Warm weather threatens classic ‘Birkie’ race

If ever there was an indicator that the Upper Midwest has lost its weather mojo, it’s this: the American Birkebeiner — the iconic northern Wisconsin cross country ski race — is likely to be a foot race this year.

All of the events scheduled for Friday have been moved to Saturday, race officials announced on the race website yesterday.

They’re hoping a late-week storm salvages what’s left of the region’s weather reputation, but they offer three scenarios if we remain a slightly-chilled Des Moines.

Scenario #1 – With some snow remaining on the trails from the American Birkebeiner Trailhead to the OO Trailhead (at Highway OO), Birkie staff are monitoring trail conditions. With hopes of measurable snow on Friday, there is a very slim chance that a one-way, timed race could be held (American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet and Prince Haakon races).

Scenario #2 – If there is enough snow and conditions are such that 10,000 plus participants can safely ski, however unsafe for a competitive race, there is a possibility of an untimed, open-track, looped-event on the Birkie Trail (north of OO) for the American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet and Prince Haakon events.

Scenario #3 – If snow is unavailable, 2017 will be a Birkie, Korte & Prince Haakon like none other. Participants will be part of a first-ever winter Birkie run and street party celebration in downtown Hayward. Live music, Birkie Brew-Ski, food vendors, and a festival atmosphere!

Opening ceremonies for the events, held since 1973, have already been canceled.

Temperatures in Hayward, Wis., should approach 50 again today. Last year’s race was also beset by temperatures in the 40s.

  • MikeB

    In time we won’t have much snow in our winters. Canada should make a play to host the Birkebeiner. Northern Canada. Gotta go where the snow is.

  • joetron2030

    I’m going up this weekend. While I’m not skiing, my friends are. We’re all expecting it to be scenario 3. We’d be foolish to think otherwise and the planners seem to feel the same.

  • lindblomeagles

    Just as Wisconsin is worried about the Birkebeiner, I’ve recently stopped going to Saint Paul’s Winter Carnival. There just isn’t any snow, and the cold temperatures that used to hang around from mid November to mid-March have also dipped to about 3 weeks maximum — one around Christmas, one in January, and the first week of February. Every other time is mild. We’ve had brown Thanksgivings in at least 3 of the last 4 Thanksgivings, and probably more than that. During my college years, it always snowed Thanksgiving Week, and I don’t mean a dusting either.

  • MarkUp

    I skied the Birkie in 2007, and that year the course was cut in half due to poor snow conditions. The lack of powder has been killing the sport for years. I didn’t even wax my skis this year.