The Birkebeiner Legend

It was the year 1206... civil war raged in Norway. An infant prince and heir to the throne, Haakon Haakonsson, was in danger and in hiding near Lillehammer. Two brave Birkebeiner warriors rescued the prince, carrying him on ski from the Gudbrandsdal valley over two mountain ranges to Rena in the Osterdal valley. The young prince was later crowned King of Norway and the civil war ended.

The English translation of Birkebeiner is birch leggings which described the warriors' birch bark footwear. Today Birkebeiner has come to mean a person strong in adversity and never daunted by trial and hardships. The dramatic flight of the Birkebeiner warriors is now commemorated every year in Norway, the United States, Japan and Canada.

Today the Norewegian Birkebeinerrennet still parallels this historic route over the mountains between Lillehammer and Rena. In 1985, the Canadian Birkebeiner started with only 100 skiers. Now thousands of skiers replicate the legend of King Haakon Haakonson here in Canada, skiing a 55 kilometre distance with a 5.5 kg pack representing the weight of the infant prince. This event is currently held at one of Canada's largest cross country ski trail systems at Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, 35 kilometres east of Edmonton, Alberta.

What is the Canadian Birkebeiner?
  • Remembrance of the historic legend of the original Birkebeiners over 800 years ago on their quest to save the heir to the Norwegian throne
  • Fun for the entire family!
  • Canada's premiere Cross Country Ski Festival.
  • The largest Classical Cross Country Ski Festival in North America.
  • An adventure for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • A celebration of events beginning with the Opening Ceremonies and ending with the Vikings' Feast after the Birkebeiner ski events.
Copyright 2007 Canadian Birkebeiner