Frigid temperatures have forced organizers to shorten the Birkebeiner Race, one of Edmonton's biggest annual outdoor events.

"We've scaled back the 55K course to 48K in consideration both for of our skiers and for our volunteers who have to stand out there and take care of the skiers," Glenda Hanna, organizer of the cross-country skiing event, told CBC News.

Despite the chill, Hanna said, the skiers will find conditions to their liking.

"The good news is the trail conditions are very good actually, because the snow is old snow. It's not going be too hard to ski on, so if they dress for the weather, they'll have a great time out there.".

It would take more than a bit of cold to stop Carole Cheslock, a participant who has enjoyed the sport for 30 years.

"It's my passion. I love it" said Cheslock, who is such a fan of the sport she bought her house near the trails. "Probably the biggest challenge for me is the dressing to stay warm!"

The race, which was first run in 1985,  has been cancelled twice – in 1987 and in 2001 – because of a lack of snow.

The event is a re-creation of the rescue of Norway's heir to the throne – a baby named Hakon Hakonsson – whose life was threatened during a civil war in 1206.

Two Birkebeiner warriors carried him on skis through two mountain ranges to safety. Racers in the normal 55-kilometre course ski the same distance as the warriors, carrying a 5.5-kilogram pack – the same weight as the infant.

The Birkie is held east of Edmonton at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreational Area.