Aspen World Cup course: No need to panic

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Mother Nature and the calendar have not done Aspen Winternational organizers and crews many favors.

Still, with about two weeks to go until women’s World Cup racing returns to Aspen Mountain – a giant slalom is slated for Nov. 24, with a slalom to follow on Nov. 25 – chief of course Pat Callahan insisted Wednesday that there’s no need to panic.

Not yet, at least.

“This year is the earliest we could possibly have a World Cup – Thanksgiving weekend is one day earlier every year for six or seven years before it jumps back again – but we’re cautiously optimistic,” Callahan said. “It’s going to be a big push, but we’ve been here before.

“When you look at 2007, 10 days before the downhill, we didn’t have one flake of snow on the course. It was completely brown, and then we had all that snow.”

As much as 2 feet of snow blanketed Ajax on the eve of 2007’s races, forcing organizers to postpone the much-anticipated return of America’s Downhill – the first here for women since 1988 – and scrap a scheduled super G.

No similar storm is on the horizon, but favorable weather could provide a boost in the coming days, Callahan said. is predicting that a wintry blast will dump anywhere from 3 to 10 inches of snow on area slopes Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

More important, temperatures are expected to dip into the 20s and 30s for an extended period.

“To be honest, we just look at temperatures now. Five degrees is such a big difference – you can make a ton more snow,” Callahan said. “At this time of year, the natural snow is a great thing as a skier, but when you’re setting up a course, all you’re really looking at is man-made and cold temps.

“It’s been an Indian summer, but this cold front is coming, and snowmakers are guessing they can turn the guns on for 80 straight hours. I don’t know where they got that number, but if it’s right, we could be ready by the middle of next week as far as having enough snow.”

Late October’s storm provided a bit of a head start.

“It was nowhere near enough to run a race, though,” Callahan said. “The natural snow really didn’t help – it’s all melting in – but we were able to get six big piles (of man-made snow) on the mountain, which are melting off now but are still big. Those are areas where we won’t have to focus as hard this weekend.”

An estimated 60,000 feet of television cable already has been set up, Callahan said. Gates have been shuttled to the race start, on Ruthie’s Run, and nearly every net is staged and ready to be put in place.

Now, crews will wait and adapt.

“The moment we get snow made and groomed, it will be all hands on deck,” Callahan said. “I know (chief of race) Jim Hancock has been talking with (the International Ski Federation). They’re already worried, but he told them that we’ll be fine.

“We’re getting to the point now that we have such a good crew, and the ski-school coaches come out and help, that we can set this thing up in no time. Something that used to take 10 days we can now do in three or four. That certainly gives us confidence.”