Posted at: 02/20/2014 4:38 PM
Updated at: 02/20/2014 6:11 PM
By: Travis Dill
The Northland slowed to a crawl Thursday as a snowstorm pounded the region, but the fresh powder only helped usher in the American Birkebeiner in Hayward.
There was a calm before the storm set to drop nine inches of snow in Hayward. Birkie organizers said that would cause some challenges, but the biggest show on cross-country skis will go on.
More cowbell and more snow were in the forecast for the Birkie, and Executive Director Ben Popp said Mother Nature can do her worst.
“The trail staff will be out in five big piston grooming machines pretty much grooming non-stop, including plowing a lot of the snow off the trail if we do get above a foot just to get down to the hard base,” Popp said.
He said that trail groomers will work 40 to 50 hours this weekend to keep the skiers on track.
"The harder we can make the surface the better it is. It's not so important for the first 200, the elite skiers, but for skiers 5,000; 8,000; 10,000 if we don't make it very firm it gets very difficult for them. So well do everything we can to get it ready for everybody no matter whether your skier number one or skier 10,000," Popp said.
But he said the fresh snow is a beloved burden. Rain and lack of snow has canceled marathons recently in Europe so international skiers were loving the winter wonderland.
“They've been coming into the race office and said, 'Hey, we'll take as much snow as we can get. We love it.' So I guess sometimes beggars can't be choosers. We're happy to see it,” Popp said.
He said thousands have already arrived, but more regional racers would have to trudge through the storm on Friday.
“Certainly the roads are going to be slick. There's going to be big drifts, of course, so travel is going to be tough,” Popp said.
He suggested that everyone leave early and drive safely. Snow can slow the Birkie, but the racers will sake on through the storm.
Popp said races like the Junior Birkie should go on as scheduled Friday morning.