Rain, Warm Temperatures Lead to Change In Plans for Birkie Events

Officials say they will have a plan of action for race events by Wednesday

HAYWARD, Wisc. – The mix of rain and warm temperatures across the Northland are leading to some big changes for the American Birkebiner events this week. Race officials are keeping a close eye on the sky and monitoring conditions on the course.

Most years, fans of the American Birkibiner are used to seeing thousands of cross country skiers flying down Main Street for the race finish.

This year Mother Nature had other ideas.

“It’s 50 degrees and raining…not ideal for mid-winter conditions to hold a ski race,” said Birkie Executive Director Ben Popp.

Race officials made the decision Monday to move the race finish from downtown Hayward due to the lack of snow.

“Getting in to downtown Hayward is now completely off the books,” said Popp. “Not a chance. Unfortunately, Lake Hayward, which is part of the Namekagon River, is open. We can get people on to the lake, but we can’t get them off and that would be a bummer.”

The Birkie course has been altered nine other times in its history because of low snow or open ice, including cancellation of the race back in 2000.

Officials say, ultimately, safety of the racers is the number one priority when making decisions like this.

“Depending on what Mother Nature throws our way, we will look at it tonight [and} start to make some decisions on some events that start as soon as Thursday,” said Popp.

As for the big race on Saturday, Popp says the Birkie trails are still in pretty good shape and will have a plan of action for race events by Wednesday.

“We know tens of thousands of people are in or out here right now. They’re already here as a matter of fact. We will provide an amazing experience, a Birkie experience in 2017. I can’t tell you what that’s going to be exactly yet but it’s going to be a Birkie experience.

And for an event that draws nearly 40,000 people and brings in $25 million to the Hayward community, local businesses like Riverbrook Bike and Ski on Main Street are still hoping they can cash in, despite the event’s change in plans.

“They’re going to have something,” said Tim Swift, co-owner of Riverbrook Bike & Ski. “People train all year round for this event. It would be nice to still have them come up. They’ve already planned, they already have their lodging, they have everything set up. Just to have an event, I think everyone would be happy for that.”

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