John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs For most of us, last week’s unseasonably warm days were a reason to celebrate.
But for Jeff Nelson, celebrating has not been an option.
Many of us greeted the inviting weather as a reason to jump on our mountain bikes and log a few more miles along one of the scenic country roads in the Yampa Valley.
Nelson has not been biking.
Some people have used the weather as an excuse to leave work a little early for a short run or walk in the glow of the warm sun that is fading faster than President Barack Obama’s congressional allies.
But for Nelson, the sun can’t fade fast enough. Nelson has been working nights.
In a few short weeks, the ski jumps and cross-country trails at Howelsen Hill are scheduled to host some of the world’s most promising Nordic combined skiers as part of the Continental Cup meet Dec. 4 and 5 in Steamboat Springs.
Nelson and the snowmaking crews at Howelsen Hill already are busy preparing, making sure the hills will be ready — but they could use some help.
“We are trying to do all we can, but we are at the mercy of Mother Nature,” Nelson said.
Nelson has gotten used to dealing with Mother Nature as Howelsen’s ski, rodeo and open space foreman. Throughout the years, he’s dealt with all kinds of weather, and above-average temperatures in October and November are nothing new.
“We are not in crisis mode yet,” Nelson said Friday afternoon. “Maybe alert mode, but definitely not crisis mode.”
Nelson said there was a time when he let the pressure of trying to get the ski hill ready for an early season World Cup-level event get to him. But he’s learned there isn’t much you can do when it comes to the weather.
“I could start worrying, but it’s not going to do a lot of good,” Nelson said.
The most important thing is to be prepared, he said. When the temperatures finally start dropping, the crews will be ready to make the most of the opportunity.
“I’m confident that we will be ready to go,” Nelson said.
He admits that some of the cross-country courses might have to be a bit shorter, and he said those elite skiers might not get a chance to ski on Howelsen Hill’s most challenging terrain.
But the course will be world-class, and if Nelson has anything to say about it, there will be enough snow at the base of Howelsen to feed the hungriest of Nordic combined skiers.
“I learned a long time ago that you can’t lose any sleep over this stuff,” he said. “There are only certain things that I can control. I can control the crew, and I can control our equipment. I can make sure they are prepared to go, but I can’t control Mother Nature.”
But Nelson also has learned that there are times when you can make snow while she is sleeping.