About Bill Parks
Bill Parks was a high school social studies teacher at Glens Falls High School for 32 years. For many of those years he was a three season coach. Coaching cross country running, track and Nordic skiing, Bill had considerable success motivating young people to participate and excel in sports.
In that setting, he strove to teach the reward and fun of working hard toward challenging goals. He stressed the importance of good sportsmanship, an athlete’s role on a team, a love of the outdoors, as well as many bigger life lessons.
Both as an athlete and as a coach, Bill was drawn to Crandall Park and the trails in Cole’s Woods. He and his athletes trained and raced there. He learned to cross country ski there, worked to enlarge the trail system and encouraged the growth of cross country skiing in our area. He was an early member of The Friends of Cole’s Woods and a long time volunteer trail groomer.
Participating in the Birkebeiner ski race in Norway as a fund raiser is his way of repaying Cole’s Woods for the decades of fun, excitement and rewarding recreation he has enjoyed there. It is also a way for all of us to say thank you for the good work of The Friends of Cole’s Woods and encourage the continuing maintenance and protection of our community treasure.
The Birkebeiner races - the historical background
Following the death of the Norwegian king Haakon Sverresson in the early 13th century, the two rivaling factions, the Baglers and the Birkebeiners, fought to gain control of Norway. To keep Haakon Sverresson's son - Haakon Haakonsson, from being killed by the Baglers, and by that securing the throne, a small group of Birkebeiners brought prince Haakon and his mother, Inga, north. Just after New Year's Eve 1206 the two best skiers - Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka, carrying the child, chose the route across the mountains separating Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen. It was a strenuous journey, but the young prince was brought to safety in Trondheim. The prince grew to become the king who united Norway, after 1000 years of civil war, and led the country into its golden age during the Middle Ages. The name Birkebeinere was given by the Baglers, and originally intended to be offensive - referring to their leggings of birch bark, indicating that they were poor and incapable. They proved the Baglers wrong, and today the name carries a sense of pride, strength and endurance - something thousands of people, participating in the historical race every year, keep striving for
In the fall of 1930 author and forester, Haakon Lie, published an article launching the idea of a ski race in honor of the 1206 rescue of the 18 month old prince, Haakon Haakonsson. Two years later - on January 10th, 1932, 6 men - Fredrik Grundtvig, Agnar Renolen, Peder Olsen, Lars Høgvold, Halvor Kampen and Olaf Larsen, met on the mountain Raufjellet, and formally decided to arrange the very first Birkebeinerrennet. In 1932 147 men completed the then 59 km long trail. First among them was Trygve Beisvåg, finishing in a respectable 4:51:40. The race has since been shortened to 54 km from Rena to Lillehammer. Each competitor is required to carry a 3.5 kilo (7.7 pound) pack to represent the infant king.
Above is an image of the famous painting by 19th century painter Knud Bergslien, which depicts Torstein, Skjervald and young Haakon Haakonson escaping over the mountains. Note the birch bark foot wear!
The Birkebeiner today
85 years later, the Birkebeiner has become the premier nordic race in the world, with over 16,000 skiers competing! To get a sense of what it is like to participate, please check out the video link below.
The Birkebeiner Fundraiser
Bill has committed to donating $10.00 to the Friends of Cole's Woods for each kilometer he completes, and hopes that others who enjoy the varied recreational activities offered in Cole's Woods will contribute too. To donate, simply click on our Birkie Contribution Form.
Donors making a contribution of $25.00 or more will receive a free Cole's Woods membership.
In addition to supporting the work of The Friends of Cole's Woods, the membership offers special discounts at Inside Edge, Grey Ghost Bicycles, Sports Page, Rick's Bike Shop and iRun Local.
Thank you for your support.