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Dead skier was training for Birkie; teen turns himself in as driver

Bjorn Erik Norgaard

The Dundas, Minn., man who was hit by a vehicle while skiing on Lake Superior from Washburn to Ashland probably lay on the ice more than eight hours before he was found by a snowmobiler, authorities said Monday.

Bjorn Erik Norgaard, 23, was found at 8:30 a.m. Sunday after a hit-and-run that probably occurred about midnight, Bayfield County Deputy Sheriff Dan Clark said.

Norgaard was returning to Ashland using a trail made for the Book Across the Bay cross-country ski and snowshoe race on Chequamegon Bay, which took place Saturday evening. A 2010 graduate of Northland College, Norgaard was skiing to the home of college friends after watching the event, Clark said. He reportedly planned to ski in the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski event this weekend for the fifth time.

On Sunday, several hours after his body was found, a 16-year-old male went to police and identified himself as the driver of the vehicle. Authorities said he and a 16-year-old passenger in the vehicle are cooperating with the investigation, and alcohol is not believed to be a factor. Clark said vehicle traffic is not uncommon on the frozen bay this time of year.

The sheriff's office isn't releasing the names of the juveniles involved but said the case will be reviewed for possible criminal charges.

Norgaard graduated from Northland College in spring 2010 with a degree in environmental studies and community organization. He was remembered at a prayer service Monday night at the college.

He graduated from Northfield High School in 2006 in Northfield, Minn. He reportedly loved being outdoors, camping, hiking, skiing, hunting and fishing. He worked as a fly fishing guide in Alaska and this winter had built a luge at his family's cabin.

Christopher Sautter, a friend of Norgaard's from Northland College, said Norgaard was an outstanding person.

"He was definitely quite a kid -- a bright star, full of positive energy," he said Monday. "He always had a smile on his face and I know people will say that about people who died, but in this case it is absolutely true."

Services will be 11 a.m. Friday at St. John's Lutheran Church in Northfield with the Rev. Mark Johnson officiating. Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Thursday at St. John's Lutheran Church and will continue on Friday one hour before the service.