There’s been a marked decline in the number of skiers signing up quickly to compete in this year’s traditional Birkebeiner race over the mountains of eastern Norway. Race organizers, however, are confident it eventually will sell out, just slower than it has in recent years.
Eager skiers earlier have snapped up all 17,000 spots in the 54-kilometer race from Rena to Lillehammer within minutes of their availability. This year’s race is set for March 21 and start-numbers went on sale last spring, but by June many were still available. They still are.
“Before we took off for the Christmas holidays, there were 4,000 start-numbers left,” Jo Gunnar Ellevold, leader of Birken AS, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week. “There are surely many still left.” He doesn’t think it’s only because of concerns over lack of snow or lingering anger over last year’s last-minute cancellation of the race because of high winds, with no refunds of start fees.
“For one thing, there are lots of other long-distance races,” Ellevold said. “Folks know they have a lot of choice. Birken is still a goal, according to most of our participants.”
Nor does he think there’s been any decline in Norwegians’ interest in cross-country skiing. “I think it sits deep in the Norwegian soul,” he told DN. “We know that 400,000 pairs of skis were sold last year in Norway, so there’s no lack of desire to go skiing.”