Posted by: Sarah | March 20, 2011

Birkebeinerrennet: The Ski Race Of All Ski Races

It’s no secret that Norwegians love their skiing and this weekend was a big event in the ski calendar as 16,000 competitors (including Eliot’s colleague from work) made their way up to Lillehammer for the Birkebeinerrennet.  There are many ski races across the world but this one is a little different because it takes place on a royal trail. 

In the 1200’s civil war tore through Norway and several factions were fighting for the throne.  One of those factions was the Birkebeiners.  The chief of the Birkebeiners (Haakon) died on New Years Day in 1204 and the rival faction saw Haakon’s new baby (Haakon Haakonsson) as a threat to the throne.  His life was at stake so his clan set out to protect the baby by travelling north to Trondheim.

On the way they stopped in Lillehammer.  It was Christmas 1205 and they decided to hide out at a small farm before moving on.  The normal route to Trondheim was considered too dangerous so the two best skiers (Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka) decided to take the baby across a 54km detour through cold, snow and wind (picture right).   The baby later became King Haakon and put an end to civil war Norway.   The Birkebeiner expedition made history. 

This route has come to represent the valour and strength it took to protect the King all those years ago and has been commemorated every year since 1932.  Skiers of all ages and nations ski the same route carrying a 3.5 kilo pack on their back to symbolise the baby child that was carried all those years ago. 

Well done to all of those competitors that took part yesterday!

EDIT:  My colleague Espen, who also took part in the race yesterday, has just emailed to say that the two oldest participants were 90 and 91 years old and the fastest skier in the class over 85 years old finished the course in just over 6 hours.  WOW!


  1. Love it! Thanks for writing this.

    • Thanks for the comment Denise – nice to hear from you and glad you enjoyed the post.

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