Blizzard a setback for Aspen race prep crews |

Blizzard a setback for Aspen race prep crews

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Michael Faas/The Aspen TimesScaffolding erected at the base of the Aspen Mountain race course held tight during this week's wintery blast, but crews are scrambling to ready the course for two World Cup events this weekend.

ASPEN – While the recent wintry blast has delighted local skiers and snowboarders, it has left crews scrambling as they work to prepare Aspen Mountain for the return of women’s World Cup skiing.

About 9 inches of new snow fell Tuesday and Wednesday, burying what was a race-ready surface on Ruthie’s Run and Strawpile, Chief of Race Jim Hancock said Wednesday afternoon. While the inclement weather likely will not jeopardize this weekend’s races – a giant slalom is slated for Saturday and a slalom will follow Sunday – it certainly has complicated matters.

“It didn’t kill us, but it really delayed quite a bit what we had hoped to accomplish,” Hancock said. “This is a winter sport, and the weather always throws a lot of curves, it seems. That’s absolutely true now. More than anything else, this is going to create a really long day for us on Thanksgiving.”

The amount of snow that piled up on the course was too substantial to remove manually, so crews had to detach sections of safety netting to make room for snowcats. Most of the excess snow had been removed by Wednesday afternoon, Hancock said.

He expected to have a smooth, hard surface by Thursday morning.

A crew of about 60 is expected to be on the hill Thursday installing fencing along the snaking course and adding padding to high-speed sections, snow hydrants and various other obstructions.

“All the kinds of stuff we would rather be doing in the last couple days,” Hancock opined. “It seemed as though this storm gave us less wind and more snow than predicted. That hurt us in terms of snow prep, but we didn’t lose any tents or scaffolding. That’s good at least.

“We’ll probably go straight through, as long as it takes, and essentially be ready by Friday. We don’t want to leave any massive projects. … Hopefully we can work hard and get everybody done by Thanksgiving dinner.”

This mad dash is nothing new for Hancock and his cohorts. The group was riding snowmobiles on dirt eight days before the start of 2007’s Winternational. Circumstances changed quickly, however, as 2 feet of snow fell on race day, leading to the postponement of the much-anticipated return of America’s Downhill.

An abbreviated downhill was held the next day, but the super G ultimately was scrapped.

“It’s never easy. There are always huge things thrown at us,” Hancock said. “Still, I’m pretty confident.

“We’ll figure it out. We’re highly motivated and have a lot of great people working with us.”

The weather should cooperate in the days ahead; clear skies and cold temperatures are forecast until Sunday evening.

“If they’re right, we’re going to have pretty good conditions,” Hancock said. “It’s setting up for us. It’s going to ski great and look great.”