The snowfall early this week should provide some relief to cross-country skiers starting to worry about the American Birkebeiner, the biggest race of the year.
Fretting about conditions and conditioning is a year-round exercise for thousands of skiers, and recent news should ease that anxiety.
Organizers of the race scheduled for Feb. 25 report the 52-kilometer Birkebeiner Ski Trail has a solid base, and snow willing, will be in good shape for 9,000 skiers registered for the 39th year of the Birkie.
Close to 600 racers found good conditions during the Seeley Hills Classic, on a portion of the Birkie Trail, on Saturday.
Unlike the southern part of the state, the area close to Lake Superior has received steady doses of lake-effect snow, and skiers have traveled to make use of it. This story in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram details the reasons behind that winter weekend migration.
"Right now we're all very positive,” said Susan Kendrick, the communications director for the Birkie. “The attitude here is that we still have plenty of time.”
In the Seeley Hills race, Brian and Caitlin Gregg, part of the Central Cross-Country Ski Association elite team, took the victories in the 42K race. The husband-and-wife duo live in Minneapolis but train from the CXC headquarters at the Telemark Resort in Cable.
Brian finished in 2:10:10 and Caitlin finished in 2:18:49, good for eighth overall in the race considered the unofficial Midwest classic championship.
Andrew Brown, 22, of St. Paul, Minn., was second, and Waylon Manske, third, in the men’s race.
Kelly Skillicorn, 48, of Winona, Minn., took second in the women’s race in a time of 2:35:42, just ahead of Hilary Patzer, 32, of St. Paul.
Check here for the complete results.