The curse may be broken; U.S. Nationals could take place on natural snow yet. Ten inches of new-fallen powder accumulated at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, over Tuesday and Wednesday, creating an additional three to four inches of packed corduroy on top of the artificial layer the venue began building up last week on an abbreviated course.
When Soldier Hollow had little to no natural snow last week, U.S. Nationals Chief of Competition Scott Peterson said the distance races would not be able to use the original 5 k loop without help from the sky. In light of the new accumulation, Peterson, who is also the head of grooming at the venue, thought skating would be possible on all available trails and that there was a “good possibility” that the four races scheduled to take place between January 2 and 8 will be able to happen on their full, original courses.
“It is nice to see,” Peterson said on Wednesday evening, adding that there may be a few bare spots on the course until more snow comes.
“I think it’s skateable, but I’m not sure about classic tracks,” Peterson said after he had skied the 5 k course on Thursday morning. In places where the rollerski loop lies under the snow his poles poked through the light, fluffy snow and hit the pavement underneath. If temperatures cool down enough for the snow to firm up he thought he might be able to set tracks on the full distance loop.
The 5 k distance course has been rolled with snowmobiles and is open for training. Peterson will decided whether racing on the distance course is possible on January 1, “when we see what we end up with,” he said. For now he still plans to race on the 3.3 k modified course.
Athletes competing in U.S. Nationals next week have begun to arrive in Utah; others have been living in Park City and the surrounding area through the holidays to acclimate early to Soldier Hollow’s elevation of 5,500 feet or so above sea level. Early arrivals have had the 1.3 k loop to themselves thus far but will soon be joined by many more; the first race begins on Wednesday of next week.
Ben Saxton of F.A.S.T. has been training at Soldier Hollow with other Central Cross Country skiers since last weekend. He thought it would take another few days of consistent snowfall for anything beyond the manmade loop to be suitable for racing. It has been snowing consistently since Tuesday and more snow is in the forecast for the next few days. Soldier Hollow has been making snow since last week.
“It’s great, it’s just short,” said F.A.S.T. coach Bill Pierce of the manmade loop. “It’s fine now because nobody [else] is here, but put 150 people on a 1.3 k loop and it’ll be pretty busy.”
Traffic concerns should become less of a concern now that natural snow has made training possible on more terrain. Peterson plans to have a complete 3 k of manmade skiing connected by the end of the weekend.
Check back on FasterSkier for further updates on conditions leading up to U.S. Nationals.
This article was updated 11:15 a.m. MST Dec. 27 to include Peterson’s comments from Thursday morning.