This Saturday, March 22, the snowy trails at the Breckenridge Nordic Center will be a bit more colorful than usual as cross-country skiers and snowshoers, many in wacky costumes, participate in the 12th annual Breckebeiner 60K Nordic Ski-A-Thon and Snowshoe Bash. Participants, as individuals or as teams, raise money for each kilometer they ski or snowshoe, which is then donated to the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
Making programs accessible and affordable
The BOEC, a Summit-based nonprofit, has been providing educational outdoor programs to people with disabilities and special needs for 38 years. Among those who benefit from the organization’s programs are adults, children and injured veterans.
The donations raised from the Breckebeiner event will be specifically directed toward a fund that provides financial assistance for those who cannot afford the BOEC program fees. Last year nearly 2,300 participants from 42 states and 10 countries attended BOEC programs. More than 50 percent of them received financial support from the assistance fund in order to attend.
Many of those receiving program fee assistance are adults, said BOEC development director Marci Sloan. While there are often many grants and scholarship programs out there specifically for children, there are fewer for adults, she said. Financial assistance is one of a few avenues for older participants to receive help with program fees.
Skiing and snowshoeing for a cause
The Breckebeiner event got its start 12 years ago for Gene Dayton’s 60th birthday. The owner of the Breckenridge and Frisco Nordic centers and co-founder of the BOEC, Dayton asked his friends and family to cross-country ski with him to raise money for the organization. Since then, the event has grown, and locals and visitors alike participate, many wearing wigs and crazy costumes.
The name Breckebeiner is a play on “birkebeiner,” a word with Norwegian roots. The American Birkebeiner is a cross-country ski race (54K for classic skiers, 50K freestyle). That race was named after the Birkebeinerrennet, a cross-country ski race in Norway, which commemorates a historical event in which two men carried the young king of Norway on skis through treacherous terrain during the 12th century.
There’s nothing treacherous about the Breckebeiner event, however. It takes place at the Breckenridge Nordic Center, on intermediate terrain groomed for both skate and classic styles, with an adaptive course available, too. Nordic ski loops of 6K and a snowshoe loop of 3K will be marked. Families with young children can trek a 1K snowshoe loop and enjoy a treasure hunt at noon.
“It’s such a fun event, it gets you outside. These trails are absolutely beautiful,” said Bernita Moul, a Silverthorne resident who participated in her first Breckebeiner last year. She raised $450, and hopes to top it with at least $500 this year.
In addition to snowshoeing and skiing, the event features food donated by Vail Resorts Echo, live music by Helmut Fricker of Vail and Gene Dayton, costume contests and prizes for top fundraisers.
“It’s really fun,” said Annemarie Fussell, assistant manager of the Breckenridge Nordic Center. “It’s really no pressure. It’s not a lot of pressure to fundraise, it’s not a lot of pressure to compete. It’s a good way to get outside and say goodbye to winter in the right way.”
Participants will also get to enjoy the new Nordic center building, which opened last Christmas.
Participants can register on the day of the event. The Nordic center will remain open to the public during the event.