As snow hammers Idaho and Montana and forecasts call for frigid temperatures, the fate of Wednesday’s SuperTour-opening double sprint qualifier hangs in the balance.
With road closures stranding the race timer and other officials in Idaho, and the National Weather Service (NWS) predicting a high of negative seven degrees on Wednesday, the start of the event has already been pushed back two hours, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
And since the International Ski Federation’s legal limit for racing is set at negative four, there seems to be a real chance that the qualifiers might have to be postponed until Thanksgiving Day—when the NWS calls for a high of a balmy five degrees.
“In the end, it would probably be an option, but we better exhaust all our options for Wednesday,” said John Farra, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s nordic director, who is one of the competition jury members for the races in West Yellowstone. “Obviously, we’re a little concerned about it, but we haven’t gone there yet.”
Farra himself was stuck with his family in the town of Ashton, Idaho, while he said that timer Ernie Page was marooned in Idaho Falls. The technical delegate and chief of competition for the SuperTour races are already in West Yellowstone, while Bob Gross, the assistant technical delegate, is also stranded.
According to Farra, the race jury delayed the race in an effort to take the pressure off of athletes and officials to arrive on Tuesday night.
“Worst-case scenario, we could drive up Wednesday morning,” he said. “Hopefully, people will be a little less panicked.”
If Page doesn’t make it to the venue in time, organizers could face additional challenges—especially with tight times in a sprint race—but as Farra put it, “[Page] is not the only one who can run a stopwatch.”
“There are lots of people from Bozeman that have run races,” he said, noting that there are also individuals in West Yellowstone with timing experience.
The current schedule is to run the two sprint qualifiers back-to-back, separated by just one hour. With some 180 starters, Farra said that that window could be tightened to roughly 50 minutes, if the weather made it necessary.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.