Text by Robert Palliser
The Birkie Open Track is a very relaxed event. No timing, no race official checks you at the start or finish. It runs on the honour system. Skiers have a 1 hour start window and up to 5 hours to complete the maximum distance of 50k. Shorter distance options are 12 and 25k. Skiers can chose Classic or Free technique. When finished skiers simply report to the director’s desk advising what distance they completed.
The course is a loop starting and ending at a large heated tent. Most of the rolling trail is in the woods and thus well protected from wind.
There was good snow cover. The sun was shining. The tracks were well prepared for both classic and skating. The problem was the temperature, -27C at 9AM, “warming” to -21C by 2PM.
The Birkie organization took several measures to ensure the safety of skiers in such extreme cold. First there was an email sent to all participants the day before the race detailing suggestions for dressing to withstand the cold. The 50k was shortened to 44k. The start for all distances was delayed for 1 hour. The course was altered so that skiers were never more than 3k from an aid/food station. In addition there were a number of ski “ambassadors” cruising the trails to provide assistance to anyone who might need help.
There was a good selection of drinks, energy gels and bars, bananas, chocolate at all the food stations. A warm meal was provided in the tent at the finish.
In summary, a well organized, fun event despite the cold temperature.