Holding pattern: Pattern holding (weather speculation)

No major chances on Friday morning. 7 days to the Korteloppet, 8 days to the Birkebeiner. Definitely in range.

Cold for the next few days but not frigid. Lows around 0, highs in the teens. The region saw a bit of snow last night, but not another dump, so the groomers should be able to handle it. The next week looks dry and cool, warming a bit later in the week, but in to the 20s during the days, so no big worries. I want to take a second to talk about how well the four-week outlook worked out: it predicted cold and moist, and we got cold and moist (well, cold and moister). Not that we can ever really trust that.

Anyway, there are some hints of some light snow on Wednesday night, but nothing the groomers can’t handle. Then for the race, there are hints of light snow during the race; the models have trended cooler and drier, so I’d be surprised if we see anything too heavy or too wet. Very likely we’re looking at cool but not cold and soft conditions. Still a week out, but things look good. I’m going to round up to say there’s a 100% chance the race is a go.

Grooming update: Trail closes Tuesday

The Birkie Trail will close on Tuesday to skiing. Exact timing is to be determined, but will likely depend on exactly what the snow and weather looks like at that point.

Once the trail closes, please heed the closing. Depending on conditions, a single skier can ruin the groomers’ work, and potentially create a dangerous situation for skiers on race day. The groomers have to tackle preparing more than 100 km of trail for 9,000 skiers, so they have enough work as it is.

Want to find out more? The podcast sat down with Kurt Proctor, the Birkie’s head groomer, to talk about what goes into that perfect trail on race day. You can find the podcast on iTunes, or download it here.

10 days to go!

240 hours from race day: we’re within range for real Weather Speculation

Once we get to 240 hours from an event (that’s 10 days, guys), weather model resolution improves. The US, European and Canadian models all have 6 hour resolution looking out to that time, which gets us to race morning. With a lot of snow on the ground to groom (we have a podcast upcoming on that, stay tuned!) and a cold forecast, we’re not really worried about whether the race will happen, but more of what the course and weather will look like.

As of right now, here’s what we see:

  • Cool but not cold. A few nights below zero, most days in the 10s or 20s.
  • Dry. Likely little or no snowfall in the next week
  • A hint of a storm on Korteloppet Friday

The last one is interesting. All of the models are hinting at the same thing, but 10 days out, take it with several grains of salt. What it looks like right now would be temperatures peaking on Friday around 35, potentially some snow or even rain, and then a cold front sweeping through on Friday night. But it could be 40 and rainy, 20 and snowing, or 0 and clear. That’s anyone’s guess. We’ll know more in the next few days.

Weather speculation: Last of the snow?

From the Birkie Start webcam. This is what we like to see!

Live from the Birkie Start webcam. This is what we like to see!

The snow continues to pile up in Hayward. Nearby reporting sites in Spooner and Clam Lake have seen accumulating snow 7 of the 12 days so far this month with 15 to 21 inches of reported not including more snow today; already more snow than fell in the entire month of January (and, it’s possible, more snow in the first two weeks of February than the rest of the winter up until the start of the month). The Birkie Trail has seen a similar surfeit of snow, and should clear two feet in February by the time the storm today comes to a close.

This has been a godsend. A week ago, we would have been happy with six inches, since the base, while present, was thin. Twelve would have been terrific. Two feet? That makes the race. And the timing is perfect. With cold weather predicted between now and the race, the snow won’t go anywhere, but it will have plenty of time to be packed, groomed, and set up.

The weather between now and race day looks to be cold, but dry. There may be some light snow to freshen up the snowcover, but none of the models is pointing towards the active storm track continuing. Anything is possible, from a blizzard to a rain event, but the most likely scenario for the next 11 days (and, yes, the Birkie is just 11 days away!) is for cold, dry weather to rule. With the snow on the ground and cold in place, I see no real chance the race is anything but a full-course race from the start in Cable to Main Street in Hayward. I’ll never say never, but the chance of a full Birkie today is 99+%.

See you in Cable.

We are the 99%

I think last time I checked in I said there was a 97% chance of the Birkie happening.

It’s up to 99%. It probably won’t reach 100 for a while, but it’s really that good.

First, it has snowed. It’s snowed pretty much every day this month in Hayward, with about a foot of snow piling up. And more is on the way. Depending on how a storm swings, there could he half again that much on the ground by midweek. And this is on top of a hard base on cold ground.

That’s all well and good, but the snow needs to stick around. The verdict? It is very likely to do so. No model has shown temperatures pushing 30 by race day. It’s just cold, cold and cold, with the possibility of some snow. In the next 10 days (and indeed through race day) the American model tops the temperature out at 25; the European model doesn’t go above 23. It’s hard to melt snow when it’s nowhere near freezing.

The groomers should have plenty of time to pack down the snow and get it ready for race day, and hopefully they’ll get some refreshments between now and then. Could things change? Sure, they could. But for now, things look about as good as it gets.

16 days to go, and looking great

I know it’s 16, because that’s the length of the GFS model. 384 hours. Rest up.

9 of new snow in Birkieland and the GFS has a high temperature in Hayward of 25˚. Even if it doesn’t snow another flake (and, uh, it’s forecast to snow several more flakes) the Birkie should be in terrific shape.

Lots can change, of course. But there’s no signal of doom, so for now, all systems are go. I’d say there’s a 97% chance of a Main Street finish.

Weather Speculation: All signs point to yes

It’s still 18 days until race day, and the Birkie isn’t blanketed with feet upon feet of snow (although a few inches last night helped) but barring any major forecast “busts“, the Birkie should go off as planned.

The snow last night helped a lot; the thinner southern half of the trail needed some more cover and every inch helps, especially since this storm was slightly focused towards the south. Another, bigger storm hits tonight, and current predictions range from 4 to 10 inches by Friday morning. Even the low end of this range would be great, putting down a sum of nearly half a foot this week. Ten inches would be a godsend, adding a foot. (I think the lower end is more likely, but we’ll see).

More importantly, especially now that we’ve taken care of the snowfall, the longer range forecasts look very good. The next four weeks are all showing below average temperatures for Birkieland, and it’s a wide swath of cold, so we’re not really on the edge of it. The 8 to 14 day forecast is just as good: cold and moist; exactly what we’d want. There is a chance that the weekend before the race a storm will sneak a bit of sleet, freezing rain or even rain up to the race, but if we can get six more inches of snow it might be a benefit, adding to the base (it would not likely be all rain) and adding some moisture to make the trail faster. Some of the most fun Birkies of recent years, in 2009 and 2010, were skied on fast snow with some added moisture, “superhero” conditions with great glide and fast times.

Are we out of the woods completely? Of course not. This is weather forecasting, or in this case, speculation. Things can change. But all told, this is a very good place to be. In 2017, I had a “percent chance of cancelation” metric based on current conditions and future forecasts. (This starts around 10%, given that in the past 20 years, two Birkies have been canceled completely.) A week ago, I would have had it at 15%. Today, it’s probably below 5%.

Podcast corrupt? Yeah, I fat-fingered something

Did you try to listen to ye olde Podcast and get errors? Me too.

Because I had a lowercase p instead of capital P in my feed.

It should work now. Maybe if you’ve subscribed and got errors you’ll get two episodes at once. As Mitch Hedberg says, “I like to hold the microphone cord like this, I pinch it together, then I let it go, then you hear a whole bunch of jokes at once.” (RIP Mitch.)

So, yeah, I am now producing the podcast on my own, and maybe you’ve noticed a slight decrease in production value, or maybe not. But the xml feed is the issue. It’s fixed. Hopefully it won’t happen again. (it probably will, though.)