Northlanders Torn Over April-like Temperatures in February

February 17, 2017 10:41 PM

The record warmth across the Northland is a welcome invitation for those that are impatiently waiting for spring, but the warmer temperatures are also creating headaches for those preparing for a pair of annual winter events.

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The Book Across the Bay is an annual cross country ski race that allows skiers to trek across the Chequamegon Bay from Ashland to Washburn. This year, organizers expect more than 4,000 skiers to participate in the race.

Ice and snow cover the bay but the 50 degree plus temperatures are melting some of the snow that lays on the surface. Although officials say the race will go on as planned, they are warning participants for wet and sloppy conditions.

In a written statement posted online Friday morning, officials with the Book Across the Bay said, "Our ice cover is in good shape and will not be affected by a couple days of warm temperatures. Snow cover on the course, however, may end up being fairly thin and soft come Saturday."

They suggest anyone walking the course to wear waterproof gear as well.

The American Birkebeiner is even more popular with more than 20,000 skiers attempting to tackle the Cable to Hayward route.

Although race events don't begin until Thursday, officials have already closed the course to limit the amount of melting.

Duluthian Ken Nelson is hoping to compete in the race for the 19th time this year, but he's just as concerned with the warm weather and how that may impact the course.

Nelson said, "I'm a little bit sad about the snow on the Birkie trail, and I'm a little worried."

His wife Marcia doesn't mind the warmer weather.

"It's absolutely gorgeous," Marcia said.

Many students, teachers and faculty at North Shore Elementary School were also enjoying the taste of Spring.

Students at the school took a break from classwork to mimic a popular Alaskan sled dog race. Dubbed the Ikidarod, students pulled fellow classmates on a sled along a course at the school's playground.

Usually, temperatures are cold enough for heavy jackets, scarves and boots. However, some students were strutting around outside in t-shirts.

Michelle Compton, a 4th grade teacher, says this is the warmest it has ever been for annual event.

"Last year, we were bundled up," Compton said. "Today, we're looking like a bunch of summer vacationers."

As temperatures continue to climb into the 40s and 50s this weekend, Duluth officials are worried about area trails as hikers head out for the first time.

Jim Shoberg, the project coordinator with the Parks and Recreation Department, is hoping people don't hike the natural trails.

"The temptation is going to be there," Shoberg said. "All of our natural surface snow covered trails will be closed this weekend to foot travel."

Shoberg suggests that everyone head to the paved trails like the Duluth Lakewalk and the cross-city trail to enjoy the warm weather.


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