Season 3 of the Podcast begins

Just in time for Christmas, our gift to you is the first Podcast of the 2017-2018 BirkieGuide Podcast season. We talk to executive director Ben Popp for some updates about the Birkie Bridge in Minneapolis for the Superbowl (which I call the Olympics, or something), trail conditions, and the race itself, which is still not full. So pretend like it’s 2009 and sign up now!

Here’s the podcast.

We have several more episodes coming which should post in the next couple of days.

Last chance for registration, first chance for cheap flights

Greetings, Birkie Guide followers. We’ve been quiet this summer, but with snow and cold in the air, it’s time to get the presses rolling once again. We have some podcasting to go in your earholes upcoming in the next few days (we hope!). But we noticed that Sun Country is having their annual(ish) Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, Delta is matching, and there are some good deals on Birkie flights. There are some flights from Boston, for example, for as little as $217, if you fly home on Monday and are willing to go “basic economy.” But, hey, it’s cheap. More money to spend on fluoro top coats.

Stay tuned for more updates soon!

Pre-Birkie post-mortem

So it happened. For the third time since 1973, the Birkie has been canceled in full. (In 1982, it was a lap race for international skiers, but the main race was done away with.) Not enough snow—barely; Morse, 30 miles east of Cable, is sitting on 7 inches—to provide a safe course. The weather is rather unprecedented: a heat wave swept the nation (and California is on course to break all-time rainfall records). Is this an outlier, or the new normal? Probably somewhere in between. For now, we have to hope that 2018 is more in the normal (rather than 10 degrees above normal) and we have a nice carpet of snow for the Birkie.

If I were the Birkie (and I’m not) I’d highly consider moving the race a week earlier. With the growth of the race and the Kortelopet on a separate day, this would put the Birkie on a three-day weekend, so the races would be on Saturday and Sunday (in some order). There would be some cascading effects, namely the Finlandia and Book Across the Bay would probably want to move a week later. The Worldloppet schedule might be affected, too, with the Gatineau Loppet probably swapping a week later as well, but it would make sense for the Birkie to be on the three-day weekend (and data show that snow in the northeast is moving a bit later in the season, although Gatineau rarely suffers for snow).

It’s something to consider. The Birkie has always been the last weekend in February, but as the climate changes, it may have to change, too.

In any case, see you next winter—and winter, we hope!—in Wisconsin.

Salvation lies within (the deformation band)

The storm is churning. If it had churned 50 miles further northwest, there’d be a half foot of snow on the Birkie Trail. But, alas, it is skirting the Birkie Trail and dropping just a little bit of snow. It’s actually northwest of the models, and there’s a bit of lake effect, and it might be enough to go from “the trail is too unsafe to ski” to “at least we can have an open track event.” So that’s something, at least.

It’s over …

It’s over. Barring some dramatic turn of events where every model misses the current storm, no more than a couple inches of snow will fall north of Hayward by Saturday morning. At best, there will be a 2007-style rock ski open track ski from Cable to OO. At worst, the trail will be deemed unsafe and no official event will take place. (Of course, the Birkie folks may realize how many people would ski anyway, and decided to have an official event.)

In other words: stop waxing your skis. Or your good skis anyway. And get ready for some beer. You might need it.

The trend is not our friend

Bad news, Birkie skiers. The models are not trending in the right direction. The ever-optimistic NAM has followed the lead of the GFS and pushed south. The Birkie will likely see only a few inches of snow, and may be skunked completely. An inch or so fell last night. It’s cold. But it’s not enough. The Canadian model is holding south. The ECMWF continues to show 3-6″ falling, and has been the most consistent, so that may be the hope. But anything more than that is likely out.

Here’s the trend of the GFS for the past week. Note the trend south at the end of the loop:

That’s not good. But, it is what it is.

Wednesday Podcast

We caught Ben Popp for a short podcast this afternoon to go over in some detail the final prep for the race and when some decisions will be made. If you haven’t gotten your Birkie fix in other methods, this will go in to your ear hole!

Quick weather/model update:

The warmth is over. It’s in the mid-30s in Hayward and probably won’t be 50 again for weeks. Unfortunately, the Birkie is in a couple of days. There might be an inch or two of snow tonight, which could help matters by helping to freeze up the base, or what’s left of it, and cool the ground, even if it melts in to the ground. Tomorrow is in the low- to mid-30s and the snow may come Friday night. Unfortunately, we’ve lost all the models but the NAM as far as a big snow goes, right now something in the 3–8″ range looks most likely.

So something might happen Saturday. Probably an open-track ski a la 2007. I’ve heard rumors of beer at the start. So whatever happens, it will probably be a good time. The Birkie isn’t dead! Long live the Birkie!

Want to blame someone? Blame Scott Walker.

A few days ago, the Birkie Trail looked like this:birkie1

Then the governor of Wisconsin got involved and proclaimed it Birkie Week, and how great it is that the Birkie brings in 26 million dollars annually to the local economy of the region (that’s nearly $10,000 per person for Sawyer and Bayfield counties!). That’s fantastic. It won’t be bringing in that much this year, of course, as many events—and perhaps the whole race—are canceled, because of warm temperatures. And there’s a pretty obvious trend of less and less snowpack in northern Wisconsin. A lot of use can probably figure out that this is due to climate change. But not the Wisconsin DNR, because they say it’s debatable, because that’s what Scott Walker thinks. Or doesn’t think.

Now the Birkie trail looks like this:


I’m sure Scott Walker would tell you that this kind of thing just happens, but the data are pretty clear. This will happen more and more. And with every snowflake that melts, it’s draining dollars out of of the local economy. I’m on an email thread with a lot of out-of-towners who spend real money to come to Wisconsin, buy food, rent houses, and drink plenty of beer. They’re not coming to look at a pile of slush.

So, thanks, Scott. Not for proclaiming it Birkie week and seeing the snow melt down (correlation != causation). But for denying that climate change is a thing, and watching the economic effects hit your state right where it matters. The Birkie will be back in 2018. And in 2019. By then, maybe you won’t be and Wisconsin will be led by someone who can look at the pictures above and realize that denying climate change is bad for the Birkie. It’s bad for business. And it’s bad for Wisconsin.

Let @ScottWalker and @GovWalker know if your Birkie plans change, and how much money the state is losing using #BirkieClimate.

The Wisconsin State Journal has this covered, too.

[Model update: 18Z GFS in south. Birkie of any sort in severe jeopardy. Thanks, Scott.]