As we close in on the race, and as our FEVER goes higher and higher, we’re getting a clearer idea of what is in store for race day. The general race weather is pretty set with a start temperature in the teens, clouds, light north winds and some new snow. The main question: how much new snow?
The models vary. It probably won’t be a full-on Birkie Blizzard that was advertised on some models a few days ago. The GFS is at the low end of the range, with only an inch or two of new snow falling on the trail. The Canadian Model shows a bit more than that. The European model is comparable with the Canadian. But the shorter-term NAM model is coming in to range and showing a bigger storm with half a foot of snow falling during the day on Friday. This would make for soft, new snow conditions, as opposed to a mix of new and old snow. No matter what, it will be groomed well and silky smooth.
There are certainly waxing considerations. If there is little new snow, it will be a mix of old—and very cold; the high in Hayward today is slated to top out just above 0 and the low tonight will be -15—snow and some newer snow on top. If there is more, it will be softer, and the snow will be newer, warmer and sharper.
Now, of course, if the only issues are what type of snow there will be and how much of it will be new, we can not complain. Last year had some snow issues before the race, and more of the “will there be enough” variety. Even the year before had a meltdown and some grass poking through on the power lines. No worries about that this year!
In 1991 and 2001, 8″ of snow fell the day or night before the Birkie (here’s the history). Since then, there has only been light snow before the race, although it has snowed with some frequency.
In 2013, we might get back to a Birkie Blizzard. A week out from the race, we have a whole suite of models showing a strong storm in the Midwest for the Birkie. Of course, things may change dramatically, but for now it looks like Birkieland would be near the northern edge of the snow. A southwards shift could leave the trail high and dry (although conditions are already primed for the race, so we don’t need the snow), and that is a possibility. However, a number of model runs have shown several inches of snow on Friday (which is less than a week away!) and overnight in to the morning on Saturday. Not that anyone really minds skiing in the snow.
Today we get in to having more than one model on the case. The GFS goes to 16 days, the GEM (the Canadian Model) goes to 10 days. The ECMWF does as well, but accessing those data is difficult. (Links to a lot of weather models and information are over at SkiTrailReport.) The long and short of it is that the race course should be fine. The only issue might be snow. All of the models are showing a strong storm coming up from Texas towards Chicago which, depending on the model, would hit some time between Thursday and Saturday of next week and would drop somewhere between a dusting and a blizzard on Birkieland.
So we’ll have to wait on that. Assuming that storm comes through, it looks to pull down some chilly air, with temperatures in the single digits for the race start. And it might be a little soft.
Does the temperature affect the speed of the race? Not that much. But we ran the data anyway. (Actually, that’s how we came to that conclusion.) And, as a corollary, wax probably makes enough of a difference that it kept me in the Elite Wave last year.
Obligatory weather speculation post: Still looking good. A couple inches of snow this week, then cold until the race. Start temps between 0 and 10, high in the 10s to 20s, maybe a little snow before race day.
This is the easiest weather speculation ever. (Knock on wood and don’t get too much pine tar on your knuckles.)
We’re less than two weeks from the Birkie and the latest few model runs (off the GFS, so this means pretty much nothing, but we can still pick out trends) have all been pointing at a typical race. Which is great. It means a starting temperature around 10, a little snow between now and then, and upper teens to 20 by the time most of the field hits the lake. If all the weather speculation I do for the next week is talk about how no news is good news, I’ll take it. But I wouldn’t count on it. It would be too easy!
If you follow me on Twitter (and you should, really) you’ll see that I posted a bunch of pictures of a blizzard in Boston. Oh, and a Youtube video. We’re up to 21″ and it’s still snowing. I mentioned this a) because it’s awesome and b) because it looks like this wintry pattern could continue for some time.
Hayward won’t see two feet, but they will see a few inches in the next few days. The models aren’t particularly bullish on snow for Hayward, but the NWS is discussing the possibility of half a foot, starting as some mix but ending as colder, powderier snow. And then … it gets cold with the chance for storms. This is a very favorable weather pattern for the whole country, Northern Wisconsin definitely included. In the last dozen-or-so runs of the GFS, not-a-one has shown any kind of warm up or melt. Many have shown a foot of snow between now and race day. The only concern is that it might be quite cold for the race, but we’re okay with that. Unless there is a drastic change, snow should not be a problem.
Since this site began speculating about weather, this is the best year we’ve seen. Last year—during the winter that wasn’t (it was simply a silly fall that needed a shave and wore a fur coat, kudos if you got that oblique reference)—there wasn’t snow south of Hayward. The year before—despite the winter that most assuredly was—a meltdown the week before the race left the trail with grass poking through in a couple places. This year, despite inauspicious beginnings (that, amongst other things, canceled the Birkie Tour) the trail is well covered, it’s looking to stay cold, and more snow is in the offing.
With that said, we’ll post weather speculation every day or two until we’re within a week and can begin pinpointing the actual weather with a suite of models. Ski fast. Ski the road! (The governor of Massachusetts shut down the roadways, and the transit is closed. There’s not much choice.)
A few years back I did my best to quantify ski seasons based on trail reports. I’ve gone back and combed the data for the past few years, and we now have more than 10 years of Skinnyski trail reports to show (yes, Skinnyski has been collecting trail reports for that long).
I linked the result on last year’s statistics page about weather, but I’m posting it here, too. Click to enlarge.
(Obligatory weather speculation: not much changed, still lookin’ good!)
So, it’s still more than 384 hours to the race. But that won’t preclude some weather speculation. Why? Because I am damn excited about the weather. In Wisconsin it’s going to be cold and snowy, yada yada. But in Boston, where I live? We’re battening down the hatches. The over-under for snowfall is 21 inches (thanks, HPC). It’s going to be … street skiing weather! Haven’t had that in a while. And then snow! Snow to ski on. Snow. Snow!
But back to the Birkie. Things are looking very, very good. There’s damn good skiing already. There’s going to be a half foot of nice, base-building snow with some sleet and freezing rain mixed in—but not enough to melt anything, just something to add some substance. Then it gets cold. The arctic oscillation goes way negative, ushering in a prolonged period of cold air. The main issue is that it might be -20. That we can deal with. It beats the heck out of no snow.
What are you doing on Sunday morning? Waking up in your bed after you drive back to the Cities? Waking up in a motel room after you sleep off the race? Waking up in someone else’s bed after you have a few too many Spotted Cows at the Sawmill (this should be your goal, right?).
What you should be doing is planning to come to the first-ever post-Birkie ski orienteering event at the North End Trailhead! What is ski orienteering? You put on skis, you get a map of trails, and you go looking for “controls” hanging in the woods based on the map. Basically, it’s an excuse to take a ski on the Birkie Trail and nearby. This is totally last minute and will be very informal, but you’ll get to ski around with folks getting ready to head off to the World Ski-O Championships in Kazakhstan (seriously) which is pretty awesome. One of whom just won the City of Lakes Loppet. No experience necessary. Just grab a map and go skiing.
(This is actually so low-key that we’re not going to have real controls or timing or anything since it’s too late to plan something “real.” But still, come. Details to follow.)