The dearth of snow that characterized the 2011-2012 season continues. Barring a surprise snowstorm in Midway, Utah, in the next 12 days, U.S. Nationals will take place once again on a modified loop of artificial snow. Such conditions have met athletes in Rumford, Maine, for the past two years; the draught now includes Soldier Hollow.
Thanks to recently cooling temperatures in Midway, however, Chief of Competition Scott Peterson is confident U.S. Nationals will be able to run smoothly, if on a shorter course (3.3 k) than originally planned.
This outlook is an improvement over recent conditions at the 2002 Olympic venue. Soldier Hollow held a series of Nordic Combined competitions last weekend on “about three inches over a couple hundred meters,” Peterson said. “We just barely pulled [that] off.”
With colder temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday night, Peterson had good snowmaking conditions to work with for the first time all season. After two days of making snow, on Thursday afternoon he reported a 1.3 k loop of skiable course. In the coming days Peterson will continue to built up the artificial base to be ready for the first U.S. Nationals race, a classic sprint, on January 2.
The progress will be incremental. By Monday, he hopes to have made enough snow to cover a 2.5 k loop. From there he will gradually expand it to completely cover a 3.3 k backup course. With no significant amount of snow predicted from now until the end of the month, this backup homologated course will likely be the one organizers use for the distance and sprint races on the schedule.
Soldier Hollow has 17 snow blowers at its disposal, ten of which have been pointed on the cross-country trails for the past few days. The rest have been on the tubing hill, but Peterson planned to pull three more down to the course on Thursday night. His goal is to have a foot of snow covering the course by race time, a depth he is confident would be able to survive rain if it needed to.
Warm temperatures and low snowfall has made this season and the one before it challenging for many nordic ski areas, and Soldier Hollow finds itself among them this year.
“Usually snowmaking is much easier than it has been,” Peterson said. “This is the hardest year we’ve had.”
He added that the low snow coverage has affected early registration. Potential competitors, with a watchful eye to conditions, have delayed committing to the races and only 125 athletes had signed up for U.S. Nationals as of Thursday afternoon. Peterson encouraged skiers to register before December 26, the day that registration fees increase. To do so, follow the link on Soldier Hollow’s website. More information for coaches and athletes can be found in the event’s information packet.
Check back on FasterSkier in the days leading to U.S. Nationals for updates on conditions.
The irony of the unusually low natural snow facing U.S. Nationals organizers in Soldier Hollow is that Black Mountain got slammed with snow this week in Rumford.