… until race day, of course.
Well, technically, it doesn’t close until midnight. So you have two hours to ski it before it turns in to a pumpkin.
Why is it closed? As we discussed in a recent podcast (listen to the podcast!), the Birkie needs to pack and plow the heck out of the trail when there’s this much snow, and having people on the trail slows down that process. (Yes, they’ll plow the 6″—we’re up to 6″ now—will be pushed off with whatever is left incorporated in to the cold base.) And once it’s been packed, if people ski it before it sets up, it could leave ruts which would have to be resmoothed out before the race. It’s not as big a deal as, say, a 40˚ day followed by a deep freeze where the ruts could freeze solid, but it’s still nice to let the groomers do their work.
Plus, do you want to be headed down a hill in to a corner only to see a PB400 staring you in the face? Probably not.
Here’s a made-up question and answer about the trail closure:
Q: If it’s going to snow 6″ on Wednesday anyway, why can’t I sneak a ski in before they groom that?
A: You probably could and would probably get away with it. But the Birkie crew will probably be out during the storm packing, especially on the Korteloppet course south of OO. There aer plenty of other trails to choose from, so maybe stick to those?
Q: The Birkie used to allow skiing on Thursday or even Friday, why does the trail close on Tuesday now?
A: Well, it closes on Wednesday for all intents and purposes. And there are races on Friday, so Wednesday is the new Thursday.
Q: Why can’t I ski on the north end of the trail during the Korteloppet? Surely they’ll give it another pass.
A: Surely they will. But they might be grooming the north end during the Korteloppet. Get the Korte in shape and then move north for some final prep. Depends on a lot of things. Also, with the Telemark trails and the North End trails and any trails that aren’t race trails, you can ski the north end, so maybe just do that instead? Or maybe, I don’t know, taper?
Q: Mukwanago is so far away!
A: Mukwanago is not far away at all! It’s 6 miles from Hayward. And word is they got out and packed it a bunch. And it’s a terrific trail.
Q: Where else can I find places to ski that aren’t the Birkie Trail.
Q: Are conditions good in other places?
Q: I’m a #pro and I need to obsessively test wax on Friday for the race, where can I go?
A: Probably the warm-up track near the start would work? Or the west loops at OO, if they’re regroomed? Or go on the trail and be really annoying to other skiers testing wax, that’s a good idea.
Q: Can I ski the Korteloppet course after the Kortie and before they regroom it?
A: Officially: no. Unofficially: probably, but why? Just ski loops at OO or Mosquito Brook or at Fish Hatchery or Birkie Ridge. Again, you don’t want to meet a groomer coming down the trail as you’re going up. They’ll probably be grooming from both directions (I think a machine lives in Hayward during the race—the Birkie posted a photo getting gas at a gas station downtown—and can come up the lake and over the hill, the rest of the machines live at OO) so just let them be, mmkay?
Q: Is the Birkie Trail the shortest way to ride my snowmobile to Metro’s?
A: No. Or maybe, depending on where you are, but stick to the sled trails, please. Unless you’ve been deputized to pull a drag. (Also, apparently Metro’s has been closed for a decade.)
Q: Okay, so, I’m going to ski at North End. Some of the North End trails cross the Birkie Trail or even use it for a few meters to go from one side to the other. Will there be Birkie police out there if I cross the trail or ski down it for 30m to get to the rest of the North End trail? Can I do that? I want to be good but I want to get a ski in!
A: You know what? Use your best judgement. If the groomer went by three minutes before and you’d be putting ruts in the trail going across, maybe wait a few minutes, or ski gently in the tracks and cross double-poling at a right angle, or circle back. If it’s not final-passed or pretty solid, you’re probably in the clear. Just let it be our little secret. Abide by the spirit of the rule.
I think we can do this.