American Birkebeiner Prepares for Kickoff - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

American Birkebeiner Prepares for Kickoff

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Wisconsin Governor, Scott Walker has approved a proclamation to officially declare this week, "Birkie Week" in the state, just as the city of Hayward is preparing for The 44th Annual American Birkebeiner Ski Race. 

North America's largest cross country ski race started in 1973 with a mere 35 people. Today the American Birkebeiner attracts athletes and spectators from all over the world.

"Now it's over 13,000 skiers including kids as young as 3 years old all the way up to over 80 years old," says Executive Director of American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. 

Crowds pour in with racers being represented from 22 countries and over 40 states. It takes almost 2,000 volunteers to put together the temporary infrastructure that are required for the four day event. 

"everything from tents, to food station setting up access to medical as well as the processing of 11,000 bibs, and timing chips, and everything that goes with that." 

Hayward uses around 65 dump trucks and loaders with snow to fill the streets and trails. They also build a temporary 15-20 feet tall bridge over the Main Street intersection in order to avoid detours and traffic jams.

This past week, temperatures have hardly dropped below freezing. Event planners say there is a lot of contingency planning to ensure the safety of the skiers on the trails. 
"Ultimately , right now we are in the process of assessing the trail as it continues to melt down a little bit but so far so good, it's hanging in there." 

However, skiers hardly seem bothered by the weather, 

Longtime Birkebeiner skier and owner of Riverbrook Bike and Ski, Tim Swift says, "Ben and the Birkie staff, they've pulled off wonders before and there's a lot people behind it to make it happen and with the predicted weather, we're gonna have it." 

Event coordinators say if the weather doesn't permit its hard to have ski races, however walking and hiking the trails could still be an activity people can partake in. 

"There's a wide variety of events that we can do and will have no matter what happens but when it comes down the the actual ski race, we need to have snow and we need to have safe conditions." 

The races are set to kick off on Thursday, Feb 23. 

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