Fundraising begins for project to erect statue of Steamboat legend Sven Wiik at home of American Birkebeiner
To honor the legacy and history of North America’s largest cross country ski race, the American Birkebeiner, there is a project planned to construct a memorial plaza in Cable, Wisconsin, fitted with a statue of Steamboat ski legend, Sven Wiik.
To raise funds for the statue, Sven’s granddaughter Kajsa Wiik-Lindgren has started a GoFundMe page in hopes of sharing Sven’s legacy and getting enough money to put the project in motion.
Sven was a Swedish Olympian who competed in the 1948 London Games in gymnastics. Following the Games, he moved to America for a new experience.
After a brief stint in Chicago, Sven moved to Gunnison where he became a ski coach and assistant professor at Western State College. According to Kajsa, Sven introduced cross country skiing to Gunnison and made college skiing an NCAA sport.
Years later, Sven moved to Steamboat with the intention of doing something new in his life. He bought property in town and built the Scandinavian Lodge. Not long after, he began the Steamboat Ski Touring Center which entered its 40th winter in business this season and is still run by the Wiik family today.
“Not a lot of people realized how many things he did outside of starting a Nordic center and a ski lodge here in Steamboat,” Kajsa said. “He designed the American Birkebeiner trail, he designed the trails for the 1976 Olympics that never happened.”
When the Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin, was struggling to fill up, its owner Tony Wise reached out to Sven for help. He agreed, and within four years designed cross country trails that were modeled after the Swedish Vasaloppet race trails.
Wise, Sven and ski legend Marty Hall agreed the trails could attract many people if they were used for a cross country ski race. This led to the first American Birkebeiner in 1973.
“The American Birkebeiner brings over 10,000 people to Hayward, Wisconsin, every year,” Kajsa said. “It’s their biggest event every year and I don’t think a lot of people know how the trail got started or how it even came to be.”
To celebrate the rich history of the Birkebeiner and the Cable-Hayward, Wisconsin, area, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation plans to erect three statues in a memorial park of Sven, Wise and Hall as well as a totem to honor the indigenous people who lived in the area prior to Wise’s lodge.
There will also be sitting areas and a playground area with equipment for children and adults.
The total price for the project is $480,000, though Sven’s statue in particular is priced at $70,000.
Donations of all sizes are appreciated by the Wiik family and Kajsa is currently working on tax-deductible donations. Those interested in these types of donations can contact Kajsa directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I just don’t want history to be lost,” Kajsa said.
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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