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Contact: Leslie Hamp
Media Coordinator
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715-682-5824
February 14, 2001

 

Mother Nature Teams Up With Birkie Race Officials
Plenty of Snow for Feb. 24 American Birkebeiner & Kortelopet

HAYWARD, Wisc. -- Spirits are high among American Birkebeiner race officials, volunteers and the 9,000 skiers and 20,000 spectators anticipated for Birkie 2001 festivities from Thursday, Feb. 22 through Sunday, Feb. 25. Mother Nature, in sharp contrast to last year, is cooperating to make Birkie 2001 a year to remember for abundant snowfall and a full race.

After the 2000 cancellation of North America's largest cross country ski race because of unseasonably warm weather, organizers are breathing a sigh of relief over weather, race conditions and registrations.

"This really has been a good, old-fashioned winter in the northland," said Cherie Morgan, executive director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. "The ground is very cold and holding on to the plentiful snowfall we have been receiving since November, and in the final days leading up to the race we are getting nearly 50 registrations each day."

Morgan anticipates 6,500 skiers participating in the 51K Johnson Bank American Birkebeiner and 23K Kortelopet in Cable and Hayward, Wis., on Saturday, Feb. 24.

Meteorologist Phil Johnson, KDLH-TV in Duluth, says promising pre-race weather patterns will hold with temps in the low 20s and dustings of snow through race day. "As we look into the final days leading up to the Birkie, it appears normal February precipitation and temperatures can be expected for the northland," he said.

Bob Murdock, Birkie trail supervisor, has been grooming the trail since November and says there is more than triple the hard-packed base compared to last year. Final race day preparations are in high gear with Murdock grooming and packing the trail and Lake Hayward for a race finish on Main Street in downtown Hayward.

"We have a lot of snow on the trail," Murdock said. "We have eight to ten inches of hard-packed base, and it's been freshly groomed up to 30 feet wide. The start line is fresh white snow, groomed and packed. The Power Line has up to 15 inches of hard-packed base and Lake Hayward has 20+ inches of ice and is packed weekly. There is more than enough snow to finish on Main Street."

The 2001 Johnson Bank American Birkebeiner, which is part of a Worldloppet series of 14 international ski marathons, part of the International Ski Federation (FIS) Marathon Cup series and part of the American Ski Marathon series, and the 2001 Kortelopet, the half-marathon ski race which will be skied on a new course this year, are the grand finale to three days of shorter races, sprints, family events and equipment demonstrations.

As finishing touches are put in place for the food stops and medical stations, registration and bib pick-up, start and finish areas, and timing and results distribution, Birkie officials are pleased that weather is not forcing a "Plan B" scenario.

The past few years have been a challenge for organizers of the American Birkebeiner ski marathon. After the running of the 25th anniversary under ideal conditions in 1997, El Nino and La Nina weather patterns wreaked havoc in 1998 forcing the shortening of the 51K race to 25K. A full race followed in 1999.

Y2K brought major snow glitches to outdoor events around the world. Mother Nature dealt a blow to Birkie 2000 when unseasonably warm temperatures and rain forced the first cancellation in race history. Two other Worldloppet races, the Austrian Dolomitenlauf and the Estonian Tartu Marathon, were also canceled because of unseasonably warm weather, and the German Konig Ludwig Lauf race was skied in the rain.

During Birkie 2000, several events did take place including Salomon Elite Sprints, Hayward Chamber of Commerce/Madshus Citizen Sprints, Junior Birkie and Sons of Norway/Swiss Miss Barnebirkie.

Most importantly, skiers understood the plight of race officials and have flocked back to enter a race that has become so important to their lifestyles. An anticipated 6,500 Birkie and Kortelopet skiers, 1,500 Barnebirkie skiers, 200 Junior Birkie skiers, 150 elite and citizen sprint skiers, 400 10K skiers, and 20,000 spectators are expected for Birkie 2001.

"We are so pleased that skiers are coming back," Morgan said. "There has been so much snow throughout the country that skiers are getting their training in and are looking forward to their annual pilgrimage to northern Wisconsin to compete in this race whether it is to beat a fellow competitor, strive for a better personal time, or just participate on a course with others who love the sport. We are grateful for their return and expect an exceptional race to make up for last year."

For more information or to register for the 51K Johnson Bank American Birkebeiner, 23K Kortelopet, Hayward Chamber of Commerce Citizen Sprints, Junior Birkie, Chequamegon Telephone 10K, or the Sons of Norway/Swiss Miss Barnebirkie, call 715-634-5025, e-mail birkie@cheqnet.net, or log on to www.birkie.com.

Birkie 2001 is sponsored by Johnson Bank, Subaru, Murphy McGinnis Media and other businesses throughout the region and country.

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