Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Norwegian Birkebeiner-Power to the People

Have you been watching the SkiClassics website this winter?  Full length, commercial-free videos of all the European ski marathons, start to finish.  They're each exciting and awesome in their own way, but this year, the Norwegian Birkebeiner video is a little ... dull.  Did you hear?  The race was canceled due to big big winds up on the plateau.  That happened once before, back in 2007, when several waves of skiers started, but then were turned back by the weather and the race organizers stopped the race.  A couple of strong skiers took off their numbers and skied across the mountains anyway.  This year, though, the race was stopped before it even started.

So here's the video:

The first 40 minutes are really boring (except for a quick glimpse of Gil at about 5:25 into it); race officials wander around with phones to their ears, waiting for word on whether the gale-force winds are easing up or if the race is truly canceled.  Finally, it's canceled, and organizers start taking down the course.

But then, at about the 40-minute mark in the video, something wonderful happens!  Someone puts on his skis and says, I'm doing this, and he heads out.  And then someone else does, and someone else, and pretty soon there is a stream of people and then a river; literally thousands of skiers saying, I trained for this, I'm ready for this, I've got my backpack with my emergency stuff, and by golly, I'm going to ski to Lillehammer!  It is so awesome, anarchy at its finest!  In the background, you can hear the race announcer plaintively calling, "The race is cancelled.  If you continue, you will be under your own responsibility!"  And still people start skiing up the trail, like the wonderful old man in the bright red hat at about 49:30; you know he's skied in a lot worse conditions than this little storm in his long Norwegian life, and off he goes, slowly and steadily.  And then, at 59 minutes, a sweet little granny, all by herself in her white hat and red jacket and backpack, smiling, heading up into an adventure.  I love these people!

And what about our own friends?  Yup, Ozzie (age 75-79) and Gil (age 70-74) skied the whole thing.  Joan reports they were pretty beat when they got in, but they did it!  Martin was there, too, with some other guys from his team; their cars were in Rena, not Lillehammer, and when the bus service from the finish back to Rena was canceled, they instead did a mini-race up to Skramstadsaetra, then skied around on the plateau in gorgeous bluebird, if windy, conditions before skiing leisurely back down to the cars.

I only hope that, if I had been there this year, I would have been brave enough to defy the officials, click into my skis, shoulder my pack, and ski to Lillehammer!

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