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American Birkebeiner ski race canceled

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Competitors in the men's 51-kilometer event in 2015.
Competitors in the men's 51-kilometer event race shortly after the start of the 2015 American Birkebeiner ski race, that ended in Hayward, Wis.
Paul M. Walsh | AP File

Warm weather and a lack of snow have forced organizers to cancel the annual  American Birkebeiner  cross-country ski race near Hayward, Wisconsin.

The race and other 'Birkie' events attract thousands of skiers from around the country.

Event spokeswoman Nancy Knutson said they hoped this week's forecasted snow system would improve trail conditions. But she said even without the signature race, they have other plans for participants to celebrate the sport.

"They come together to see friends that they see each year when they return for the race," said Knutson.  "And it really is just a fun camaraderie-filled place that's just loaded with Birkie fever."

Mike Schroden, co-owner of Revolution Cycle and Ski of St. Cloud, said several Birkie racers dropped off their skis earlier this week to be prepped. Most decided to stay home due to the lack of snow. But a couple of families are still going to take part in the festivities, Schroden said.

"It's kind of a tradition," he said.

Phil Rogosheske and his friend, Bob Skow, were already in Wisconsin when they got word that the race was canceled. Rogosheske is a longtime St. Cloud high school Nordic skiing coach who now lives in Orono. He has skied the longer Birkebeiner or the shorter Kortelopet 40 times.

"It is real disappointing when you have all that energy built up and you're ready to ski," Rogosheske said.

He and Skow plan to stick around Hayward for the celebration that will still go on, including live music, food, drink and waxing demonstrations. The skiing isn't the only enjoyable part of the Birkebeiner, Rogosheske said. Part of the fun is meeting up with old friends he hasn't seen for a year.

"But we haven't really wrapped our head around the fact that we're not going to be skiing tomorrow," he said. "This will be a new experience for everybody."

Organizers say on Saturday morning they'll still have a 5k loop for skiers.

The only other time the race was canceled due to weather conditions was in 2000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.