Remembering Birkie Founder David Landgraf

It's impossible to express how great a loss David Landgraf's tragic passing is. Most of us know David as the legendary Birkie founder who always managed to finish among the elite skiers every single year at an age when most people are enjoying a quiet retirement.  But the thing that really made David so special was the fact that he was so kindhearted, generous and humble.  I've met very few people in my life who were as willing to help you out at the drop of the hat, or who simply embodied essence of a rock-solid, honorable, and reliable man.  David Landgraf was one of those guys.  He was the type of guy that you gravitated towards because he was such a shining example of what you yourself might one day hope to be.

The man's accomplishments speak for themselves.

Just think about the achievement of doing 38 Birkies.  Most people are pretty intimidated by the idea of doing the race just once, but David was out there year in and year out, making the necessary sacrifices to be at the top of his game for the greater part of four decades.  David was truly a legend, and any time you were around anything that had to do with skiing, you'd hear people whispering about him with reverential tones, "there's this guy who has done every...single...Birkie who still finishes in the top 200!"  David's legacy is the kind of story that takes on a life of its own and expands into the type of immortal tale that I think is going to be part of Birkie lore forever.

But the most amazing thing about David was that although all of us were always stupefied with amazement over the man (maybe even to the point of being intimidated), he was always so humble about own legacy.  I remember sitting at Allan Lindsley's birthday party when the conversation turned to the Birkie.  One of the guests, who didn't know David, turned to him and asked, "do you ski the Birkie too?"  I almost gasped.  How could you ask David Landgraf if he skied the Birkie?  But David's reaction speaks volumes.  He didn't say, "yes, as a matter of fact I've skied all of them."  David didn't mention his legacy with the race at all.  He just smiled and said, "yes I'm going to ski it, I have to."  I guess when you're as cool as David Landgraf, you don't ever have to brag.

It was always an honor to see David at the start of a ski race and just say hello and chat for a little while, and he always replied with a quick joke and a welcoming smile.  He always made you feel at ease, and was just bursting with the joy of life and the love of skiing.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about David is that although his skiing legacy is so great that it's almost hard to comprehend, it represents only a small fraction of his life as a whole.  David was also a dedicated teacher and mentor, and a loving husband and father.  I know him as a skier, a member of CyclovaXC, and as a truly great guy.  I doubt I'll put on a pair of cross-country skis again in my lifetime without thinking about David Landgraf.  There will never be another one like him, and he will truly be missed.

2 comments:

  1. Dave was simply the best. A great ambassador for our sport, a world champ skier and an even better guy. I remember over 20 years ago just getting to know Dave then when at Giants Ridge at the classical race when he used those long skate poles to classical 25km. He was amazing to watch ski back then and continued his whole ski career . Two winters ago Al and Dave came up to Troll Hollow and we did 4 minute hill intervals and Dave smoked both Al and myself. I couldn't believe it at age 60 his fitness level. This is a tough one to take. It's not going to hit me until the ski season when I expect to see Dave at a race and he's not there. The Birkie just won't be the same anymore.

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  2. Well said Steve. This is going to be an emotional Birkie without doubt.

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