Birkie Preparations Underway
Full installation of the infamous American Birkebeiner International Bridge will begin next week.
DULUTH, Minn.- Northern Wisconsin is preparing for the American Birkebeiner. Racers are anxious for trail condition updates and nearly 25 hundred volunteers are working to make it happen.
“I think it’s beyond anybody’s wildest dreams, certainly we know the impact for Hayward, we know the impact for Cable,” executive director Ben Popp said. “We also know what it means to the community, again it’s something that we’re really, really proud of. We feel like we do a great job of hosting the world right here in Northern Wisconsin.”
Thirty five skiers embarked on in the first Birkie in 1973, this year nearly 2,000 people are racing.
“Everybody comes to the U.S. to ski the Birkie, to see friends from years gone by,” Popp said.
Preparations are in full swing with the race two weeks away. Full installation of the infamous American Birkebeiner International Bridge will begin next week. The bridge was constructed in 2015 for skiers to pass over highway 63.
“It is truly as you say the last obstacle they ski into downtown Hayward,” Popp said.
“Everybody comes out and checks the leaders coming across the bridge and it’s pretty exciting,” store owner Tim Swift said.
Earlier this year the bridge endured it’s a journey of it’s own heading downtown to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.
“Really it’s something else to behold,” Popp said.
Meanwhile staff has been preparing Hayward Wisconsin for nearly two months now.
Officials say the trails are currently in perfect condition. Snow is compacted down to four to six inches but it’s too early to trust the trail will remain this shape until the race.
“Certainly we’re all a little bit uneasy right now knowing that after what happened last year, anything could happen,” Popp said. “Especially if we got rain or warm weather, that would really spell trouble for us.”
Workers are strategically placing snow on certain areas of the trails, to ensure a cancellation won’t happen again, this time around.
“We’ve had this little snow globe of weather here with really good snow,” Swift said. “People from the cities just got snow and they’re wondering how our conditions are so we’re fueling a lot of phone calls.”
But the Birkie is much more than its athletes. It’s also celebrating the family and friends supporting the racers from the sidelines.
“My favorite part of the Birkie weekend is seeing the unbelievable smiles on people’s faces when they come to town and accomplish their goals,” Popp said. “They’ve worked so hard.”
For local shop owners, it’s a hard working weekend as well.
“It gets pretty chaotic but we’ve been doing it about 16 to 17 years so we’ve got a routine,” Swift said.
The economic impact of the Birkie is estimated at 15 to 20 million dollars according to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin.