Wednesday, November 24, 2004
With the Rocky Mountain Division's Winter Start ski jumping competition just eight days away and a World Cup B event on the horizon, Howelsen Hill Ski Area Supervisor Jeff Nelson is in need of some help.
Not necessarily from his work crews or volunteers, but from Mother Nature.
"We were ready to go two weeks ago, but the weather isn't cooperating," Nelson said. "We are doing everything we can possibly do to make snow on the jumps."
But he said the high temperatures and storm patterns that have missed Northwest Colorado have frustrated snowmaking crews and local jumpers who have been waiting since October to get on the jumps.
Howelsen Hill is scheduled to host the Rocky Mountain Division's Winter Start on Dec. 4 and also is online for a Nordic combined World Cup "B" event Dec. 11 and 12.
"I believe that we can still make it happen," Nelson said of next week's Winter Start. "But we have to plan for the worst."
Nelson said there is enough snow to hold a limited cross-country race on a course that is about one-third complete.
But the event will balance on whether he can get the jumps, which are behind schedule, open by that date.
"If I had five single-digit nights, we could have the job totally completed," Nelson said. "It'll take two or three to get us into good shape."
Nelson was fairly confident that the K-90 jump would be open before the jumping and Nordic combined meet. However, he wasn't as optimistic about the larger K-114 hill.
He was confident, along with Steamboat Winter Sports Club Jumping Coach Chris Gilbertson, that both events would take place. Some of the competitions might have to be restructured to account for the limited snow base, however.
"I'm counting on some colder temperatures the first two weeks of December," Gilberston said. The longtime Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach has been looking for those lower temperatures for the past couple of weeks, but like others in the United States, he has been waiting for winter's chill to take hold.
"If we get those cold nighttime temperatures, we will be jumping. We only need about three cold nights, so I don't think it's time to hit the panic button," Gilbertson said.
Instead, the coach has been focusing on keeping his athletes conditioned for the upcoming season. In the past week, the team has been able to cross-country ski on Rabbit Ears Pass, and it recently has moved to the snow at the base of Howelsen Hill for speed workouts. Crews were able to make a good deal of snow at that location several weeks ago.
"Traditionally, the first couple of weeks of December have been good for making snow," Gilbertson said. "I'm confident that the temperatures will fall and they (the city) will be able to make more snow."
Gilbertson said it might take a little extra work this weekend and next week to get everything ready, but he thinks the city and volunteers from the Winter Sports Club will be able to pull it off.
Last year, the jumps opened the day before Thanksgiving, which was one of the latest opening dates Gilbertson can remember. This year's opening will be even later.
But Steamboat is not alone.
High temperatures and budget restraints also have delayed the opening of the ski jumps in Park City, Utah. Gilbertson expects that facility to open later this week or next week.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
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