Birkebeiner Executive Director Leaving
Cherie Morgan joined the staff of the American Birkebeiner in 1996 and became the Executive Director following the 1999 race. Recently, Morgan announced that she would be leaving her position to focus on family. A few weeks after the 2002 event, Morgan talked with the editors of Cross Country Skier.
So what exactly does an Executive Director do?
My job responsibilities include organizing and overseeing every aspect of every event of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. This organization starts very soon after the event. I am also responsible for compiling and following a strict budget, securing sponsorships, soliciting donations, promoting the events, working with a Board of Directors who set policy and the trail staff.
Mother Nature kept things interesting again this year. What was going through your mind before the snow arrived?
Mother Nature makes things interesting every year. Prior to the snow my
mind was filled with what it is always filled with; a million race logistic
considerations. Even in an excellent snow year like 2001, I spend the last
days prior to the event looking at all of race logistics and double-checking
every aspect with our Chief of Race, Race Chiefs and Staff. This year posed
many challenges because we were busy considering and preparing multiple
finish lines. I am very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of
individuals who make sure that we are ready no matter what challenges are
thrown our way.
What impact did the Salt Lake Winter Olympics have on the Birkebiener?
I think in a lot of ways the Salt Lake Winter Olympics provided a renewed
interest in the sport of Nordic Skiing. The television coverage of Nordic
Skiing was so much better than the past coverage. So many people where
excited about the sport. Having past American Birkebeiner winners doing
well in the events also helped excite the skiers and the community about the
race. Unfortunately, the image of individual Nordic Olympians has become
tainted, but I think the positive energy early on was great for the race.
Carl Swenson's participation in the Olympics and the Birkie also effected
the race in a very positive way. The fact that an Olympic athlete, left the
Olympics to participate in the Birkie says a lot about our race.
What impact do you think the Birkebeiner has had on Nordic skiing?
It is interesting that you ask this question, because this morning I
listened to a skier explain to our staff how important the Birkie has been
to his life. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that
they spend all year training for the Birkie. For many people their running,
cycling, roller skiing and other recreational activities are done in
preparation for the Birkie. I think that this says a lot about their
dedication to the event and the sport of cross country skiing.
I have also talked to many new or first time Birkie skiers who tell me that
they dreamed of participating in the event.
I am really not sure if the Birkie can take credit for bringing new people
to the sport, but I think we have influenced many people to continue in the
sport. The fact that we have skiers how participate in the event that have
little or no snow during the winter tells me that they continue to ski
because of their love of the event and nordic skiing.
How do you describe the event to first-timers?
I feel the best way to describe the event is by telling them that the American Birkebeiner is the largest Nordic Ski Festival in the United States. Skiers of all levels and abilities participate in the Birkie and Korte; from the recreational skier to the elite athlete. I also like to highlight our other events to the skiers. We have an event for skiers of all ages and levels and abilities. We like to encourage family participation as much as possible.
Next year you celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Birkebeiner.
Anything special planned?
There are numerous ideas being considered for the 30th Anniversary. There
has been a special 30th Anniversary Committee created within the Board of
Directors. Over the next several months they will evaluate the ideas and
start to work on some of the details. One of the biggest discussions has
been on bringing some of the festival atmosphere and pizzazz back to event
week. I think they have some great ideas and I am confident that some
exciting additions will be a part of the 30th Anniversary.