The International Ski Federation (FIS) announced Thursday that the first World Cup of the 2011-2012 season, originally scheduled for Beitostølen, Norway, will instead be held a 170 km drive to the east in Sjusjøen, Norway. The venue is situated just 20 km outside Lillehammer, and has never held a World Cup event before, according to Terje Lund, head of the organizing committee. The event schedule will remain the same: 10/15 k on Saturday, November 19 and a 4×5/4×10 k relay on the 20th.
“It was not an easy decision,” said Jürg Capol, FIS Race Director Cross-Country, in a press release. “Compared to Beitostølen, the weather is a bit colder in Sjusjøen and they will be able to produce snow during the next few nights. The preparations will be a bit easier and less snow is needed as the base is paved. We highly appreciate the huge efforts put in by the OC [organizing committee] of the World Cup weekend in Sjusjøen and the team led by Erik Oestli in Beitostølen as well as the Norwegian Ski Federation to find a good solution to carry out the World Cup Opening in Norway despite the mild weather.”
The Sjusjøen website has several webcams that update every minute to depict current conditions. As of Thursday morning, it’s foggy and completely bare.
“We are ready to tackle the challenge of organizing the World Cup Cross-Country competition in just a few days,” said Lund. He hopes to get at least 3.75 k of trail ready with the help of refrigeration and 10 snow guns on hand.
In order to give the venue enough time to make snow, and save the course from getting chewed up, athletes won’t be allowed to ski at Sjusjøen until Friday, November 18. U.S. Ski Team (USST) head coach Chris Grover said that the athletes not already in Torsby, Sweden, are flying on Sunday to arrive in Oslo, Norway on Monday and drive to Torsby to train in the ski tunnel.
When everyone is finally allowed on the course, said Grover, it will make for a “very busy Friday testing wax and skis…But we’re excited to be racing, for sure.”
The Canadians are equally enthusiastic. Devon Kershaw said in an email that after finding out on Thursday morning that the race was still on, he and his teammates were “pretty fired up about that news.” Rather than training in Torsby, the Canadian National Ski team will be racing this weekend at Bruksvallarna, Sweden.