Cold in Canmore and Juggling the IBU World Cup

FasterSkierFebruary 5, 2019
Christian Gow at the 2017 Biathlon Canada’s team trials in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Peter Collins/

“Polar Vortex” has become part of the oh-so-cold vernacular when describing seemingly locked in place artic air. Last week’s weather-related news cycle was dominated by all things “Polar Vortex”. In Canmore, Canada, the term is still being thrown around: the cold temperatures have not abated.

On Thursday, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) is scheduled to begin its North American swing of races in Canmore with the men’s 20-kilometer and women’s 15 k individual races.

Hold onto your lobster mitts. Maybe secure a pair of bunny boots too.

Simon Fourcade of France, out running in Canmore. Fourcade is using a humidity/heat exchanger to protect his lungs in the cold air. (Photo: biathlon screenshot)

On Monday, the IBU reported nighttime lows of -23.8 Fahrenheit and an early afternoon high of -16.6 Fahrenheit at the Canmore Nordic Centre, site of Canada’s IBU World Cup races. Those temps have caught the attention of race organizers as they bump against IBU competition minimums for cold weather racing.

“Biathlon competitions must not be started if the air temperature is colder than minus 20 degrees Celsius measured at the coldest part of the site (range or course), 1.5 m above ground,” states the IBU’s competition manual.

That -20 Celsius equates to -4 Fahrenheit.

Today, as of noon in Canmore, temps were a crisp -6 Fahrenheit. Oh so close — but rules are rules.

On Thursday, the races are scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM and 2:10 PM local time.

“We have many options like start times, course adjustments that are available if necessary,” IBU World Cup Race Director Borut Nunar told the IBU. “Thursday looks like the best day of the week with the morning low at minus 18 [Celsius] and the high around minus 14 [Celsius]. After that, it warms up: most importantly there will be less wind. The wind makes the cold temperatures even worse. We will just see how things go and present any ideas to the coaches at our meeting on Tuesday. They all understand the conditions and like us, just want the most fair and safe conditions for the athletes.”

In extreme on-the-ground cases like the Organizing Committee and athletes are experiencing in Canmore, officials will also consider wind chill and humidity beyond the strict -20 Celsius cut off when deciding if conditions are suitable for racing.   

“If it is colder than minus 15°C, wind chill and humidity must be considered before starting and during the competition. In the case of a high wind chill factor, the competition jury will decide whether to start or continue the competition, in consultation with the IBU Medical Delegate or the Competition Physician. The course to be skied may also be changed to avoid windy areas,” states the IBU Events and Competition Rules.

With a few days for Mother Nature to kiss the sky with slightly warmer temperatures, the IBU World Cup has a bit of time on its side.

And there is this from Nunar, “This is a winter sport”.

That it is.



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