Just a month into his tenure as governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker made a bold political move: he proposed a bill which would limit the rights of union workers to use collective bargaining.
With a strong Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the bill appeared poised to pass. On Thursday, Senate Democrats boycotted: they didn’t come in to work, meaning that the Republicans didn’t have a quorum to hold a vote. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald reportedly asked Walker to send state police to look for Minority Leader Mark Miller, and to tell him to bring his senators to the statehouse.
In the midst of all this, Madison’s teachers went on strike and headed to the statehouse themselves. There were among the estimated 25,000 people who protested against Walker’s bill on Thursday – including Jesse Jackson. On Friday, a rally was held at midday, and in the afternoon, more protesters filed the statehouse, chanting “Kill the bill!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” towards the doors separating them from the legislators.
How does this all relate to skiing?
On Saturday and Sunday, the SuperTour was supposed to come to Madison. For several years, races have been held in the square around the capitol as part of Madison Winter Fest, an event conceived by CXC Executive Director Yuriy Gusev. Dump trucks cover the block with snow, and besides the SuperTours, a number of other competitions were scheduled: a rail jam, a running race, a winter cyclocross race, plus masters and high school ski races.
Unfortunately, the protests put a stop to almost all of this. With thousands of people milling around the capitol, Winter Fest organizers couldn’t bring in the snow. While the rail jam was held at a different location, the ski races and other events didn’t meet the same fate. In good conditions they could have been moved to a nearby park, but with a recent thaw melting most of the base in southern Wisconsin, that wasn’t possible, and the event was called off completely.
While some racers had already arrived in Madison and were left scrambling for new training opportunities – or getting in some quality time with their running shoes – others were luckier, and could change their plans in advance.
Among them was Sun Valley’s Mikey Sinnott, who is aiming for the overall SuperTour title this year.
“We had a snowstorm, and we got stuck in Aspen for another day,” he told FasterSkier. “We lucked out that we could change our plane tickets and fly to Minneapolis instead. So we’ll be heading up to Hayward.”
When asked how having two fewer SuperTours would affect his ability to overtake Lars Flora in the standings, Sinnott said that it would make the remaining races even more critical.
“I think it just emphasizes more the importance of the Sun Valley races [SuperTour Finals],” he said. “Obviously it would have been good to have more chances to gain points, since Lars wouldn’t have even been racing this weekend, but you just have to take it as it goes. That’s life.”
While racers are disappointed, the Winter Fest organizers are undoubtedly the most frustrated (besides all of the teachers, of course). In an e-mail to the press, USSA Nordic Program Director John Farra said that Gusev and his crew had been ready to go.
“The organizers put lots of preparation into making these events happen despite the warm temperatures, with snow stockpiled and ready to be trucked, and foreign athletes onsite for a chance at prize money just a week before the Birkie,” he said. “But in the end politics derailed these high level races.”