For some cross-country skiers on the World Cup circuit, the news that Saturday’s individual races would be shortened wasn’t all that disheartening.
Sadie Bjornsen, who made her first World Cup podium in Sunday’s team sprint with U.S. teammate Kikkan Randall, tried to contain herself. Instead of a 15 k freestyle in Davos, Switzerland, the women will race 10 k. The men’s skate race was cut from 30 k to 15 k.
“Sadie just did a happy dance,” Randall said in a phone interview with FasterSkier on Tuesday, when the International Ski Federation announced its decision because of a lack of snow.
“I think maybe in the U.S. I’d enjoy a 15 k but on the World Cup, it’s a little rough,” Bjornsen said. “So this is pretty good.”
Not everyone shared her enthusiasm.
Distance skiers like Canadian Ivan Babikov had been in Davos for more than a week, training specifically for the longer events. The men’s 30 k freestyle would have been the first one in Davos since 2000. Instead the event was sliced in half.
“This is baloney,” Babikov tweeted on Tuesday. “I was really looking forward to the 30km skate WC race in Davos. … Boooo. #BringThe30Back”
In a phone interview with FasterSkier, FIS Race Director Jürg Capol said there was “almost no snow,” and Davos race organizers were doing all they could to make enough artificial snow for what will be a 5 k loop. They had originally planned on a 7.5 k loop and were at about 3 k on Wednesday.
Only one course was wide enough, and given the lack of natural snow, there were no test tracks, Capol said. With Saturday’s individual races starting just two hours apart, the FIS decided to shorten the women’s event to allow enough time for the men to warm up.
“There might be an option to get more snow (this week), but we had to decide today,” Capol said. “Of course we are never in favor to change the program, but (under) certain conditions, we have to act.”
The forecast for Wednesday through Saturday in Davos suggested a chance of rain with daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s, and above freezing at night.
U.S. distance specialist Kris Freeman wrote in an email that he suspected the race would be shortened and had mixed feelings as a result.
“The race would have been the first 30k time trial on the World Cup since (Dec. 2004),” Freeman wrote. “I think the return of this race would have been great for the sport and a challenging race to ski well.”
However, as a diabetic, he was cautious.
“I have not raced a 30 k time trial in so long that I was not sure how I would have dosed my insulin,” Freeman wrote. “Mass starts and time trials place very different stresses on my body. So to summarize, I am disappointed that they event has been changed but also relieved.”
Teammate Noah Hoffman had been particularly excited for the 30 k freestyle, but was relieved to have a distance race of some sort still in tact.
“It has been colder and snowing here the last couple of days, so we were optimistic they would pull something off,” Hoffman wrote in an email. “However, there is currently not enough snow to hold anything more than a sprint. We weren’t sure what they could do with such a short amount of time.”
Liz Stephen was another American who had prepared for the longest race yet in the World Cup season. So far, the women had gone a maximum of 10 k.
“I was really looking forward to a longer skate race this weekend, or just a longer race in general,” she wrote in an email. “But I could use some more practice racing at these slightly higher speeds.”
Saturday’s individual events will start as scheduled, with the women kicking off at 12:15 p.m. (6:15 a.m. EST) and the men racing at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. EST). Sunday’s sprint races in Davos remained unchanged.
Audrey Mangan contributed reporting.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.