The Canadian Birkebeiner's Haakon Haakonsson Award
The Haakon Haakonsson award recognizes dedication to the Birkebeiner tradition. It is an award that is exclusive to the Canadian Birkebeiner, and awards all skiers who have skied in the Norwegian, American and Canadian Birkebeiner long distance events. Skiers from all over Canada, the USA and other countries have won this award.
The Haakon Haakonsson award was started in the early 1990’s by the founder of the Canadian Birkebeiner, Brian Peters. A special award would be presented to skiers who completed the long distance events in the Norwegian, American and Canadian Birkebeiners. The three long distance events, ranging from 52 km (American) to 58 km (Norwegian) need not be skied in one winter season. Skiing the long distance, with or without a pack, would be – and still is - the criteria to become a member of this elite club.
A Scandinavian potter living in Edmonton was commissioned to design and produce the original award plates and mugs. Susanne Balslov-Kulak emigrated from Denmark in 1977, where the Balslov family name has been well known for three generations of craftsmanship. The family was part of the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain legacy in Denmark. The pieces created for the Haakon Haakonsson award were painstakingly hand painted and double fired in an outdoor kiln to produce the beautiful “Danish blue” effect. All of the pieces were numbered before awarding to the recipients.
With the increasing popularity of the Haakon Haakonsson award, Susanne was not able to create enough pieces (because of the amount of time required to hand paint the intricate artwork and fire each plate and mug separately). In 2000, the Canadian Birkebeiner Society commissioned Beaver Flats Pottery to create a new Haakon Haakonsson award. Kathy and Lorris Williams, who have been skiing and hand-crafting pottery for 30 years, produced the distinctive hand-crafted Haakonsson steins annually for the awards. The steins were decorated with three skiers, representing the three Birkebeiner events the award commemorates. When Beaver Flats Pottery closed their doors, CBS was happy to team up with Jane and Susanne Hertwig-Jaksch of Deep in the West Pottery Studio. Their Haakonsson steins feature hand written text and Viking runes. Each stein is an original work of art.
In 2004, the Canadian Birkebeiner created a permanent trophy to display all of the award winners. It is called the CANBi Shield and it is on display at our office. The CANBi acronym stands for Canadian, American, Norwegian Birkebeiners, the wording of which flanks the flags of the three countries and the names of each Haakon Haakonsson award winner.
From 1991 to present day, there have been over 100 skiers awarded the coveted Haakon Haakonsson Award.