Making the day a magical journey

East of Edmonton in the second weekend of February, the sun is not more than half-way above the horizon. It casts its shadow on open snow-covered fields, and attempts to peek through the leafless forest at skiers racing on a track.

The skiers glide over the trail. Swishing their poles, they gracefully dodge wipeouts, and recover from their own wipeouts.

They slide up to food stations, flush-faced, sweaty, and ravenous. The skiers refuel with oranges, hot drinks, and energizing cheer from the volunteers. Then they’re off again.

As they approach the finish line, there’s raucous applause. Washing over each skier is a personal wave of relief, pride, and gratitude.

The Legend of the Birkebeiners

Skiing Birchlegs Crossing the Mountain with the Royal Child
Skiing Birchlegs Crossing the Mountain with the Royal Child. The Ski Museum. Holmenkollen, Oslo, Norway.

The race commemorates a critical historic journey made in Norway in the winter of 1206. In the midst of civil war, members of the Birkebein, a rebel movement, skied over mountain passes and through forests for a perilous 55 kilometers, carrying to safety the infant prince who would become the nation’s king and bring peace.

Since 1985, the legend of the Birkebeiners has been relived each year in the Canadian Birkebeiner Festival. A family-friendly event, it’s attended by thousands, from ages 9 to 90, from elite athletes to everybody else.

It’s one of only three Birkebeiner Loppets (recreational events) in the world. And the Waskahegan Trail Association has been a major participant since day one.

Last Chance for food and encouragement

We operate the “Last Chance” Food Station at Meadow Shelter within the Blackfoot Recreational Area. Every year is as much fun as the year before. To give you the skier’s perspective:

The volunteers are a fabulous, fun-loving crew who brave the cold to support all the skiers. Food and drink are provided but it is the joyful noise and moral support they provide for the skiers that makes the day a magical journey through a stunning winter landscape.– Anne Bradley, skier.

This year’s Festival is February 9-11 but the work we do is on February 10, the day of the race.

We would love to have more volunteers. Your family members and friends are welcome, too.

If you would like to volunteer or if you have any questions about it, you can reply to this email or contact Rob Faulds (

To discover more about the festival, visit the Canadian Birkebeiner website at

Here’s an entertaining 10-minute retrospective made in 2013 to commemorate the Birkie’s 25th anniversary

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