2016, and the Birkie, are almost here!


December 26 Birkie Webcam. Building that base!

Greetings skiers. (If you live out west, enjoy your snow. If you are in the east, “greetings rollerskiers.”) With the new year upcoming, it’s once again time to scrape those bases and head out for some Birkie training. Some of our best training comes from reading the Birch Scroll for little tidbits about changes upcoming in the race. Here are a few:

* The permanent start! While it won’t be completed for this year, construction is taking place in order to facilitate a 2017 building and start for the race at Telemark. This is good news, as even more of the trail will have a permanent route and will no longer be at the whims of the Cable Airport and the FAA.

* I haven’t skied the classic race, so I am generally unaware of the course between the start and the powerlines, but apparently it’s pretty narrow. So it’s being widened. That’s good, right?

* While most of the Birkie is in Bayfield and Sawyer County forests, portions near the end cross private property. Rosie’s Field is one such property. It has been sold by one family to another, but they are still Birkie-friendly. So much so that they are allowing us to have more trail and more hills! (You can see the new section in Google Maps, I think it’s the narrower horseshoe in the larger area of activity here, which appears to be logging, but might be housing, in which case it would add a new road crossing.)

Most importantly, this will add significant climb in to this part of the course. It will be comparable in size to the Mosquito Brook Climb or the hill after Highway 77; not as steep as Bitch Hill, but longer. This will affect race strategy, as it will mean that from Mosquito Brook to the top of the hill after Hwy 77 will go as follows:

Given the total climb and steepness, it may be the most difficult climb of them all. It will certainly make the race more, uh, I think the word is “fun.”

* Wave times will be adjusted slightly at the start. In particular, the waves will be somewhat more spread out for skaters, especially for the big, early waves. From the Elite Wave through Wave 4, there will be at least 15 minutes between each wave. The elites will go off at 8:20, followed by Wave 1 at 8:35, Wave 2 at 8:50 and 70 year old-plus skiers at 8:55 (this relatively small and classic-skewed group had previously started with Wave 3; all will start together regardless of technique) and Wave 3 at 9:10. Beyond that, the waves will start every 10 minutes, but with fewer Birkie skiers in later waves and more spread-out times, it should reduce some congestion on the trail.

* Freedom isn’t free. (Actually it is, by definition.) But the Birkie Trail isn’t, so buy a pass if you’re planning to train there!

It’s snowing in Birkieland, putting down a good base. Hopefully the early-season woes will subside, the lake will freeze solid, and the race will be the best yet.

See you in February!


So, you may have gotten an email that says that the Birkie is basically full. Waves are filling fast, and you might not get in to the wave you really, really want to be in. It would be the end of the world, right?

Well, not really. Because it really doesn’t matter that much what wave you ski out of (for the most part). Wave 2 vs Wave 3? Everyone is right at the top of the curve. There’s only a few minutes difference between the back of Wave 2 and the front of wave four, and wave times can be based on the past four years of Birkies this year, so someone who is seeded in the front of Wave 4 from a Birkie in 2011 may have gone out and logged 600 hours of training the past two years, and someone from the back of Wave 1 might be sneaking in there from their best time a few years back, only to have gotten fat and slow. (Don’t do this.)

There’s a lot of spread. If you are shunted from Wave 3 to Wave 5, it’s really not a big deal. There is going to be traffic on the hills. There are going to be jams at feed stations. The Birkie is working to address these situations, but there’s only so much trail real estate, and there are a lot of people out there on skis. And with poles. So don’t worry about it. Too much.

(Exception: The Elite Wave is based on the previous year, with some exceptions for really fast people. The front of the First Wave is akin to the back of the Elite Wave: not very crowded, no dead-stop back-ups on hills, uncongested feeds. But remember that you actually have to be pretty fast to ski off the front of the First Wave. If you were 225th last year and had a good training year, by all means you should try. If you were 600th and snuck in and most of your training has been PBR tallboy bicep curls, just take it easy.)