Written by Frank Haley who presented this speech at the Vikings Feast on February 9, 2019

The first Edmonton Birkebeiner ski race was set for the second Saturday in February of 1985, to start from Devon, and finish at Fort Edmonton. The course followed the river, downhill. It sounded easy. We had our wooden skis and Nordic Norm three-pin bindings.

Many of us stayed at the Devon Hotel on Friday night. When we met at breakfast. There was a rumor that the temperature was colder than the approved -25 degrees Celsius, measured by a mercury thermometer in the hands of the Official Starter. There was a possibility of cancellation.

Naturally, we skiers were concerned. The start time was getting closer, opinions were offered, start or no start. 

At a couple of minutes before the scheduled start time, the Starter went outside, then came back in, and announced that the thermometer read just above the magic number of -25 degrees Celsius, and the race was on. Someone noted that Starter’s thumb was remarkably close to the thermometer’s bulb, but no one mentioned that. The race started on time. The temperature did warm up, there were no recorded complications and everyone was happy. The volunteers manned their station, the First Aiders gave assistance, and the timers timed. The volunteers who waited in the cold, they deserved a medal.

That start hasn’t been matched for suspense and drama.

Thank, Mr. Starter with the educated and warm thumb.