Smith set to ski 21st Birkie Saturday while passing love of lifetime sport to others
HAYWARD, WI -- A Sawyer County man is ready to accomplish an impressive feat Saturday: skiing his 21st American Birkebeiner race just several weeks after his 80th birthday.
Scott Smith, who lives near Hayward, started skiing about 42 years ago.
“I got into it just trying it out for recreation and did that for 10 years and then I saw my son do a triathlon and I said, ‘Oh, I’d like to get into racing.’ Then the following winter, I did my first Birkebeiner 1992.”
“I was so tired at the end of that, coming across Lake Hayward . . . double poling the whole way because my legs were totally gone. I was so tired but I got onto Main Street and I looked up and there’s this big banner saying ‘finish’ and a big smile broke out. I was just so happy to complete that challenge,” Smith said of his first Birkie.
In the years since, Smith has come to love the race, which takes athletes on a 31-mile, or 50-kilometer trail, from Cable to downtown Hayward.
“It’s a real challenge,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of hills in the Birkie. There are race courses that are kind of flat, but this one is not and so it’s just a wonderful trail and just a wonderful place to live up here in Hayward.”
Besides his love for the sport, Smith says the region’s beauty is one thing that’s kept him competing in what’s become his lifetime sport.
“I broke my hip about 10 years ago and when I got a hip replacement the ortho said you’ve got to stop running but you can ski all you want,” Smith said. “So that’s another beautiful thing: it’s a lifetime sport and it doesn’t jar your bones like some other sports. You get out there, you’re in the beautiful woods with white snow, and it’s just a real treat.”
Now, Smith spends his time teaching others to appreciate the sport through teaching Nordic skiing lessons.
Linda Cook has known Smith for years. She runs a group called “Ski and Tea,” which also encourages women to embrace the sport of cross country skiing for a lifetime.
Cook says she’s proud to see people like Smith pass on their knowledge of the sport.
“It’s wonderful because we want this sport to last forever and because it’s a lifetime sport,” Cook said. “Scott is carrying on the tradition of impassioning love for cross country skiing to other people and then they will carry it on to others.”
While Smith says he is excited to ski his next Birkie Saturday, he is even more thrilled about his children and grandchildren joining him in Hayward for American Birkebeiner race.
He said they are even participating in some of the Birkie races as well, which makes him incredibly proud.
As for what’s next for Smith, he hopes to be able to ski in Birkie events for as long as he can, possibly competing in some of the shorter races in the future.
He’s also a Birkie Ambassador, a team that goes out during the races to encourage people to hang in there and have a great day out on the snow.
Copyright 2023 Northern News Now. All rights reserved.