No unofficial guide this year—see the Birkie Page (and send us your voice!)

As the Birkie-covid situation changes by the minute, we suggest you follow the official Birkie website for all your Birkie race needs: in person, virtual and other FAQs.

Stay tuned to the Cowbell Fever podcast, and participate! As you ski your Birkie this year, whether in person or virtually, record yourself. Make a short audio recording (instructions below) with your name, where you’re from, where you’re skiing your Birkie, and how it went. Record for a few seconds or a few minutes, and send it to and we’ll compile it into a podcast. It will be like the annual Main Street podcast, except without Main Street involved.

How do you do this? If you have an iPhone (or iPad), the best bet is to use the Voice Memo app which is installed on your phone. Hold the device (without headphones is best, using the built-in microphone) about a foot from your mouth, and hit record. There’s no native app for Google devices, but this app seems to work well when we record podcasts.

Questions? Reach out. The more content, the more I get to stitch it together into podcast. And if I get enough, I might even sneak in a lost file of me, perhaps after a couple of Leinies and a shot of Aquavit, from last year.

Also, remember, BirkieGuide can be fed beer money here.

See you in 2022!

Birkie Update clif notes

We watched the Birkie update, and took some notes, to give you a very abbreviated version of the presentation.There are a lot of visitors coming, but not a lot of medical capacity. Follow all safety protocols: ski on the right day, get a negative test, stay in your bubble, self-sufficiency, and avoid indoor spaces (get takeout!). The Unofficial Guide:

  • Birkie continues to encourage virtual option for everyone. (Your trusted blogger/podcaster had an Elite Saturday start and was excited to “race” but decided it’s definitely not worth the risk.)
  • Virtual race updates:
    • One third of skiers are skiing the race virtually (this is up from 20% at the last meeting).
    • Now Feb 20 to Feb 28. You can switch by the 27th.
    • Now offering a bunch of different sport options, not just skiing! You can bike, run row, ski-erg or swim it.
    • There are 32 venue partners across the country, but you can ski (or not ski) it anywhere.
    • You can ski whatever technique you want (skate, classic, run, swim), but ski it in one continuous race period.
  • Birkie Trail updates:
    • Open until Feb 21, so you can ski your virtual race on the trail through Saturday, Feb 21.
    • Closed thereafter north of OO, but open and groomed south of OO. Park at Mosquito Brook or Fish Hatchery. If you ski from Fish Hatchery to OO and back, that’s >43km, so it’s a Virtual Birkie.
    • Race course:
      • Out on skate, back on classic.
      • KM markers will count down from 44.
      • Skate days; no classic tracks. Classic days: no skating, number of tracks will depend on conditions.
  • Health updates for in-person participants to avoid spread in the Cable-Hayward area:
    • Get a covid test within 5 days of your race day
    • Don’t come if you have a positive test or show any symptoms
    • Don’t come if you’ve had covid within the last 90 days (the virtual race is fine)
    • Only ski on the day you are registered to ski
    • The goal is to limit skier-medical interaction
      • Plan to finish your race. If you think you might drop out, don’t ski.
      • As such, adverse weather may cause cancellations on a day-by-day basis.
      • If your day is canceled, you’ll have extra time to complete it virtually.
  • In-person race information:
    • Pre-race:
      • The radio will be broadcasting on 87.9. Do not rely on your cell phone as coverage may be limited.
      • Enter parking from Telemark Road. Allow an hour before your race to get to the start. There won’t be much more to do than sit in your car once you’re there. You can start after your assigned time.
      • No warm areas, or warm-up ski areas, available; you may run in the parking lot, or warm up on the trail. No wax testing at the start.
      • Port-o-johns in parking lot
      • Do not drop any clothes at the start, they will not be returned. No gear bags, no lost-and-found. There will be “ski tie donation boxes” at the start.
    • During the race:
      • Wear a mask before and after the race, as well as at the start, finish and aid stations
      • Aid stations: free-flowing liquid, no food, no cups. Bring your own water bottle. Maybe best, carry all your own water. Assume the water will be warm enough not to freeze at the aid stations, but expect to have to stop to get any aid.
      • No spectators, but there will be live tracking on the Birkie website and in the Birkie app.
      • The events will be timed, but the time will not count for anything.
      • If you think you might not make the cutoff times, remember that the virtual option has longer cutoff times. You can turn back earlier but won’t receive credit for your race.
    • Post-race:
      • Get in your car and drive home.
      • If you’re hungry, get takeout.
      • Buy some brats and Leinies and New Glarus and throw the beer in the fridge while you cook the brats up at home.
      • Record (on your phone, using the Voice Memo app on your iphone or a voice recording app on another device) your virtual experience and send it to me (, so I cam put it in the virtual Main Street podcast! Or for the full experience, set up a zoom with me and we’ll record it in person.

See you, hopefully, on Main Street in 2022.

Mini Weather Speculation

Most years at this time I am thick in the middle of weather speculating. Looking at long-range forecasts. Prognosticating. Making things up.

This year? There’s a five day window for the Birkie. Lots of us (me included) are skiing virtually. And the weather looks good: a cold, hard base and no big warmups in sight.

One interesting note is the bend-but-don’t-break characteristics of the past two Januarys. The last two Januarys have seen temperatures 7 and 8 degrees above normal in Duluth (which has a longer record than Hayward, but is similar) but rather than some cold days which melt a lot of snow and then some cold snaps, the weather was mostly just pleasant.

This isn’t exactly normal. The Northwoods are home to large temperature swings, yet in Hayward the temperature during the first half of the month 2 to 36. No deep freeze, but minimal melting. It got colder later in the month (one night dropped to -16) but no day failed to hit 10 all month, while no day rose above 36. You can’t melt much snow at 36 in January.

This is similar to last January. The temperature never passed 34 in January of 2020, but it did go above freezing several days. In fact, high temperatures the past two years have only been 4 or 5 degrees above normal, with lows 10 degrees higher. In fact, since 1998, there have only been 10 Januarys without a day above 40; the past two years both qualify despite being well above average.

February, of course, is off to a different start, and not in a bad, 1998-style way (with all but one day above freezing that month in Hayward, and somehow the Birkie still sort of ran). The temperature hasn’t been above 0 since the 5th, and it looks like a solid two weeks below 10, with several days staying below zero. Good to get that out of the system now, especially with the mostly self-supported race. The latter two weeks look milder, but I don’t see anything on the horizon to melt or wash away the snow.

But, stay tuned for occasional updates.