Blinding snow forces the 24 hours of delay |

Blinding snow forces the 24 hours of delay

Tim Mutrie

The 24 hours of delay end at noon today with, weather permitting, the start of the 12th annual 24 Hours of Aspen endurance ski race.

The race will go off exactly as planned for yesterday, reminiscent of the movie “Groundhog Day,” with the race commencing at noon today and finishing at noon tomorrow. That includes all parties, events and volunteer roles.

Northwest winds gusting up to 40 mph yesterday morning forced an initial delay of the race at about 10:30 a.m. And when severe weather rolled in as expected, the Aspen Skiing Co. officials called it off for the day.

The announcement came just before 3 p.m. at the base of the gondola. Fans and racers braved icy winds and heavy snowfall to hear the inevitable news. Skico officials said the high winds were the primary reason for the postponements, with blinding snow a close second.

“For this race to be great, we need the gondola to operate at its optimal level, which is 15 minutes to the top,” said Rose Abello, Skico spokeswoman.

Racers agreed with the call. Heather Paul, partnering with Asia Jenkins on the Aspen women’s team, said “the writing was on the wall at 10 o’clock” in the morning.

“We were on the gondola: it was stopped, it was slow, it was really windy,” explained Jenkins.

Andrea Dezza, an Italian ski instructor competing with Team Italy, agreed with the postponements, too.

“I wouldn’t want to ski in the weather,” the 23-year-old racer said. “It’s better tomorrow. That was the best decision.”

By all accounts, the course is in fine shape: soft from recent snow and smooth, to the credit of snowcat groomers who will patrol the course into the morning today if weather persists.

“I’ve been waiting for four years,” said Dezza. “One day less, one day more, it doesn’t matter – as long as we start tomorrow.”

“It’s just one more day,” Jenkins agreed.

Like Team Italy, Jenkins and Paul planned to go hot-tubbing last night before retiring early.

“We’ve been waiting so long for something to happen,” Jenkins said of the mood yesterday. “So for it to get postponed again has been a really big emotional roller-coaster ride. Just anxiety and being ready and putting on your clothes and figuring out what’s going to happen and then you just have to wait it out.

“But when you grow up as a ski racer this happens all the time – it’s almost a guarantee that if you have a downhill, it’s going to snow.”

For information about volunteer duties and opportunities, call the Skico hotline number at 923-0500.

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