Highway Closure Pushes Back Yellowstone Sprint One Day

Nathaniel HerzNovember 23, 20101
Signs marking the course for the SuperTour sprint qualifiers rescheduled for Thursday.

Road closures and frigid temperatures have forced the postponement of Wednesday’s opening race at the 2010 West Yellowstone Ski Festival.

The shutdown of Highway 20 has stranded timing equipment in Idaho, causing the race jury to push back the double sprint qualifier by 24 hours. Temperatures on Thanksgiving day are predicted to be milder, with highs above the legal racing limit, and an employee of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office said that the highway was likely to be clear by then.

“If it goes the way they reported it’s going to go, and we’re just cold with no wind tomorrow, yeah—they’ll have it open,” said the employee, a dispatcher who would only give her name as Deb. “We’ve got some big drifts out there.”

Earlier today, festival officials had delayed the start of Wednesday’s race by two hours, to 11 a.m., and they had hoped to avoid a postponement to Thanksgiving, when many volunteers are planning to spend time with their families.

Wednesday’s forecast had called for high temperatures below the legal racing limit of negative four. But even if it had been warm enough, both timing equipment and a warming hut are still stuck 100 miles southwest of West Yellowstone, in Idaho Falls. That gave the race jury little choice but to push back the competitions, according to Technical Delegate Al Pokorny.

“If we had everything here, I think tomorrow’s race would probably be okay weather-wise,” Pokorny said. “The real problem is all the roads are closed.”

Lacking many members from his local crowd of volunteers due to the holiday, Chief of Course Dave Robinson said that he hopes to run the events with a skeleton crew of 25, recruit the necessary individuals from the “racing community.”

“It sounds like there are enough people in town,” Robinson said.

Pokorny said that he expects the equipment to arrive in time for the races on Thursday. But in the event that organizers cannot hold the competitions on Thanksgiving, the sprints will likely be pushed back to Friday, and one of the distance races will go off on Saturday.

“The double sprint qualifier is kind of a priority—that’ll be the first race that’s run,” Pokorny said.

In past years, the ski festival has contended with too little snow, moving races to a plateau outside of town. But for once, organizers are confronting the opposite challenge: too much of the white stuff. Snow has been falling fiercely for the last few days, and large piles have been plowed into the middle of the town’s streets.

“We thought things were going too smoothly this year when it started snowing,” Robinson said. “It just keeps coming and coming and coming.”

-Topher Sabot contributed reporting.

Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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