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March 24, 2018

Rhinelander Mitch Mode, pictured in this 2016 photograph, started skiing the American Birkebeiner in the late 1970s. “It’s kind of a gathering of this great tribe of like-minded people in the Nordic ski community,” Mode said, describing the atmosphere of the annual Nordic ski race. (submitted photo)
Rhinelander Mitch Mode, pictured in this 2016 photograph, started skiing the American Birkebeiner in the late 1970s. “It’s kind of a gathering of this great tribe of like-minded people in the Nordic ski community,” Mode said, describing the atmosphere of the annual Nordic ski race. (submitted photo)
Rhinelander Finishers
Results of skiers with a 54501 area code in the American Birkebeiner, and associated races:

55k Birkebeiner Classic

Overall Gender Age Group Name Finish Time

134 119 4 M 60-64 Mark Nienstaedt 3:36:35.0

393 335 32 M 60-64 John Bassette 4:12:26.8

500 425 17 M 65-69 Mitch Mode 4:24:41.6

833 692 62 M 35-39 Bill Bollfrass 5:05:09.9

933 771 106 M 60-64 Michael Evelo 5:17:31.3

1055 865 57 M 40-44 Shane Teter 5:32:30.7

1655 1310 88 M 40-44 Chris Moran 7:28:44.3

50k Birkebeiner Skate

Overall Gender Age Group Name Finish Time

136 129 21 M 30-34 Scott Golomski 2:30:15.9

193 179 29 M 35-39 Chris Cook 2:34:41.1

1040 926 130 M 35-39 Ryan Rossing 3:18:58.5

1076 117 29 F 18-24 Anna Engel 3:20:16.6

1109 987 127 M 18-24 Louis Bassette 3:21:09.9

1424 1249 67 M 60-64 Robert Cook 3:33:03.5

1918 1650 189 M 55-59 Brian Hegge 3:51:28.6

1919 1651 104 M 60-64 Chris Koeppl 3:51:28.6

2202 334 12 F 60-64 Karen Cook 4:03:02.3

2563 2136 256 M 55-59 Mark Golomski 4:21:22.0

3515 2846 283 M 60-64 Bill Pierre 6:06:32.3

29k Kortelopet Classic

Overall Gender Age Group Name Finish Time

115 31 5 F 15-16 Valerie Dalka 2:26:50.0

117 32 6 F 15-16 Jenna Younker 2:27:04.0

288 89 9 F 35-39 Kerry Hagen 2:56:14.7

331 102 10 F 50-54 Cecily Dawson 3:01:29.0

875 386 11 F 13-14 Gwyneth Lowry 5:10:27.9

876 490 21 M 17-18 Alec Lowry 5:10:30.0

877 387 27 F 45-49 Laura Lowry 5:10:40.0

878 388 28 F 45-49 Kent Jason Lowry 5:10:44.2

29k Kortelopet Skate

Overall Gender Age Group Name Finish Time

161 130 16 M 13-14 Zach Goodrich 1:56:33.3

236 173 43 M 15-16 Levi Smith 2:03:26.4

247 178 44 M 15-16 Breckin Younker 2:04:04.0

353 111 8 F 40-44 Christel Kern 2:13:00.4

482 170 2 F 25-29 Elizabeth Bassette 2:22:00.3

1025 429 29 F 55-59 Deb Wall 3:14:33.8

15k Prince Haakon

Overall Gender Name Finish Time

57 23 Liana Teter 1:28:12.1

74 35 Karen Teter 1:32:30.8

126 57 Darren Zetek 1:48:14.2

249 107 Michael Fagnant 2:16:15.9

331 194 Donna Stone 2:34:07.2

332 138 Tom Stone 2:34:22.1


3/13/2018 7:32:00 AM
Four decades and counting
Rhinelander's Mode completes 40th Birkebeiner

Kayla Breese
Feature Writer

One Rhinelander man's joy for skiing has led him to complete his 40th Birkebeiner on Feb. 24 during the 2018 44th annual Slumberland American Birkebeiner Race.

Mitch Mode, owner of Mel's Trading Post, participated in the 55K Birkebeiner Classic. He completed the jaunt from Cable to Hayward in time of 4 hours, 24 minutes and 41.6 seconds; came in 17th in his age group, 425 in his gender group, and 500 overall.

In the 55K Birkebeiner Classic there were 1,733 registrants, and of all the categories, there was 8,007 registered participants.

"There are two main events, the American Birkebeiner and the Kortelopet," Mode explained. "The Kortelopet is actually a shorter race, runs about 29 kilometers this year, goes on part of the Birkie trail; it's done on Fridays now."

He said The American Birkebeiner, the main event of Birkie weekend, is a race which features two different ski techniques - the classic and skate.

The classic technique is a kick and glide technique like walking, and the other is skating, which as its name implies, has more of a skating motion.

Mode's journey

Mode took to skiing when he was 3 years old, and it remained a passion of his.

In the late 1960s, early 1970s he started cross country skiing by himself or with friends, nothing competitive. After several years he learned about this long-distance event and it piqued his interest.

"At a certain point I was skiing distance and really enjoying skiing and I heard about this race over someplace in Hayward - which I didn't even know where it was - it was a long race, 50-55 kilometers back then, and it just intrigued me," he said.

This was during the time a lot of people were competing in marathons, and while he had never been competitive, he was intrigued by the Birkebeiner. He didn't compete in the race that year, but took the time to condition himself and go longer distances so he would be ready for the next one.

In 1977-'78 is when Mode embarked on his first Birkie.

There was a stretch of time when he tried to go for speed, but nowadays he just enjoys being on the trail, gliding along, and just aims to complete it.

"The Birkebeiner is a great event to be a part of because it's a lot of fun, there's a lot of people that are very similar to you and it's kind of a gathering of this great tribe of like-minded people in the Nordic ski community," he said.

As one could expect having competed in 40 Birkies, Mode has seen just about every sort of weather Mother Nature can throw at a skier.

He recalls years of brutal skiing 12-15 below zero temperatures, and it was brutal. He's also crossed the finish line with the mercury pushing 50 degrees.

However, the ideal conditions are in the mid-teens, he said.

"I think skis work really well when temperatures are in the mid-teens to mid-20 range," he said, adding that this year's race was sunny and gorgeous.

The races

The general course has gone from Cable to Hayward but in some years the race has been done in reverse. Also, since he started participating in the races the course has deviated slightly for one reason or another.

With thousands of participants, the race is divided into waves with the fastest and most experienced racers going first, with people new to the race or those who are slower in the last waves to prevent congestion of the trail.

"It helps spread people out on the trail, gets people skiing at the same pace and it's generally a pretty workable system," he explained.

While on the course there are many rest stops about every 6 kilometers with energy food and appropriate exercise drinks, but Mode still likes to pack a little extra when he goes out.

He has learned there are many companies which have energy foods, and water bottle hip packs, and he'll take a little something with, while stopping for a drink and some energy gel that they may be handing out.

Training and gear

Mode tries to stay pretty active throughout the year and in the summer he'll hop on his bike to keep in shape.

"I'll go out for a couple hours on the bike because I enjoy biking and it's a lot easier to do something if you enjoy it," he said.

While biking is his go-to summer activity, he has dabbled a little in roller skiing.

"Roller skiing looks like little short skis that are about 2-feet long, 3-feet long, with wheels on the front and back and you use them on pavement," Mode explained, adding that many avid skiers use them.

Skiing, like a number of sports, has seen technology boom when it comes to equipment such as skis, poles and waxes. Some want the latest and greatest when the compete one of the sport's biggest races, but Mode said it's far from a prerequisite.

"Nothing fancy, just what you can buy off the rack at my store - skis, poles boots and bindings - and whatever clothing works for you in the winter," he said.

He typically goes in a lot of light layers so he can add or subtract clothing as he goes.

"The biggest thing when people go out skiing for the first time they tend to overdress because they go out and it's 10-degrees-above zero and they think they have to dress with snowmobile suits on and because it's such an active sport you generate heat," Mode said.

He has heard many new skiers come back and say they overdressed and should find thinner layers.

"The rule of thumb for cross country skiing or snowshoeing or running is dress in thin layers or multiple layers that you add or take off depending on the temperature," he advised.

Advice from a well-seasoned Birkie participant

For those who have been considering entering the Birkebeiner, they should do it, according to Mode.

"The Birkies is fairly expensive, it'll cost you around $100-120 to register for it, and once you put that money down you say 'Oh, I better go out and ski,'" he said.

You don't need to be an athlete to do the event, according to Mode, however, he does point out that it is challenging.

"You don't have to be a great athlete to ski the Birkies, you don't have to be a racer to ski the Birkie, you can ski the Birkie or the Kortelopet - which is a great race by itself - as a recreational skier," he said, adding that people should "go out and have fun."

A Rhinelander contingent

There were a total of eight people from Rhinelander who participated in the 55K Birkebeiner Classic, and one of 43 Rhinelander people who participated in one of the various categories of the event.

"We've got some really good skiers come out of this community and you've got a lot of good recreational skiers that just go up there to ski the race," Mode said.

Kayla Breese may be reached at

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