As Wisconsin’s climate gets warmer and wetter, beloved winter activities could be in jeopardy

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Skiing, ice fishing and other sports face shorter seasons as snowfall and lake ice cover are affected by rising temperatures

For many who ski the American Birkebeiner, the end of the race is the best part.

The Birkie, which will turn 50 years old next year, is the longest cross-country ski marathon in North America and a hallmark of outdoor winter adventure in northern Wisconsin. Skiers start in Cable — about an hour south of Lake Superior — and race about 50 kilometers down to Hayward, where they finish on Main Street in front of thousands of spectators cheering and ringing cowbells.

It’s a spectacular feeling, said Birkie chief operating officer Joe Vadeboncouer.

But in the future, it may not be possible.

As climate change slowly turns up the heat on Wisconsin’s winters, the area could struggle more frequently to get the amount of high-quality snow it needs to support skiing. In 2017, the entire event had to be canceled for just the second time in its history for lack of snow, and getting less snow today than they would have decades ago has them worried about having to cancel more in the future.