The Pandemic Brought the Biggest Ski “Race” in the Country to Acadia


Every February, I ski the American Birkebeiner—a.k.a, “the Birkie”—which draws 10,000 cross-country skiers for a 50-km race through northern Wisconsin, finishing on a snowed-in Main Street in Hayward.

I celebrated completing my 14th Birkie in 2020 with beer and bratwurst on Main Street weeks before COVID hit. Traveling from Boston to Wisconsin for 2021’s race was out, so friends and I looked around New England for a spot to ski the 43-km (27-mile) virtual option.

A clear favorite emerged: Acadia National Park, and I set off for my first wintertime visit to Mount Desert Island.

Photo Courtesy Ari Ofsevit

I had planned a short “pre-race tour” of Acadia’s trails on Saturday, but conditions were so good that I skied 47 km—a Birkie-before-the-Birkie—and then downed a whole pizza in Bar Harbor.

As my friends drove up from Brunswick, the Friends of Acadia Facebook page posted about fresh grooming and the weather was superb: mid-20s and sunny, so pleasant to ski, but with a firm, fast trail underfoot. The “race” was on!

Our “start line” was the Eagle Lake bridge, and we skied past Jordan Pond, looped the Amphitheater and Sargent Mountain, glided back to Hadlock Pond, and swooped down Seven Bridges a second time before skiing loops on Aunt Betty Pond.

Not ready to turn in, we continued on the northern trails, eventually covering every inch groomed by Friends of Acadia’s Winter Trails team. After 75 km—47 miles—it was time for another pizza, this time eaten on a dock on the Atlantic, a reasonable substitute for the traditional post-race brat.

The 2021 “race” will go down as one of my most memorable Birkies and the opportunity to ski Acadia inspired me to become a member and donate to Friends of Acadia. How often do you get to ski a “race” in a National Park with views of the Atlantic ocean?

ARI OFSEVIT is a new Friends of Acadia member and donor. He completed Birkie #16 in Wisconsin in February 2022, maintains an “unofficial guide” to the race at and hosts “Cowbell Fever,” a podcast about all things Birkie.