Organizers and volunteers were working tirelessly on Monday to replenish the snow on Rumford’s depleted trails, as competitors at the 2011 U.S. National Championships fanned out north and west in search of skiing.
Snowmaking at Black Mountain began at midnight on Monday morning, and by early that evening, Chief of Competition Carlie Casey said that Rumford’s Chisholm Ski Club was poised to pull off successful classic distance races on Wednesday.
“We had a very productive day,” he said. “We’re pretty confident that we’ll have a very good-quality 2.5-k loop.”
The classic competitions were originally scheduled for Tuesday, but the race jury pushed them back a day to allow more time for course preparation.
Casey said that Wednesday’s course would tack on an adjacent kilometer of skiing to the sprint course used on Sunday, with the resulting loop meeting the International Ski Federation’s homologation standards.
Officials had previously discussed using terrain available on Black Mountain’s alpine skiing trails, but Casey said that that would not be necessary.
“You use that at the last resort—if you’re desperate and you have nothing else,” he said. “But we’ve got enough snow in the right place to ski on real, homologated courses.”
While the designated loop should be ready for Wednesday’s races, Casey said that the course would still be closed for inspection on Tuesday—organizers were waiting as long as possible to groom the new snow to allow for better drainage.
“We think the grooming will go better the longer we’re able to wait,” Casey said.
Most of Rumford’s trails were also closed on Monday, and as two-dozen volunteers worked to prepare the courses there, many athletes traveled to cross-country ski areas in New Hampshire and Rangeley, ME, for training.
A few opted for skiing at Black Mountain, along with some service staffs, but the venue was largely devoid of the hundreds of visitors it saw for Sunday’s opening races.
“It was a ghost town up there,” CXC Head Coach Jason Cork.
Cork, one of the few coaches who made the trip to Black Mountain, said that the conditions had “definitely improved.” But he also wondered about the fate of the long-distance mass-start skate races on Thursday—30 kilometers for men, and 20 for women—which he said could be tough to pull off on a 2.5 k loop, especially with conditions likely to be fast.
“It’ll get pretty congested out there,” he said. “They’re going to have to pull out a third to one half…the field on a loop that short…I don’t really know what they’re going to do there.”
With his club spending more than $10,000 on its trip to Rumford, Cork was concerned about the consequences should organizers have to cancel races—and he questioned whether there should have been plans for a backup venue. But Casey maintained that the situation in Rumford wasn’t dire.
“If we were that desperate, we would be talking about [a backup]. We would be communicating with those areas,” he said. “We haven’t gotten to that point…It’s not in the cards unless we virtually had no snow.”
Casey added that moving venues would be a huge stress for teams, and for organizers, who would have to come up with alternative facilities for things like waxing and timing.
He said he felt that the there had been, and would be, few compromises made in terms of the actual racing. And he also said that Thursday’s mass start events didn’t present an insurmountable challenge.
“When you watch the race happen, you will see that people will be able to race at race speed, even though we don’t get a chance to show off the full range of our beautiful courses,” Casey said.
CXC’s Garrott Kuzzy was one of the few athletes to train at Rumford on Monday. His coach’s concerns notwithstanding, he said that the racing at the championships thus far had been adequate—and he expected that to continue.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I got to the race course yesterday…I felt like it was a competitive race,” he said. “From what I saw today there’s no reason to believe that it’s not going to be national championship quality by Wednesday.”
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.