No, no, we’re not about to lose two feet of base and have no race at all. But it might go above freezing before race day. For the past few model runs, we’ve seen a sign that it could hit 40 in Hayward the week before the Birkie. I know, right, 40! It hasn’t been 40 since November, basically. It looks like a few inches of snow this week, and then the potential warm-up next week.
What does this mean for the race? Well, it means that with 40, a bit of rain or ice and then a freeze, it might be a pretty solid race compared with what we’ve seen the past few years. How long it comes before the race will be interesting; a couple model runs have pushed the warm weather all the way to Friday, which would mean the potential for a slushy, not frozen race. I’m hoping for frozen or powdery. But time will tell.
In two weeks it will be go time. It will be bib pick-up. It will be last minute waxing changes. It will be time to get things done.
For now, weather speculation! Here’s what we’ve seen in the past few model runs:
- Cold through next Tuesday. Not -20 for highs, but highs below 10, and lows well below zero. Snow ain’t going anywhere in the next few days.
- Next Wednesday it warms up as a system moves through. Right now it looks rather dry; a couple inches of snow and temperatures up in to the 20s. That’s right, 20s!
- Cold for Presidents Day weekend. Not brutal.
- Then we’re in silly season, but here’s the gist of the week after: it might go above freezing. Maybe a little rain or sleet. You know, to speed up the course. Then maybe some snow, and seasonable and dry for the race.
The takeaway? No big meltdown. Moderating temperatures. So far.
What does 16 days mean? It means that for the first time, Birkie morning shows up on the GFS model. So we can wildly speculate! It’s so great, I can hardly contain my fever.
If the current model run verifies (it won’t) it will be cold for the next week and then turn milder. Hayward may peak just above freezing on Tuesday or Wednesday before Birkie, and then see a few inches of snow Thursday and Friday. The race itself? Cold—0 to 10 above—and nice soft snow.
I’d be okay with all that.
It will change. Drastically.
If you’re new to this site, one of the services we provide is weather speculation. Some years (and you can scroll through all of our weather speculation posts here) speculation is whether the base will hold until the race, and whether we’ll be looking at a shortened race or whether we’ll have anything to ski on at all.
This is not one of those years. Last year, with two weeks before the race, we only had a few inches of base. The year before—when there was not a lick of snow south of Spooner on race day—my forecast for two weeks before race day was for a 30% chance that the race would be significantly curtailed or canceled. Even the year before that, in 2011, a week-before meltdown saw temperatures soar to 50º and snow shrivel from the trail.
This year? I think we’re good. There has been deep snow on the Birkie Trail all year, 1½ to 2 feet of it, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. Since the beginning of December in Hayward, it has gone above freezing once, for eight hours, reaching 37º. It’s been below zero most every night. That’s a cold, hard base. There hasn’t been a ton of snow, but there hasn’t been a lick of melt.
And the next few weeks look pretty solid. First of all, it’s an early Birkie this year, so that buys us a week of not having to worry about an early spring. For the next week, temperatures in Hayward look to stay nice and chilly, like the season has been going so far. Highs 5 to 15 above, lows 5 to 15 below. The week after looks a bit more up in the air, with some potential for flirtation with the freezing mark, but also potential for precipitation. It will likely be in the form of snow, but even a rainstorm at this juncture won’t put a dent in the snow. The only issue would be a week of temperatures in the 50s, and that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
Of course, we’ll keep an eye on it all.
I’m flying out to Minneapolis this weekend as a bit of a dry run for the Birkie. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve flown out for the Loppet. I’ve thought about flying out for this in the past—I skied it several times when I lived in the Cities—but couldn’t bring myself to fly out to Minneapolis for a weekend for one 33k skate race, as fun as it is.
Last year they added a ski orienteering race. I thought about it more.
This year, they extended the skate and the classic race to 42k. Oh, and they put them on separate days. Oh, and there’s still that ski-o. All of the sudden I was looking at a three hour drive to spend $100 for one (probable four-lap) 50k race at Craftsbury, or a three hour flight to spend $150 for three races, including two marathons and a ski-o. When I found a $175 plane ticket, the choice was easy.
I had my ticket. I had my entry. Then I realized I was insane.
I was flying out on a Friday night, getting in to Minneapolis at 8:30, and starting a 42k race at 9 a.m. Then a ski-o. Then I’d have 20 hours to recover before I went out and skied a 42k ski race. Then it’s on to a plane the next morning, back to Boston for a late work day. The snow looks perfect, so it’s going to be one heck of a ski weekend. Just shy of 100k of racing in 27 hours. If I survive.