Weather forces Birkebeiner changes - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Weather forces Birkebeiner changes

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Above freezing temperatures and rain have forced some changes for the American Birkebeiner. The race usually crosses Hayward Lake and finishes in downtown Hayward. This year, that's not a possibility. 

"The edges are marshy and soft, it's just hard to get off" said Ben Popp, executive director of the Birkebeiner, on the topic of the ice conditions on Hayward Lake.

Unfortunately, several more days of above freezing temperatures are expected in Northwestern Wisconsin. There's only about an inch of hard packed snow on the trails near Hayward, but closer to four inches farther north near the starting point in Cable. Knowing this, race officials are hesitant to pick an end point for the race.

"You know, we won't know for sure until Wednesday.  Right now we're hoping we can get to Duffy field which is a small field, or a large field actually just outside of Hayward before the lake.  It's finished there before. But if not, if the trail continues to deteriorate, or depending on how much rain we get, we may have to look at other options up north" said Popp.

Changes to the Birkie route aren't easy to implement. Racers, volunteers, and spectators must all be informed on the changes, and structures for warming and first aid must be moved. But while the situation is difficult, it's not something the officials haven't seen before.

"If you look at the 44 year history, nine times it's been, um, either shortened, canceled, or course altered because of the weather" Popp added.

Much like those in charge of planning the race, participants have to adapt to the changing conditions as well, and they're just as well prepared to deal with the challenges.

"I've thought about that, and yeah, it will affect how I perform out there, but you know, I'm gonna have fun and I'm going to perform well. I've been training for a year, I'm ready to go" said Michael Newhall, who is set to race in the Birkebeiner for the first time this year.

Though race officials are prepared to continue to make changes to the route, they do not expect the race to be canceled. 

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