Very early weather speculation

It’s been a rollercoaster year so far in Birkie-land. Snow and cold, then some warmth, and the just missing out on a jackpot of a storm (12″ of dense snow down in the Cities, but only 3″ on the Birkie Trail, although at least it puts some fresh snow down on the Birkie Bridge at the Superbowl, and provide for a pretty good Loppet course, too).

We’re more than a month out from the race, and things look, well, okay. The big issue is that the last few days have shown a big warm-up on the model (the US model, anyway) for the week before the Birkie, after a cold snap to start off February. We saw this last year, although the model didn’t really catch on to reality until the end of the month, and we’re far enough out that there’s very little skill to the model (i.e. there’s a lot of variability in the actual result) and we’re looking at big picture trends. Plus, there’s a big difference between 34˚ and 54˚, but both are above normal.

Heck, a lot of this comes down to things like the MJO, which is a climatic phenomenon in the Indian Ocean which affects weather in North America (yes, really). But forecasting using the MJO, and even the ENSO (El Niño / La Niña) months out doesn’t give you exact conditions for the Birkie, but some long range trends. So we’ll keep an eye on conditions, but there’s really no telling right now how it will affect the race itself.

Season 3 of the Podcast begins

Just in time for Christmas, our gift to you is the first Podcast of the 2017-2018 BirkieGuide Podcast season. We talk to executive director Ben Popp for some updates about the Birkie Bridge in Minneapolis for the Superbowl (which I call the Olympics, or something), trail conditions, and the race itself, which is still not full. So pretend like it’s 2009 and sign up now!

Here’s the podcast.

We have several more episodes coming which should post in the next couple of days.

Last chance for registration, first chance for cheap flights

Greetings, Birkie Guide followers. We’ve been quiet this summer, but with snow and cold in the air, it’s time to get the presses rolling once again. We have some podcasting to go in your earholes upcoming in the next few days (we hope!). But we noticed that Sun Country is having their annual(ish) Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, Delta is matching, and there are some good deals on Birkie flights. There are some flights from Boston, for example, for as little as $217, if you fly home on Monday and are willing to go “basic economy.” But, hey, it’s cheap. More money to spend on fluoro top coats.

Stay tuned for more updates soon!

Pre-Birkie post-mortem

So it happened. For the third time since 1973, the Birkie has been canceled in full. (In 1982, it was a lap race for international skiers, but the main race was done away with.) Not enough snow—barely; Morse, 30 miles east of Cable, is sitting on 7 inches—to provide a safe course. The weather is rather unprecedented: a heat wave swept the nation (and California is on course to break all-time rainfall records). Is this an outlier, or the new normal? Probably somewhere in between. For now, we have to hope that 2018 is more in the normal (rather than 10 degrees above normal) and we have a nice carpet of snow for the Birkie.

If I were the Birkie (and I’m not) I’d highly consider moving the race a week earlier. With the growth of the race and the Kortelopet on a separate day, this would put the Birkie on a three-day weekend, so the races would be on Saturday and Sunday (in some order). There would be some cascading effects, namely the Finlandia and Book Across the Bay would probably want to move a week later. The Worldloppet schedule might be affected, too, with the Gatineau Loppet probably swapping a week later as well, but it would make sense for the Birkie to be on the three-day weekend (and data show that snow in the northeast is moving a bit later in the season, although Gatineau rarely suffers for snow).

It’s something to consider. The Birkie has always been the last weekend in February, but as the climate changes, it may have to change, too.

In any case, see you next winter—and winter, we hope!—in Wisconsin.

Salvation lies within (the deformation band)

The storm is churning. If it had churned 50 miles further northwest, there’d be a half foot of snow on the Birkie Trail. But, alas, it is skirting the Birkie Trail and dropping just a little bit of snow. It’s actually northwest of the models, and there’s a bit of lake effect, and it might be enough to go from “the trail is too unsafe to ski” to “at least we can have an open track event.” So that’s something, at least.

It’s over …

It’s over. Barring some dramatic turn of events where every model misses the current storm, no more than a couple inches of snow will fall north of Hayward by Saturday morning. At best, there will be a 2007-style rock ski open track ski from Cable to OO. At worst, the trail will be deemed unsafe and no official event will take place. (Of course, the Birkie folks may realize how many people would ski anyway, and decided to have an official event.)

In other words: stop waxing your skis. Or your good skis anyway. And get ready for some beer. You might need it.

The trend is not our friend

Bad news, Birkie skiers. The models are not trending in the right direction. The ever-optimistic NAM has followed the lead of the GFS and pushed south. The Birkie will likely see only a few inches of snow, and may be skunked completely. An inch or so fell last night. It’s cold. But it’s not enough. The Canadian model is holding south. The ECMWF continues to show 3-6″ falling, and has been the most consistent, so that may be the hope. But anything more than that is likely out.

Here’s the trend of the GFS for the past week. Note the trend south at the end of the loop:

That’s not good. But, it is what it is.