By Katie Bono
CANMORE, Alberta — The days are getting shorter and shorter in Canmore, and if you’re an elite Nordic skier in North America, you know what that means. It’s Frozen Thunder time!
Skiers from across the U.S. and Canada recently converged upon Canmore to ski the seasonal anomaly that is Frozen Thunder: a 2.2-kilometer loop of real snow skiing, harvested from last winter and saved over the brief Canadian summer under a thick coat of sawdust.
According to a Cross Country Canada press release, Frozen Thunder’s first incarnation was in 2009 as a 400-metre loop of snow. However, if you know anything about the Canmore Nordic Centre, you know that settling for an ‘adequate’ trail experience is not in their nature. Accordingly, the loop has been expanding ever since. This year’s loop is the longest yet, and even includes a bridge crossing.
Conditions on the loop thus far have been surprisingly good. Despite temperatures in the mid-teens (Celsius, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit) since opening day on Oct. 19, the trail has stayed thick, white and fairly firm, and skiers who were on the loop last year say that this year’s loop is substantially better than last year’s version.
The list of skiers already getting their training on at Frozen Thunder is long: All of the Canmore-based Canadian teams are here, and many of the farther afield Canadian and U.S. teams are, as well. The Wisconsin-based Central Cross Country (CXC) was in town for the first four days of skiing and has since departed, while members of the U.S. Ski Team, Stratton Mountain School T2 Team, XC Oregon, Maine Winter Sports Center, and the Methow Olympic Development, among others, will be in town for a while longer.
Skiers were out in full force on Wednesday and there was almost a palpable stoke in the air. Many looked to be gearing up for tomorrow’s classic sprint race while others were simply getting a solid interval session in. Tomorrow’s race will be hosted by Winsport, and many of the top U.S. and Canadian skiers are expected to participate as their preliminary warmup for the season. Qualification starts at 9 a.m. Mountain time, and only the top 16 in each gender will move on to heats.