Snow Coverage at Yellowstone Still Thin; Organizers Make Backup Plans

Audrey ManganNovember 15, 20126
The entrance to the Rendezvous Ski Trails on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: West Yellowstone Ski Festival.

If you’ve been checking the Rendezvous Ski Trails webcam every five minutes this week, you’re not alone. The West Yellowstone Ski Festival and opening SuperTour races are scheduled to begin next week and maximum trial cover currently holds at four inches. For the athletes and teams planning to spend their Thanksgiving break at one of the biggest ski events of the year, such conditions are increasingly concerning.

Four inches is not enough to groom and not enough to race on, but on Thursday afternoon NOAA forecasted a 30 per cent chance of snow over several days that could add up to a few inches by Monday. As of Thursday morning organizers plan to run all events as scheduled, but things could change depending on the weather as race day approaches. The organizing committee plans to meet on Friday at noon to assess snow conditions and “A, B and C contingency plans,” and will convene again throughout the weekend.

“At this point we’re doing everything we can to make the races happen,” Dow said.

That currently involves holding off on course grooming and exploring every possible scenario and alternative. The South Plateau, which are not part of the race venue but could become so if the need arises, has about five inches as of Thursday and is skiable on rock skis.

In order to create race-quality groomed trails, Dow said they want to see eight to ten inches of total coverage, and “probably a little more if we want to set a classic track.”

“The more you groom it and compact it, the more it deteriorates. We want to maintain the best quality snow possible,” she said.

Athletes have already started arriving in West Yellowstone, and some have skied on the thinly-covered trails this week. Dow suggested the Yellowstone National Park roads as an alternative off-ski training option, as the roads are quiet and closed to car traffic for the season.

Some people have already called to cancel their Festival plans. As the event draws near, Dow says she has been working to keeping communication frequent and up to date on the Festival website about weather and conditions that are beyond anyone’s control.

“We’re waiting,” begins a Thursday grooming report. “waiting for snow, waiting to see what’s coming…waiting, waiting, waiting.”


Audrey Mangan

Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.

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  • crashtestxc

    November 16, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Why not move the festival somewhere that has the ability to blow snow rather than gambling year-after-year?

  • nordicguy

    November 16, 2012 at 9:26 am

    I am by no means a grooming expert but I always thought that rolling a small amount of snow would help to preserve it. In my area we often ski on a small amount of snow and when the temps rise it is the groomed snow that remains while the ungroomed melts.

  • highstream

    November 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Move exactly where to blow snow for a 1000 or more skiers doing one to three sessions a day and races over the course of a week? West has a long, reliable record of skiable or better snow by Thanksgiving week, probably the best in the continental U.S. Some years it doesn’t arrive until the last minute, messing up long distance travel plans, but how often have they had to cancel?

    Rolling is a good idea if you have enough of the right snow to compact. Bozeman, for example, did and they rolled it. And Bohart Ranch, just up the road, got well over a foot, but even after grooming the lower trails were too soft to track. So if West had the snow, I’m sure they’d be doing it, since the local groomer is among the best in the world. The problem is that for the number of people skiing there’s need for more than four inches of fluffy dry snow (typical for the Rockies). Take a look at the web cams:

  • caldxski

    November 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    There is no easy answer to this dilemma. Having organized a few hundred races over the
    years, I learned this:

    1. It’s usually a mistake to schedule a race that depends on a favorable weather forecast.
    2. It ain’t easy to organize races and most of the self-appointed experts out there who proffer advice have seldom been in the driver’s seat making the decisions.
    3. Any outfit who takes on a race deserves our gratitude.

  • T.Eastman

    November 17, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    4. Beware of sap lines when ejecting from high speed corners.

  • nordic_dave

    November 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Shhhhhh……skiing was quite good on about 25k to 30k groomed on the plateau. Brought my old beater Subi that slays that muddy road like a road rally held in a bog in Finland.

    Enjoy the rest of the cheese and whine fest going on elsewhere.

    Cheers, ND 🙂

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