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Add the nation's largest cross-country ski race just across the Minnesota border to the list of threatened events if the extended forecast of above-average warmth and below-normal precipitation holds true.

The American Birkebeiner, best known as the Birkie, is a weekend of races in the Hayward area of northwestern Wisconsin, headlined by its skate and classic cross-country ski marathons Feb. 24. Thousands of Minnesotans ski the Birkie trails each winter and anticipate the main event, which is marking its 50th year.

Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins, an Afton native, is scheduled to race, coming off events a week earlier at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. The World Cup skiing circuit will stop there for 10-kilometer and sprint races Feb. 17-18.

Birkie organizers announced "potential contingencies" Monday night on Facebook live, including lap races on a 10-kilometer course of artificial snow that could still accommodate thousands of skiers, on different schedules, beginning at the Birkie trailhead in Cable.

The Birkie also could be canceled, which has happened twice in the event's history. The Birkie was last called off in 2017 after a burst of springlike weather. The race also has been altered more than once, owing to unseasonable weather. Still, organizers Monday remained upbeat and said they've become conditioned to adapting. More than 250,000 skiers have participated since the first race in 1973.

Ben Popp, American Birkebeiner executive director, said he knows the weather is topic No. 1.

"I think all the things that organization has learned through the last 49 years has prepped us for what is going to happen in the 50th," said Popp, who appeared with race director Kristy Maki.

Final Birkie plans will be announced Feb. 12, Maki added.

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