In the past two years the Birkie has had the trails open in stages until Friday afternoon for last-minute skiing. This year, not so much. The whole trail is closing on Thursday evening, in time for packing the last bit (foot?) of snow down. So if you want to ski a few k on Friday, your options in the Cable-Hayward Metropolis are somewhat limited, with nearly 100k of prime trail closed to use. Add to this the potential for a foot of fresh snow, and all grooming resources will be aimed at packing the Birkie Trail, so expect anything around the Hayward/Cable area to be soft, if it’s groomed at all.
If you are coming from the Twin Cities, I’d suggest skiing there. The Cities will be further west of the storm and see less snow—probably more on the order of 3-6 inches. The trails there are more likely to be groomed, and even if they’re not many crusted up today (it was in the 40s) and are refreezing, so the skate deck would be firm with snow on top. If you drive to Hayward early, you’ll not only see more snow on the roads, but you’ll be taking your chances at finding trails to ski on. Skinnyski is a great resource for finding trails and conditions, and we reviewed several local trails in the Twin Cities on this page. If you’re looking for a quick hit from the airport, Battle Creek is quite convenient, Wirth and Hyland are not far out of the way, and if you don’t mind a short extra drive, Murphy Hanrahan has hills which will remind you of the Birkie. Most likely to be groomed are Hyland, Battle Creek and Wirth. And Elk River, but that’s up the road the wrong way a bit.
Here are some options near the race, with links to Skinnyski’s trails pages (I’m only going to describe skate and classic trails nearby, but there are many more trails on the website):
- With Telemark closed, the trails there have been groomed more sporadically than usual. It’s possible there will be good skiing on those wonderful trails, but they’ll probably be covered in fresh snow.
- The North End Trails are great, but many double as portions of the race course. Still, you could probably find some skiing on them, and they might get a groom.
- The Birkie Ridge Trail is another good option. It’s about 5k and right on Highway 63. It intersects the Birkie Trail so you’d have to ski out-and-back, but 10k should be more than enough skiing for Friday.
- Likewise the Seeley Ski Trails are a good option that intersects the Birkie Trail. But they may not be groomed.
- The Birkie has some skiable trails at OO, Mosquito Brook and Fish Hatchery. In each case, there are a few k you can ski on without disturbing the main trail. But none really more than a pretty quick out-and-back.
- Just out of town in Hayward are the local recreational trails. A few k, probably enough to warm up on.
- Balsam Branch and Timberland Hills are good options on the way up 63.