Lack of snow a mix of highs and lows
Whether it’s global warming or just an off-year, its no secret that this season’s lack of snow has made planning winter activities interesting.
And the effects of a paltry winter have been widespread. Cancellations and venue switches have been commonplace throughout Europe, on the East Coast and even out West for skiing and snowboarding-related events on every level of competition.
In Park City, the impact has been felt in all different levels of winter competition. For some, the thinner, hard and icy snow is a welcome change, for others it’s taken some creative maneuvering to make their season successful.
Park City Ski Team Director Dave Galusha says that the effects for their team have been good and bad.
The icy quality of the season’s snow has been ideal for racing practice at Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR).
"Powder gets in the way," laughs Galusha.
Yet, inconsistent snow at resorts across the West have made the competition season a bit of a scramble. The Junior 3 level qualifiers that were held at PCMR over the weekend were originally scheduled at Snowbasin in Ogden two weeks ago.
"We’ve had a different year in the West pulling things off," Galusha said.
Galusha says that it’s also been a challenge for the speed events, because so much terrain is needed for a downhill course. But he is quick to add that in any year, events are rescheduled from time-to time and athletes and parents just need to be flexible with those changes. He also adds that there is plenty of winter left that may bring new snow.
"You never know," said Galusha.
For Nordic enthusiasts and members of The Utah Nordic Alliance (TUNA), holding their usual Timberland Wasatch Citizens Series has been challenging, but manageable. The almost weekly cross-country races have had to endure a few venues switches, but TUNA advisor Dave Hanscom says they have been quite lucky. Although, he adds "so far," with a chuckle.
A Jan. 27 race that was to be held at Mountain Dell had to be moved due to a lack on snow on the course located in Parley’s Canyon. Luckily, Soldier Hollow was ready to rescue the race.
"The Heber Valley got a couple of big storms early in the season, and their snow has held up really well," Hanscom said.
Last weekend, another race originally scheduled at Sundance was moved to White Pine in Park City.
"I was amazed to learn that those early storms that hit Heber and Soldier Hollow must have skipped over Sundance," Hanscom said.
According to Hanscom, Park City and White Pine haven’t had a lot of consistent snow throughout the season, but what little the area has received has been very carefully maintained by the White Pine crew. White Pine’s Minster of Outdoor Satisfaction Charlie Sturgis is an expert at snow preservation, says Hanscom.
"He keeps the cat [tiller] off the track, and just smoothes it out with a drag behind a snowmobile when the snow gets thin," Hanscom said.
Last week, Sturgis had a large group of employees and volunteers shoveling, snow blowing and hauling big loads of snow from various parts of the golf course to the places on the track where the snow was beginning to disappear.
Similarly, before this week’s storm, Soldier Hollow was making snow.
"The natural snow was going fast," Hanscom said.
In preparation for the Junior Nationals slated for the first week in March at the 2002 Olympic venue, Soldier Hollow covered about five kilometers of the track with a couple of feet of man-made snow, which should last another month, regardless of weather.
The last Timberland races are scheduled at the White Pine course this weekend. Hanscom is feeling confident, but hasn’t ruled out shoveling next week to cover a few thin spots with daytime temperatures in the 40-degree range expected.
U.S. Ski Team director of public relations Juliann Fritz says Park City has really lucked out with cooperative weather. Despite cancellations for various World Cups and other competitions throughout the world, locally scheduled events continued without a hitch.
The Chevrolet Freestyle International World Cup event at Deer Valley in January held four competitions with optimal amounts of snow, although an extra day of competition was added due to Lake Plaid, N.Y.’s scarcity of snow that month. The following week, the U.S. Freestyle Team was able to hold a productive camp on the snowy mogul and aerials hills at Deer Valley Resort and the Utah Olympic Park.
Things have been pretty positive at the UOP’s ski jumping hills as well. Ski jump manager Alan Powell says this has been one of the best years for the venue in a long time.
"The weather is actually good for us, because we have to keep the in-runs and landing at a certain grade," Powell explains. "Whenever it snows, we have to clear and reset the grade."
Less snow means less shoveling and maintenance on the jumps. At times they have had to treat the snow to make it harder, something that Powell says usually doesn’t take place until spring. He says that Park City has had enough snow on the jumps to hold competitions, while some European venues have had make adjustments to compensate for a more severe lack of snow.
"In Europe they have tons of money and support," Powell said. "They’ve literally flown in snow. We don’t have that budget."
Even though the winter had been an easy one for Powell’s staff, he still continues to pray for snow.
"We’d rather shovel and ski on the weekend," smiled Powell.
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Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall, has died, the municipal government said. Erickson was involved at some level in nearly all the major decisions regarding growth and development in Park City since the early 1990s.