Snow compounds Aspen race preparations
ASPEN Jim Hancock joked with a contingent of World Cup ski team coaches and captains during a meeting Friday evening at the St. Regis.Once again, youve brought the snow it seems, Aspen Winternationals chief of race said to a smattering of laughs. Maybe we should schedule these races for October. Then wed have a really early ski season.It was light moment in what had been a trying day. Hancock, not one for surprises, stuck a measuring stick into nearly 9 inches of fresh powder Friday morning near the start of the giant slalom course on Aspen Mountain, below the Aztec run. While snow was a welcomed sight for the public, it left Hancock and his crew scrambling. The first run of the GS is slated to start at 10 a.m. Saturday. A slalom follows Sunday.[Scrambling] is totally fair to say, Hancock said Friday afternoon. The amount of snow was more than we expected, theres no doubt about that. Its been a problem obviously. Its been a tough day, but were dealing with it.By all accounts, the course was in race condition at the end of last week, so much so that U.S. Ski Team members were afforded the rare opportunity to train on the hill Nov. 21 and 22. On Tuesday, Hancock told The Aspen Times, This is no doubt the earliest weve got really good, solid depth that we need on the whole course.You see how fast things can change, chief race director Atle Skaardal said Friday. Yesterday, we had a great race hill. Then it dumps 30 centimeters of snow on us.Friday mornings free ski was canceled. Had a race been scheduled, Hancock had his doubts about whether his crew couldve pulled it off. He did, however, caution: We definitely would have had a different plan, so we dont know for sure because we werent facing those exact surfaces. In October, officials made the decision to push back the two races one day in order to air them live to a prime-time European television audience.As it turns out, todays been hard, but when you make a decision like that you have no idea what the weather is going to do, Hancock saidCrews began the process of removing the excess snow in the early afternoon. Fencing was removed to allow four snowcats onto the course. The majority of the snow had been pushed off by late afternoon, Hancock said, although intermittent showers throughout the day compounded efforts. Tillers had yet to be used to smooth out the racing surface.We still dont have an exact, final plan, said Hancock, who sent many workers home to rest before the final push. It depends on what we do with the cats. We may keep people around alternately during the night or bring them in at 5 oclock [in the morning].We attempt to get the best surface we can and hope we dont get another level of snow.Hancock is used to the unexpected. Because of sparse snow last year, preparing a course seemed inconceivable. On race day, in a frustrating and ironic twist, nearly 2 feet of snow buried the course and postponed the downhill.Various weather services were calling for increased winds and sporadic snowfall Friday night and Saturday morning, with accumulations ranging from 1 to 5 inches. Race officials were also tracking two bands of moisture near Salt Lake City and Idaho on Friday evening.According to a tentative schedule, course setting was slated for 7 a.m. Saturday, followed by an inspection. Because there will be no free ski Saturday morning, an abbreviated course will be set up on Little Nell for teams wishing to run gates. The practice will run until 8:30 a.m., so cats have time to groom the trail before the mountain opens to the public.If the forecast is correct, well probably be OK. Obviously, its not set in stone, Hancock said. Its always a different and fascinating project. The way it comes together with the temperature and the timing is never the same. Were doing pretty well, and were all confident with where we are at the moment. email@example.com
SATURDAY10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsor Village booths open in the Aspen Gondola Plaza10 a.m. Race start for womens giant slalom, first run, on Strawpile ski run1 p.m. Race start for womens giant slalom, final, Strawpile3 to 4 p.m. U.S. Ski Team members sign autographs, Aspen Gondola Plaza7 p.m. Awards ceremony for race winners and presentation of the Bingham Cup, Aspen Gondola Plaza7:30 p.m. Free, outdoor concert featuring Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Aspen Gondola Plaza9 p.m. Fireworks over the Little Nell run on Aspen MountainSUNDAY10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sponsor Village booths open in the Aspen Gondola Plaza10 a.m. Race start for womens slalom, first run, Strawpile1 p.m. Race start for womens slalom, final, StrawpileCheck aspentimes.com for race coverage on Saturday and Sunday.
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