Sunday, January 23, 2011

BirkieTour II - January 22, 2011

Tim Burke and I participated in the BirkieTour II held on the American Birkebeiner Trail this past Saturday.  It was extremely cold with the temperature at -20 C at the start and -16 C at the end so dressing properly and having the right wax were challenges.  Both Tim and I were fine with both and then having a nice sunny day helped too!  The picture to the left was taken at the Fire Tower Turn Around about 10K into the tour.

The course was changed a few days before the tour so instead of starting at Telemark Lodge and ending at either Highway 00 for the short course and Hatchery Park for the long course the tour started at Highway 00.  See map at the left of the 20 K short course which went north on the Birkie Trail to Fire Tower Hill, the highest part of the trail, and then turned around and came back to Highway 00 on the new Birkie Classic Trail.  The trail was in great shape but because of such cold temperatures the snow was very slow.  I had perfectly waxed skis, however, so no complaints except with the change in courses, we were on some of the highest hills of the entire Birkie Trail the entire time.

I had wanted to go on and do the longer 42 K but with the cold was feeling the start of some frostbite on my face and then both of our toes were getting very cold too!  The map and stats for the tour are found at my Garmin which showed the course at 19.5 K.  Since this was a tour and not a race we stopped often to take in the beauty of the trail and especially the Classic Trail which we don't get to ski on very often.  Total time was 2:18:09.

Over 640 skiers pre-registered for this second annual event and with the cold temperatures the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation was afraid it would keep people away.  Instead there were 50 new registrations on Friday night and Saturday morning.  The foundation also reported that skiers from as far away as Tennessee, Florida, Texas, and California in the United States and from Scotland, Russia and Canada participated in the event.  While that seems like a lot of skiers for a race it was much smaller than the American Birkebeiner race in February which attracts over 9,000 skiers for the various events.  What both Tim and I liked is that with the many up and downhills the course was not skied in with ruts that usually happen in the Birkie Race due to so many skiers.  Tim is pictured to the left at the Fire Tower turnaround.  I wanted to take more pictures but my hands got way too cold and it took me 2-3 K to get the feeling back in my finger tips.

After the tour Tim and I drove into Cable, Wisconsin and ate a late lunch / early dinner at The Rivers Eatery which is located in The Ideal Market.  Garrett Ping, who I skied with last weekend in Eau Claire recommended the restaurant and this will be sure to become a regular place for Birkie week too.  Wonderful stone oven pizza, salad, and plenty of good micro craft beer on tap all in a very nice atmosphere.  After lunch we visited John Kotar and his family at his cabin in Cable.  John is the founder of the Birchleggings Club and is a member of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation Board of Directors.  He did not participate in the BirkieTour but did get out for a couple of hours of skiing in the early afternoon because of the cold.

We stayed at the Lenroot Lodge in Seeley, Wisconsin and with the change in the BirkieTour couse we were very close to the start on Highway Double 00.  The lodge is owned by the same folks as the Sawmill Saloon, which is a mainstay of Seeley and a restaurant we have eaten at every year that we have been up for the American Birkebeiner ski race.  The Lenroot has very reasonable rates with nice rooms with a loft.  My only complaint is that the temperature could not be controlled so it was quite warm in the room.  All in all a great weekend with a one of my Birkie Buddies!  Tim will be meeting Mike Tarnow, our other Birkie Buddy, next weekend at the Noqueman Ski Marathon in Marquette, Michigan.  Too far for me to drive from La Crosse, Wisconsin.

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