Sunday, December 12, 2010

Course Maintenance

Well, we woke up to fine powder again today -- about 4 inches, and it continued to snow all day. Fortunately the snow started late enough that the workers were able to catch-up and keep up.

Course maintenance isn't as simple as it seems. In instances such as last week at Lake Louise, once a storm has the 12 inch head start it's awfully difficult to get a race off. However even seemingly small amounts like the 4 inches today pose a challenge. The snow not only has to be pushed off the race track, but the spill zones (where a racer would end up if he/she missed or was late at a gate) must also be cleared. Suddenly the crew is faced with clearing a 100 foot wide slope, edge to edge and for thousands of feet down the hill.

To accomplish this feat everyone gets involved. Coaches and athletes join in the slip and normally the start times are delayed (45 minutes today). Once the track is slipped, the "B" netting is lifted and reset so it is back atop the snow surface. But once the track is open the job isn't done. During the race a steady flow of "slippers" travels down the course between racers, moving and smoothing the snow. Coaches and course workers stand at problem areas with shovels and rakes evacuating that snow broken loose by racers and slippers. As always, safety is the big consideration and this job has to be carefully orchestrated.

The crew did a great job today getting the race done. Although the track was softer than we'd like and became somewhat bumpy for the later runners, it was safe.

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