It’s happened: the Birkie has outgrown two races on the same day. (Remember, as many people skied the Birkie alone in 2016 as skied the Birkie and Kortie combined in the mid-2000s.) So starting in 2017, the Korteloppet will be on Friday. There are certainly pluses and minuses to this and while I think the Korteloppet would do better on Sunday morning, I understand why that might be a no-go. But with Telemark closed, it certainly makes sense to shift the finish of the race towards Hayward for all the races, and the recent additions to the Birkie trail help as well.
Update: here’s the official announcement email from the Birkie. We’re talking to the Birkie about a longer podcast discussion about these changes; stay tuned!
In any case, here are some pros and cons for having the Korteloppet on Friday:
- Main Street finish. Now that the Birkie Bridge is in place, the race can use the Main Street finish for more activities than just a few hours on Saturday. This is pretty cool, since Main Street was otherwise underutilized on Friday.
- One finish area will better utilize the resources the Birkie has.
- Busing is a lot easier. On Saturday, there will be much less demand for busing since it will be Birkie skiers only. On Friday, most Korteloppet skiers will be able to park near Hayward, ride a bus to the start, and ski back to their cars. Currently, all Korteloppet skiers have to park remotely and ride a bus to and from the start/finish area. This will save everyone time, money and headache.
- The Birkie Trail, where it is shared between classic and skate skiers, is wider than the Kortie trail. Unfortunately, the shared section starts much earlier than the current situation (2k, maybe, instead of 9k; see below).
- The Birkie start will be much simpler for non-elites (it won’t change for elites) who will have smaller waves and won’t have some waves led out by skiers going at a different pace in a different race.
- Some crazy skiers might try to ski both races. Those of us obsessed with our wave placement (that’s pretty much all of us, right?) probably won’t, but I’m sure some folks will. (This from a guy who’s flown to Minneapolis to ski the Loppet Challenge, twice.)
- The Korteloppet will get significantly longer, from the current 24km to nearly 30. Of course, there won’t be any major climbs for the first 10km, although several after that point (Bitch Hill included).
- Birkie skiers will have the opportunity to go and cheer Kortie skiers on Friday, and Kortie skiers will be able to return the favor on Saturday. (Or volunteer!)
- During a year like this one, the Korteloppet trail would be a good option for skiing on the days before the race when the main trail is closed, although current maps show most of the Kortie Trail closed except for race day, so it may be subject to land issues.
- The start area for the Kortie will be … constrained. I’m guessing that the Kortie start may use the field to the southeast of the start area, which is about 150m long and 25m wide. This could, in theory, stage enough skiers for the start, but the trail gets pretty narrow pretty quickly, so I’m not sure how it would transition in to the race. The Birkie may have to widen the course and carve a new start area out of the woods at OO.
- There is no longer a separate classic trail for the first 9k of the Korteloppet. Classic skiers may be separated for the first couple of kilometers on the OO trails, but will pretty quickly rejoin the skate race. If the classic trail is extended south from OO to or past Mosquito Brook, however, it would be a boon to both skate and classic skiers.
- The Picnic Table hill may be a mess, with a steep, curving downhill 1k in to the race. Good luck with all that.
- The Korteloppet gets a little easier, although with the removal of the Power Lines on the north end and the new hill on the south end, this might be a wash.
- There’s no feed for the first 9 km of the Korteloppet between OO and Gravel Pit. For the beginning of a race, this is a relatively long stretch to not have a feed.
- The Korteloppet will have four road crossings (Mosquito Brook, Highway 77, Wheeler, Duffy’s) where today it has none. This might be a chance for the Birkie to improve snow conditions at the road crossings, and in the long range look in to grade separation for the roads.
- In the case of a low-ice year (which hasn’t happened in a while) the race would have to end on a field shy of town.
- The purpose-built Korteloppet trail will have only lasted for about 15 years, although it will still serve as a recreational trail (and for races such as the North End Classic).
As a Birkie skier, I am mostly unaffected by these changes, but they will by-and-large be positive for Birkie skiers. The main issue is that many Korteloppet skiers may not be able to take the day off on Friday for the race. However, there are probably just as many who will come early to ski Friday and watch Saturday, people who are now spectators but may decide to ski as well. It will be an interesting experiment, hopefully the Birkie will pull it off.