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North America's largest cross-country ski race happening Saturday.

Cross country skiing in Alaska. Cross country skier almost in silhouette standing on crest of snow bank with hazy snow-covered Brooks Range River Valley mountains in background and hazy sun in sky By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; photographer not named [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Cross country skiing in Alaska. Cross country skier almost in silhouette standing on crest of snow bank with hazy snow-covered Brooks Range River Valley mountains in background and hazy sun in sky By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; photographer not named [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(WNFL)- You don't have to fly to the Olympics to see world-class skiing. North America's largest cross-country ski race is scheduled for Saturday in northwest Wisconsin. A torch-lighting is taking place in Hayward this afternoon to kick off three days of events for the 41st American Birkebeiner (birk-by-ner). A record field of 10-thousand-500 is registered for the 54-kilometer Birkie and two related events -- the 23-K Kortelopet, and the 12-K Price Haakon. All of that is scheduled for Saturday, after a major snowstorm goes through. Fourteen-to-18 inches are predicted for an area that already has 2-to-3 feet on the ground. A lack of snow will clearly not be an issue, like it has in some years. Rather, the big challenge is getting there. Wisconsin is getting a major snow-and-ice storm tonight and early tomorrow, with winds of up to 50-miles-an-hour causing heavy drifting. With the Telemark Lodge closed, participants will notice a few changes. A hospitality tent is planned at the lodge, and the awards will be given out at the Birkie's tent city in Hayward. This afternoon, kids as young as three will be in children's ski races down Hayward's main street, followed by Ski Games and the Elite Sprints. Doug Debold of Wayzata Minnesota is the Birkie's defending champion.

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