Snowmaking complications force cancellations at Olympic Venue |

Snowmaking complications force cancellations at Olympic Venue

Steve Oler (260) rounds the final curve of the 1 km sprint course as he approaches the finish line of the TUNA Wasatch Citizens Series cross-country skiing race at Soldier Hollow Saturday morning, December 16, 2017. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst |

It’s no secret that low snow totals and warm weather have created problems for skiing venues in the area, but Soldier Hollow’s Nordic ski track has possibly had it the worst.

In the past two weeks, Soldier Hollow has had to cancel the 10th Mountain Division Biathlon, The TUNA/Soldier Hollow Superqualifier Race and the University of Utah’s Utah Invitational – which was held in West Yellowstone, Montana, instead.

Soldier Hollow posted a list of factors contributing to the cancellation of this weekend’s Superqualifier on its website, which says the venue currently does not have a skiable loop.

“Everything possible is being done by our snowmakers and groomers, but there are still gaps, and the stadium is very narrow for this large-scale event,” the statement read. “Midway Irrigation, our snowmaking water source, shut down due to a leak. Our snowmaking ability is limited to two nights, with an unknown timetable for them to fix the leak.”

It continued to state that, with two nights of snowmaking, it would have been difficult to produce a viable track in time for the TUNA event. And with such a small margin for error, holding the event would have been likely to “jeopardize the event and quality everyone has appreciated over the years.”

According to Dave Hanscom of The Utah Nordic Alliance, The Superqualifier usually draws several hundreds of people from across the West, including local athletes vying for points toward Junior Nationals. In its cancellation, athletes will instead travel to a qualifying event in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Abi Holt, coach of the University of Utah Nordic Ski Team, said it was the first time the team ever rescheduled an event at Soldier Hollow because of snow conditions.

“We kept holding out hope the weather would cooperate a little more, and we’ve always taken for granted that Soldier Hollow would pull it off,” she said. “There have been times that we thought there was no way they could do it and they’ve made it work.”

Holt said lack of snow has created problems for Nordic teams across the West, which must choose from an already small pool of venues.

“Utah is not the only one hurting for snow this year — it’s definitely a small circuit, so we are keeping track of where the skiing is,” she said. “We are always limited by the size of the venues, how many are legal by ski standards and know how to hold a top-level race. There aren’t many places when you come down to it.”

She said the University of Utah team was supposed to travel to Red River, New Mexico, in the near future, but that race has been moved to Crested Butte, Colorado.

“We hear(Colorado is) hurting there as well but they should be able to do it,” she said.

Holt added that her team made the decision to switch venue six days before the event, which meant scrambling for volunteers and changing itineraries for seven NCAA teams.

But in the cross-country world, that’s not unheard of.

“There has been a lot of discussion among the coaches and in this line of work. Everyone understands that snow challenges are part of the deal,” she said. “We are all taking a hit and paying some penalties for these travel changes, but no one is really snow-rich this year. And if you don’t come to these races there’s not really another option.”

As for the rest of this season, recent cold weather and snow has helped Soldier Hollow create 2 kilometers of track.

The venue still has high profile races on its schedule, including the cross-country Junior Nationals in March and a World Cup biathlon event next year.

“Our focus will continue to insure [Sic] we make the best quality snow and trails for all, including the upcoming events,” the statement from Soldier Hollow read. “We are sincerely sorry to have to post this information. We all love (The TUNA/Soldeir Hollow Superqualifier Race) as well as sharing Heber Valley, Midway and the magic of the hollow with kids and their families from all over the west.”

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