The near-Birkie of 2017
By Editor Kelly O’Day
Despite the best efforts of the Birkie staff and delaying the decision until the last minute, for only the second time in its 44-year history the American Birkiebeiner was forced to completely cancel its offering. A heat wave early in the week ruined excellent conditions, and snow accompanying a late-week cool-down veered just south of the Hayward/Cable area.
The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation was able to rescue the fun with sparse snow on a 5K loop out of the new start area, and host a party with music, beer and food in the near vicinity.
“You know, it’s unfortunate, but you can feel Birkie spirit already,” executive director Ben Popp said at the start line the morning of the event. “It was so close, we were, aach, within 50 miles of almost 10 inches of snow. But, alas, here we are and we’re going to make the best of it. Today, I see today as starting training for Birkie 2018.
When noted the crowd was in high spirits despite the loss of their favorite event, Popp noted, “This is what the nordic community is all about. Absolutely, it’s just a day to be outside and have fun.”
The race was first killed in the year 2000, after a rain storm on Thursday ruined what had been very good conditions up to that day. Several times the race has been shortened, most frequently to skirt poor conditions on Lake Hayward, It was cut in half in both 1998 and 2007. Citizens raced two weeks after elites in 1981, then it was shortened slightly in 1983, ‘84, ‘85, ‘91 and 2002. The race had faced a 10-year stretch of completion from 2007-16 before this year’s loss.
Weather Impact to American Birkebeiner Race Events Over the Years
1981 – Elites only race 6 laps around 8K track around Mt. Telemark due to weather
1981 – Snow arrives two weeks late, citizen skiers complete Birkie race on March 7th
1983 – Open water on Lake Hayward, race is started on Duffy’s Field (Race direction Hayward to Cable)
1984 – Due to lack of snow, race is started on Duffy’s Field (Race direction Hayward to Cable)
1985 – Due to lack of snow, race is started at Rosie’s Field (Race direction Hayward to Cable)
1991 – Due to Lack of snow, race is started at Rosie’s Field, ironically, 8” of snow fell the morning of the race (Race direction Hayward to Cable)
1998 – The race finished at “OO”, Barnebirkie was a foot race.
2000 – Birkie race canceled for lack of snow
2002 – Race finished in Duffy’s Field after rain on both Friday and Saturday
2007 – With temps of 52º and rain, the Birkie race was shortened to 25K for lack of snow; only elite skiers were timed, open ski for citizen skiers