February 24, 2017 09:29 AM
The current lack of snow in the Hayward, Wisconsin, area has many worried about the fate of the 2017 American Birkebeiner ski race.
Organizers of the 44th cross-country ski race from Cable to Hayward on Saturday have already made changes to the race route this year because of warm weather. The Birkie course normally crosses Lake Hayward to get to downtown Hayward, but that's no longer an option.
Ben Popp is the Birkebeiner executive director. He said they've been forced to shorten the race this year from 35 miles to about half that distance. And the kids ski events that were planned for Thursday were turned into obstacle courses and relay races at a nearby park.
The race was last canceled in 2000. And the length or route of the course has been altered nine times since its inception in 1973.
"Realistically we need 3 to 5 inches of snow so that we can have a safe event," Popp said.
KSTP Chief Meteorologist Dave Dahl said he thinks the area may get no more than an inch or two, if that.
Organizers say that if more snow doesn't come by Saturday, they might scrap the slate of races altogether and hold a street party.
"It's certainly disappointing," Popp said. "You work all year to have a ski race and you don't have snow, it can certainly be a bummer."
The week-long event attracts about 40,000 people. The economic impact for the area is estimated at about $4 million.
Paul Kirkman is the owner of Itasca Leathergoods in downtown Hayward.
"On an average winter week we could literally have just a handful of customers on a daily basis," Kirkman said. "Birkie week, that goes up exponentially."
Updated: February 24, 2017 09:29 AM
Created: February 23, 2017 05:15 PM
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