This past weekend, 10 members of the Notre Dame Nordic Ski Club competed in the largest cross-country ski race in North America

The Notre Dame Nordic Ski team joined over 10,300 cross-country skiers on February 22, 2014, in North America’s largest ski race: the American Birkebeiner (Birkie).  The race takes place in western Wisconsin, spanning the distance between the cities of Cable and Hayward, and is the American version of Norway’s Birkebeinerrenet.

The annual event began in 1973 as a way to commemorate the journey of the two original Birkebeiners during the Norwegian Civil War, over which journey they carried the 18-month-old Prince Haakon safely from Østerdalen to Trondheim, traversing 54 kilometers of grueling terrain in order to protect the young heir.

The Notre Dame Nordic Ski Team enjoys their trip to Birkie. Rover editor Caroline Corsones is second from left.
The Notre Dame Nordic Ski Team enjoys their trip to Birkie. Rover editor Caroline Corsones is second from left.

Ten skiers from Notre Dame traveled into the tundra to compete in the various events over Birkie weekend.  Races ranged from 12-54k in length, and the cumulative length of the team’s races totaled to over 250 miles—nearly the length of the state of Indiana.  For most of the team’s skiers, this grand event was a first-time experience, but for sophomore Iciar Ocariz, this event is a family tradition.  This year was her fourth time competing in the 27k Kortelopet race; she finished third in her age group with an impressive time of 1:59:18.  Senior Kevin Bednar also performed well in the 54k classic, finishing his first ski-marathon as third in his wave with a time of 4:01:41.

Team Results




54k Birkebeiner Classic

Kevin Bednar (’14)


Adrienne Huschke (’16)


Jenny Coble (’16)


50k Birkebeiner Skate

Austin Reed (’15)


Laura Stangler (’14)


Mara Stolee (’14)


Caroline Corsones (’16)


27k Kortelopet Skate

Iciar Ocariz (’16)


12k Prince Haakon Skate

Joe Kuhns (’17)


Lily McGill (’16)


For most of the team, finishing the race was the achievement of a lifetime.

“I’ve wanted to do the Birkie ever since I began skiing in high school, and now that I’ve done it, I want to come back every year because it was just such an amazing experience,” sophomore Adrienne Hushcke told the Rover.

The community of people that comes together for the race each year is what really adds magic to the event.  Every 5-7k, volunteers greeted the skiers with water and snacks to refuel—in races of this length, replenishment is critical because skiers can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour while racing.  Fans banging drums and cowbells were sprinkled throughout the course as they cheered the skiers all the way to the finish.  Because of the proximity to the Twin Cities, many of the team’s members from Minnesota were able to reunite with their families at the finish line and share the achievement with them.

Each year, the event brings together skiers from all over the world to ski the most elite trail in the Midwest.

Senior Kevin Bednar Finishes the 54 Kilometer Classic Race
Senior Kevin Bednar Finishes the 54 Kilometer Classic Race.

“What’s cool about the Birkie is that it draws such a variety of skiers; competitors range from Olympic-level athletes to novices,” said Bednar. “It’s amazing that as a third-year club, we were able to bring such a great representation of the university to the event. When we first dreamed up this trip, we never imagined so many students would be interested in going and doing something so crazy.”

The skiers spent the weekend at the nearby cabin of alumni Michael Daugherty (’82), who provided food and shelter for them before and after the race.

One senior participant said, “We are so thankful for the support of the Notre Dame family.  It was only through the generosity and assistance of this community that we were able to achieve such a lofty goal.”

For a map of the ski courses, see

Mara Stolee is a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Contact her at