Hayward, we have a problem

It’s going to be warm in the next week. Real warm. Mid-40s warm. If there was two feet of base, it would be less of a concern, but snowfall has been somewhat low this year in the Northwoods, and this is the kind of heat which could burn down some south-facing hills to grass. Grass is not good for skiing.

Right now, depending on which model you trust, we’re looking at four or five days in the 40s, potentially topping 50˚ on one or two. The saving grace may be that it won’t rain, which can quickly erode the base: dew points should stay low enough that snow loss will be mostly by sublimation, and the base and ground may keep too much from melting. (It also minimizes runoff which could make the ice on Lake Hayward unsafe.) The other possibility is that various models have hinted at a snow storm at the end of this warm period the Thursday or Friday before the Birkie, which would freshen up any base there*. But we don’t want to rely on hoping for a snowstorm a week out.

(* Namely, the last three runs of the GFS model have shown this, as have two runs of the ECMWF, but it’s a close call. The midday GFS today, for instance, shows a foot of snow falling on Hayward, but with the rain-snow line in about Trego. There’s not much margin for error there! Still, I’d buy what the 12Z GFS is selling: 8-16″ of snow starting on Thursday evening in to Friday, starting wet and heavy but finishing cold and powdery, with race temperatures on new snow in the teens. Notably, the ECMWF matches this, and the Canadian model is similar, albeit a day late.)

There’s also significantly more snow on the northern half of the trail than the southern half, and it’s possible that the trail will be skiable north of OO and not to the south. The new Classic trail gives the option of turning the race back at OO and finishing it in Cable, although this would be operationally difficult, it may be an option. We’d certainly miss out on the Hayward finish, but if it’s not skiable and the ice isn’t safe.

We’ve had a good run of Birkies: the last time there was this much uncertainty for the Birkie was in 2007. We may have that sort of issue: enough snow north of OO, and not south. Or we may have an 2012 scenario: dry ground in Spooner, but perfect conditions on the trail. It’s wait and see time, though, and hopefully we’ll be skiing down Main Street in 10 days.

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