Nordic combined athletes stuck in Park City
A lack of snow has plagued Europe so far this winter, leading to World Cup event cancellations and postponements.
Park City residents can relate. After struggling through a string of subpar winters, Utah finally has a wealth of snow this season.
For U.S. Nordic combined athletes like Taylor Fletcher and his brother, Bryan, the Park City snow has helped soften the blow of inconsistent competitions this year. Three straight competitions have either been canceled or postponed, leaving the Fletchers with plenty of training time.
"It’s been extremely unusual and rare for us to have these kinds of cancellations," Bryan said. "I’ve gotten accustomed to no matter what, the events will go off. It’s very weird to be in a situation where we’re not even sitting in the venue waiting for events. It speaks to how warm the weather is in Europe and little snow they have there."
The biggest benefit so far has been the use of the ski jumping hills at the Utah Olympic Park. Taylor Fletcher said conditions have been much worse in Europe.
"The facilities at the Utah Olympic Park, with what they’ve done up there, it’s been amazing," he said. "I’ve gotten about five sessions in that have been better than I’ve been jumping all year. With the limited snow in Europe, it’s been beneficial to us. Some of the venues that are open over there have 200 jumpers trying to jump. We’re not waiting to jump at all."
"We pretty much have the whole jump hill to ourselves," Bryan added. "It’s really special for us to be able to take advantage of that."
On the cross-country side, both Fletchers listed a slew of venues for training in Park City — from Soldier Hollow to White Pine to Basin Recreation and Mountain Trails to Jeremy Ranch.
"That’s one of the reasons we’re able to stay here," Bryan said. "Places like [that] do a great job of putting on events and making sure the Nordic trails are perfect. You really can’t ask for better training environments."
The Fletchers recently took part in a Wasatch Citizens Series race at White Pine, where they competed against top local athletes and members of the University of Utah Ski Team.
"It’s really like we’re not even away from the circuit," Bryan said. "We have people pushing us all around."
"I hadn’t done a [local] race here in Utah since like 2013," Taylor added. "It’s always super fun."
There are some drawbacks to not competing on the World Cup tour, though. Taylor said it’s tough not knowing how his competitors are jumping on a day-to-day basis.
"We go over there with the mindset to jump the best way we can," he said. "The jumping level this year is hands down the highest I’ve seen it in years. There are a few guys who are just levels above everyone. [While competing] you get to see what they’re doing and make changes based on how they’re jumping. It makes it easier to see where you need to go improvement-wise."
A competition that was supposed to take place Jan. 16-17 in Chaux-Neuve, France, was recently postponed until Jan. 23-24. That will be followed quickly by competitions in Seefeld, Austria, and Oslo, Norway, the next two weekends.
Bryan said he’s not concerned about snow conditions in the Scandanavian areas like Oslo, Trondheim, Norway, and Lahti, Finland.
"We know they have snow," he said. "Once we start going again, it’s going to be quite a flurry of competitions in a short amount of time. I could see us being really, really busy over the next couple months."
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.