BEAVER CREEK — When many skiers and snowboarders were eagerly making their first turns in Beaver Creek powder, Vail resident Steve Prawdzik had already been wallowing in the stuff for hours.
Prawdzik and other members of the volunteer corps Talons Crew and Beaver Creek race crew employees had been hard at work on the Birds of Prey World Cup downhill course since 5:45 a.m. A winter storm had dumped copious amounts of snow on Beaver Creek on Tuesday night, and the blizzard continued through Wednesday, forcing race organizers to cancel yet another day of downhill training.
At places, Beaver Creek race and mountain operations crews, along with hundreds of course volunteers, removed more than a foot of snow from the course in preparation for a training run Thursday in anticipation of Friday’s race.
“This is nothing new for us, although getting a training run in (Thursday) is critical after having to cancel the past two days,” said Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “This storm is obviously a bonus for recreational skiers.”
Tuesday’s training run also had to be canceled when inclement weather in Calgary, Alberta, prevented some of the men’s teams from getting to Beaver Creek following last week’s World Cup races in Lake Louise. The Birds of Prey downhill is slated for Friday, with super-G on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday.
What crowds won’t see during training runs and the races are the hours of work that crews spent to prepare the slope. At noon on Wednesday, course volunteer Kim Porter had already been working on the mountain for six hours, and he said the slope still needed more work.
“It’s fun to ski in, but tomorrow it will need a lot of work,” said Porter. “We’ll hit it harder in the morning and try to get it as packed down as possible.”
Fleets of snowcats and winchcats will likely work through the night to keep the snow cleared, then in the morning, crews will use shovels, snowblowers, rakes, snowshoes and their own skis to get remaining snow off the run. While most people on the mountain cheer for light, powdery snow, that kind of precipitation actually makes matters more complicated for race crews. Fluffy snow is soft, and racers need a hard, icy surface.
Volunteers will also help remove and put up netting, and once the races are under way, they’ll stick around to slip, water and maintain the course. There are about 150 volunteers, and Prawdzik said that probably all of those people will be needed on the course.
As Folz alluded to, getting snowed out isn’t an uncommon occurrence.
“It’s not unheard of and does happen,” said Prawdzik, who has worked on course at Birds of Prey for eight years. “When it happens, it takes a huge effort from everybody pitching in to get the course ready. The standing joke is, ‘You know how to make it snow? Get a downhill race at Beaver Creek.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.