February 22, 2017 03:47 PM
A trail crew is working to maintain the Birkie trail in hopes that North America's largest cross-country ski race, set for Saturday, can be salvaged in some form, with possible help from a Friday snowstorm.
An update from the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation on Wednesday morning said there are some puddles on the trail, but the trail crew is siphoning off the water and repairing portions of the trail. Organizers are moving forward with hopes that some form of the ski event can be held on the northern half of the trail.
The foundation had said Tuesday that rain has made trails south of County Road OO no longer feasible for the races. The Kortelopet and Prince Haakon races that had been scheduled for Friday will not be held that day, but may be held Saturday if conditions allow.
Organizers are looking at two scenarios for Saturday's event: a one-way, timed race if there is measurable snow on Friday, or an untimed, looped-event including all three races if snow is not adequate for a timed race.
If snow is unavailable, the three races will be replaced with a Birkie run and street party in downtown Hayward featuring music, food, and a festival atmosphere.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for Friday including the area of the Birkie Trail in Sawyer and Bayfield counties. The heaviest snowfall is expected early Friday morning.
"Even if snow arrives, there are significant infrastructure needs behind the scenes that need to be addressed. We need to be able to safely get people in and out of the area, have parking available, and make certain the Birkie Trail is safe and accessible to all," the foundation said in a news release on Wednesday.
The foundation said even though snow is in the forecast, it cannot reinstate the finish in downtown Hayward. Organizers had said Monday that the race would not finish in downtown Hayward due to poor conditions on Lake Hayward, and the International Bridge over U.S. Highway 63 will not be installed this year.
The Birkie Adaptive Ski, Nikkerbeiner Parade, opening ceremonies, and elite sprints that had been scheduled for Thursday have all been canceled. The Barkie Birkie Skijor, Barnebirkie, Junior Birkie, and Birkie Giant Ski are still scheduled to be held Thursday.
This year there are 11,000 registered participants. Organizers say there will be no refund for the participants should the Birkie Race not happen. Majority of the money is spent whether the race is run or not. Expenses include tents, food, bibs, timing - among other things. Race fees range from 80 to 130 dollars.
The American Birkebeiner attracted more than 13,000 skiers from 46 states and 22 countries last year. An additional 25,000 to 30,000 spectators saw last year's race.
Saturday's race is scheduled to be the first from a new trailhead near the Cable Union Airport.
A complete list of Birkie events is available at www.Birkie.com.
Updated: February 22, 2017 03:47 PM
Created: February 20, 2017 09:54 AM
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