With 12 days to go until U.S. Nationals begins in Rumford, ME, and natural flurries still absent from the weather forecast, Black Mountain is well on its way to making the snow necessary for a 3.75 k distance loop, two semi-overlapping sprint courses, a test track and a sit-ski loop.
“As of Tuesday, we had two-thirds of the snow we needed to cover everything,” said Chief of Competition Carlie Casey.
Black Mountain has about a dozen snow guns at the venue, and nine of them have been dedicated to blowing snow for the cross-country trails since last Friday.
Air temperatures over the past few days have been cooler than predicted, enabling the snowmaking crew to work at full capacity.
“We’re really pleased; I’m confident now that we’ll have all the snow we need for these courses,” said Casey.
The small mountains of artificial snow visible in photos of Black Mountain from this Monday will remain in stockpiled form until the beginning or middle of next week to minimize the possibility of melting. When it is spread onto the trails, Casey said it would be about a foot deep and fill the full width of the course.
Use of the entire width of the trail will be an improvement over last year, but the manmade course will still be shorter than the 5 k loop originally expected in the planning stages of the 20/30 k mass start event. The decision to go ahead with the mass start or change it to an individual start race will ultimately be determined by the coaches upon arrival.
Casey was confident the trails would be suitable for the original format, and anticipated coaches wouldn’t need to switch it to an interval start race as they did last year under similarly unseasonable conditions.
“I think it will be good for the mass start, but since it’s not quite as long as the 5 k loop, [racers] won’t be quite as spread out,” he said. “We’ll certainly be listening to coaches preferences.”
There will be ample room to warm up and test skis on snow, said Casey. The venue will have the same warm up loop it did last year, as well as an additional test area in the novice part of the alpine hill.
If snow cover at Black Mountain on January 2 ends up being strictly artificial, there will be a little over 4 k of skiable, homologated trails and connectors in total.
At this point, Black Mountain is on track to hit its target opening dates—December 26 for alpine and December 28 for its nordic trails.
Barring a freak rise in temperature, Casey is hoping Nationals will go as smoothly as possible this January.
“This year we wanted to make sure that through technology and planning, we were giving ourselves every possible chance to put on good races,” said Casey. Thanks to some really great volunteers and some very generous corporate sponsors, we have that this year.”
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.