Keepers of the Birkebeiner, one of the premier cross-country ski races in North America, have created a new event exclusively for women born of a bit of a contradiction.
Iconic female skiers like Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall are pushing the sport forward, while citizen event participation like that at the Birkie, in Cable and Hayward, Wis., which draws several thousand skiers every February, says different. Only about 30% of entrants are women.
American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation executive director Ben Popp, event director Kristy Maki and others want to change the balance with a new event called the Ski de She Camp and Race.
"The great role models are women," said Popp, "and [the sport] is not reaching the great masses."
The Ski de She camp is three days, Jan, 27-29, 2023, of health and wellness, ski workshops and more — including races Jan. 28 (30-kilometer skate, 20km classic and a 10km skate/classic). The traditional Birkie marathon skate and classic races are Feb. 25.
The Birkie sent out notice of the Ski de She to its community, and already the camp is close to full.
Nearly 100 women signed up in a week and not all are Birkie veterans, Popp said. "It's super exciting."
The second option is only to race. Details are online at birkie.com, including the camp and race schedules.
The Birkie wants women to see themselves in either realm.
Randall will participate all weekend, including the camp segment. She is a five-time Olympian who struck gold paired with Diggins in the team sprint in 2018 at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in South Korea.
"We want people to say, 'I feel comfortable being [on skis]' … to think, 'This is for me,' " Popp said.