkie events, the racecourse, skiing techniques, the weather on race day, and our own results on the trail, Dave’s song still rings true. Everyone enjoyed it.

A wrap-up summary of Birke 2023 was given by Ben Popp, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF). The race went smoothly, and he thanked the hundreds of volunteers that make it happen. He gave a quick summary of the progress being made at Telemark

Village. Multiple projects are underway. Some have been completed, some are in progress.

The annual Tony Wise Spirit Award was presented by Steve Carmazon and Dave Balsiger to two families of bridge builders, figuratively and literally. Recipients Judy and Jay Hoeschler were the force behind the installation of the Key Log Bridge over the highway at OO. Award winners Don and Heidi Becker, & Family have been active in guiding the race as ABSF board members and Birchleggings Club board members. Their law firm has been a past major-sponsor of the race. They made the Becker Law Link Bridge over Highway 77 possible. Steve Carmazon gave an excellent presentation to the recipients, and each of the award winners gave a warm, heartfelt speech as they thanked the crowd for their awards. A full summary of the Tony Wise Spirit Award presentation for 2023 can be seen here on our website.

 

Jane DeKraay from the Loppet Foundation in Minneapolis (and a new 20-year Birchlegger) spent a few minutes letting everyone know that COOP FIS Cross Country World Cup race events would be held at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis from February 17-19, 2024. The events will be free and open to the public. More information can be found at the Loppet Foundation website: https://loppetcup.com/

Paul Thompson gave a report on Birchleggings Club activities and accomplishments. The club’s grandest effort is an ongoing effort to raise funds to purchase two electric snowmobiles for the ABSF. Part of the Birkie Green Initiative, the electric machines will be used as chase vehicles for the filming of Birkebeiner women’s and men’s race leaders. With electric snowmobiles, the lead pack will not be subjected to gas fumes for 50 km. An even greater long-term benefit will be the use of the machines by the ABSF trail crew and winter-event staff for years to come. A lower carbon footprint from the electric snowmobiles will assist the ABSF in achieving its goals for Birkie Green.

The highlight of the fundraising during Birkie Week 2023 was the auction of five framed race bibs, all autographed by Jessie Diggins. Two bibs were silently auctioned at the Birkie Expo, one at the Birkie Bash, and two at today’s Birchleggings Club Breakfast. After describing the auction efforts, Paul Thompson opened the auction to live bidding for Jessie’s framed World Cup race bib and the signed 2002 Birkie Classic bib. Steve Weiss was the successful bidder for Jessie’s bib, and Steve Poulin of Swix Sport USA won the 2002 Birkie Classic bib. Paul had six additional unframed autographed Birkie bibs that he quickly auctioned to four lucky breakfast attendees. Three of the unframed bibs were signed by Jessie Diggins and three were signed by Ben Popp. The bib auctions raised in total over $4000 during Birkie weekend and put the fundraising drive over the top for the purchase of the first snowmobile for filming the women’s race. Efforts will continue in 2023 for the men’s machine.

The program culminated with the presentation of 20, 30, and 40-year Birchlegger individual awards. The new Birchleggers and Uberleggers received their recognition plaques from Birchleggings Club president Paul Thompson to the applause of the crowd.

Thanks to Birchleggings Board Member, James Tonorio for this wrap-up and to Kelly O'Day and Edward Eroe for the photographs.

 

We look forward to the next Birchleggings Club awards breakfast on February 25, 2024. Your Birchleggings Club Board of Directors.

 

 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

2023 Tony Wise Birkie Spirit Award Recipients

The Tony Wise Birkie Spirit Award is given for outstanding contributions to the growth and development of the American Birkebeiner, and the sport of cross-country skiing.

Birchleggings Club Board Members, Steve Carmazon and Dave Balsiger, gave out the awards at the Birchleggings Awards Breakfast on February 26, 2023. These are Steve’s words from the ceremony.

Twice, in 2010, and 2020 we have given this award to two different recipients, and we are going to honor two different couples today, and, as you will soon see, both have much in common with Tony.

Paul and Steve with Jay & Judy Hoeschler
Many of the past recipients of this award have been Birchleggers, or, in the first case today, related to Birchleggers. They made giant contributions to improve the infrastructure of the Birkie trail, coming forward to do so, of their own initiative, demonstrating leadership, giving of their time, talent, and treasure, and in this case, to build the tangible things we see, use, and benefit from.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my fellow Birchleggers, (you know who you are) who’ve likewise contributed of your, time, talent, and treasure, to build the tangible and intangible things that make this event and trail, the success that it is!

Besides starting Telemark ski area in 1947, building a lodge, founding the American Birkebeiner, and the Worldloppet, being a two term Mayor of Hayward and founding the Sawyer County Historical Society, Tony Wise also had a thing for bridges, the first International Bridge was at Telemark, Circa 1974, some of us here remember skiing across it, before finishing the early Birkie Races. If you’ll excuse the Pun, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) wisely honored Tony’s Legacy, in 2015, with the International Bridge over Highway 63.

Tony also showed his interest in history, by founding Historyland, and in 1960, honored this areas' legacy of the timber industry, by starting the World Lumberjack Championships.

One of the sports in those championships is Log Rolling. Our first recipients today started a company called Key Log Rolling, making plastic logs, that, when filled with water, simulate a real log, to practice the sport of log rolling.

They took the initiative to sponsor the first permanent bridge on the Birkie course at County Road OO, installed in 2018, making that road crossing much safer. For this, we profusely thank Judy and Jay Hoeschler!

Dave with Heidi & Don Becker
The second of our recipients this morning, are both Birchleggers, and, like Tony, have a thing for bridges. Their last name should be familiar to most Birchleggers, as their law firm sponsored the Birkie for at least one year, with the law firm's name was on our race bibs.

One half of this dynamic duo is one of only two people to have been at one time both on the ABSF Board and a member of the Birchleggings Club Board. The Bridge bearing their name, was installed over Highway 77, on October 28th, 2020, and was dedicated on August 14, 2021. Several of our board members attended that dedication. Both the Birchleggings Club, and several well-known Birchlegger families also donated to help pay for it.

Dave Balsiger announced that Don and Heidi Becker, & Family, as the second recipients of the 2023 Tony Wise Birkie Spirit Award.

See the Tony Wise Spirit Award page for a listing of all the award recipients.

A special thanks to Kelly O'Day for the photographs.

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