Summit Station Birkie Fever

Photo finish: Ken Keenan, left, and Sonja Wolter stretch for the first place finish at the Summit Birkebeiner. Photo: Christina Hammock

As the photo above shows, Summit Station hosted its own edge-of-your-seat winter games last weekend. Our phase III crew preparing the NSF’s research outpost for the coming research season paused on Saturday to hold Summit’s version of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race. 

“Race day conditions were –56F with a wind chill of -92F,” wrote station manager Ken Keenan in his weekly report. The skiers raced to the end of the Summit skiway and back again, a distance of about six kilometers. Though this is substantially shy of 50 km trail the classic American Birkebeiner offers in Wisconsin, with the cold and Summit’s elevation, it was still something. 

The numbers on their jerseys refer to Summit's actual elevation and the ambient temperature. But which is which? Photo: Christina Hammock

 Here’s a recap filed by NOAA science technician and Summit Birkie racer Sonja Wolter: 

“Trail Report:
The weather remained stable for the Summit Birkebeiner with temps reaching into the mid minus 50s the night before and cooling off to the high minus 50s by race time.   All trails were groomed and reset in August and the skiing was as good as it gets around here for this time of year.  The base depth was about 10,000 feet and was very hard, cold, and stable. . . . 

 Trail Elevation:
The total elevation gain for the Summit Birkie 5.4 km Classic Course from the start line at the Big House to the finish line at the Big House was about two meters. 

The two top finishers, Ken and Sonja, battled it out over the grueling course, ending in a photo finish tie with a new Summit Birkie Classic record time of 1:13:27. 

Said Sonja of her primary competitor, ‘Ken gave every single ounce of human courage and determination.  Simply put, he is the Sistine Chapel of cross-country skiing.’ 

Ken responded graciously, saying, ‘Sonja gave 110% the entire race.  She was really single-sticking out there!’” 

At the rest stop, Christina Hammock offers Ken hot chocolate and bananas. Photo: Sonja Wolter

At the rest stop, Christina Hammock offers Ken hot chocolate and bananas. Photo: Sonja Wolter

Here, Ken kicks it up about 3 km into the race. Photo: Sonja Wolter

Sonja shows impressive form. Photo: Ken Keenan

Birkie Fever!


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