2024 Birkie will be … interesting.

The Birkie had a webinar tonight and the news is … not so good.

The lake had 9″ of ice a week ago. Now it has 4″. Snow is still missing from the Upper Midwest, aside from the piles made in Cable. The next two weeks look warm. Unless there’s a change in the weather that is known to be extreme, the Birkie is not going to look anywhere near normal.

My prognostication:

Most likely: they spread the snow out into a 10k loop and have a lap race. I’d guess that there might be enough snow for 12k and they’ll have people ski it three times. Maybe the times won’t mean anything for next year’s wave placement, given how conditions may vary over the course of the event. Maybe it will be open track for everyone. Maybe some sort of mass start for elites and then rolling starts for others, or maybe wave starts for everyone. Definitely people will be spread out over days like 2021.

Second most likely: there’s enough natural snow for either an out-to-OO-and-back race or a point-to-point race ending shy of Hayward (at either Fish Hatchery or Duffy’s Field).

Third most likely: there is a threaded needle with enough cold to freeze the lake and enough snow for a full race. This would have to occur over the course of two weeks, since the next 10 days won’t make any ice or snow. The Birkie only needs about 6″ of snow to hold a good race, but if there’s a little ice on the lake and it snows, it will insulate the lake from a cold snap. So we need either cold and then snow or, if the lake opens up, snow on open water and then cold weather to freeze it up. In either case, this would require a 2021-like polar vortex to freeze the lake. Not impossible, not that likely.

Fourth most likely: No race. Warm temperatures won’t really do a number on snow whales, but warmth and rain may. Luckily, the weather in the next few days looks relatively dry, so the whales will probably survive enough that they can get the ks they need. But if it’s 50 and raining the week before the race, well, let’s hope that it’s not the case.

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