Celebrating Cathy Schreiner: The Queen of Birkie

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Cathy Schreiner has been a driving force behind the Canadian Birkie since its inception. She’s supported various roles, from General Manager to Info Girl, and all inbetween. And has always been a loyal supporter of the Birkie’s growth. Cathy’s devotion to the event is marked by her immense passion. “It went from a grassroots loppet to a full-fledged festival. Wow, that’s incredible!” she says with pride.

 

Cathy’s trailblazing spirit was evident when she became the first woman to receive the Haakon Haakonsson Award. The prestigious award is granted to skiers who complete the long-distance events in the Canadian, Norwegian and American Birkies, although not necessarily in a single season. Cathy and her husband were also the first to complete all three events in one season, a feat that required enormous physical and mental endurance. “It was such a great sense of achievement,” she says, ” but I’d recommend to take a few years if you feel the inkling.” This remarkable accomplishment established Cathy as a true pioneer in the sport. Since then, nearly 40 other women have earned this award.

 

Cathy’s contributions to cross-country skiing extend beyond her achievements on the trails. Her unyielding dedication to the sport and the Birkie community are truly inspirational. Below are a few of her contributions:

 

Cathy’s Ski of Life 
2023Volunteered as Birkie’s Assistant Chief of Signage
 Recipient of the Founder & Builders Award: This award is presented to founding members who helped create the Birkie and foster its growth over the years
2011Recipient of the Ole Hovind Award for embracing the Birkebeiner spirit, a testament to her unwavering commitment to the sport. When asked how it felt to win this award, Cathy responded, “It was pretty cool, as Ole Hovind was such a cool guy in all respects.”
1997 – 2011Served as Office Manager at the Canadian Birkie to ensure all things were running smoothly behind the scenes. Cathy fondly remembers, “We started off meeting in people’s living rooms and storing our equipment in garages. And soon realized we had a real festival that needed real office space.”
1996 – 1997 Several board positions including President (yes, the same year she skied 3 Birkies!)
1996Founding member and President, Friends of Blackfoot Society; this new society was the recipient of the Emerald Award that same year for their volunteer work at the park
1995 – 2011Served as Birkie’s Info Girl: Providing skiers with information on how the Birkie runs at the Nordic Fair and Birkie weekend. Her duties included directing people on where to go and what to do, including where to get their much-needed hot chocolate
1993 – 1996Serving as Chief of Stadium: Her role started at Blackfoot, but as the Birkie grew, so did her role. Bigger things were needed, such as larger tents and more logistics. Cathy’s role was to order the equipment and provide guidance to the crews on the event’s set up and tear down.
1992Chief of Loppet
1990sCCA Board Member
1988Olympic Volunteer at Canmore Nordic Centre
1985 – 2010+A dedicated volunteer, every year, for more than 25 years
1985Cathy won first Canadian Birkie

 

When asked why she loves the Birkie, Cathy replied, “It’s the feeling of freedom! When you’re on the trails and the birds are chirping, and you see a moose, it’s the best feeling ever. It’s such an enjoyable experience to be at the finish line and see all the happy faces.”

 

Let’s take a moment to applaud Cathy for her resilience, trailblazing spirit and inspiring legacy she has contributed to Canadian cross-country skiing.