American Birkebeiner aims to buy land, improve trail through capital campaign
The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation has launched the first capital campaign in the history of the iconic race, and will seek $2.3 million to buy land for a permanent start area, improve the extensive trails and add an outdoor recreation center.
The five-year campaign, “Honoring the Legacy-Ensuring the Future,” kicked off Saturday night at the Rivers Eatery, in Cable, Wisconsin, where more than 100 people helped push the total raised to date beyond $192,000.
That leaves the finish line for phase one about $458,000 away, with the goal of reaching that stepping stone by the start of the 42nd annual Birkebeiner, on February 21, 2015.
According to plans shared by the ABSF, about $115,000 will be spent on buying roughly 75 acres of the Telemark Resort property, which would serve as a new start line for the 50K Birkebeiner and 26K Kortelopet. The races, which draw more than 10,000 skiers, now start on a runway of the Cable Municipal Airport, and the course crosses the Telemark property in its first few kilometers.
Ben Popp, executive director of the ABSF, said a tentative deal for the 75 acres has been struck with Clifton Louis, who bought the Telemark property at a foreclosure sale a year ago.
Once it gains its own land for the start area, the ABSF plans to build a storage building that will serve as a warm shelter for skiers on race morning. With the Telemark lodge closed in 2014, and tents knocked down by snow, the need for a building to accommodate thousands of skiers at the start line was never more apparent.
Popp projects that the build-out of the start line would be completed by 2016 or 2017.
For the 2015 Birkie, the ABSF will move ahead with improvements at the finish line in Hayward, including a skier bridge over Highway 63 and indoor food and changing areas in an armory and elementary school.
The next phase of the campaign, slated for 2017, includes improvements to the 107K of ski trail maintained by the ABSF. The trail is 30 feet wide and has become vulnerable to erosion in some locations. The $950,000 targeted for phase two also would be used to install water, and possibly electric service, at aide stations along the course.
Phase three, the outdoor recreation center to serve hikers, skiers and mountain bikers, is targeted for 2019 at a cost of roughly $650,000.
Popp said the annual revenue from the Birkebeiner, slightly more than $1 million, covers the event expenses and annual trail maintenance. There’s no money left for the large-scale improvements needed to sustain the race and the trail, he said.
“I think the event as a whole has evolved into a lifestyle and a community,” Popp said. “Now we’ve created these goals on the foundation side. This is the thing that needs to happen for this foundation to flourish.”
Contributions to the campaign can be made via the Birkebeiner website. Representatives of the ABSF will host a campaign gathering at Borton Volvo, in Golden Valley, Minnesota on November 20, and another event in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on December 4, at a location to be determined.