Snowmakers put in the hours at Killington

14 November 2016 13:52
Killington snowmakers
Killington snowmakers -

Old Man Winter may be dragging his heels on arriving in North America, but members of the Killington Organising Committee are increasingly optimistic that their state-of-the-art snowmaking system will save the day – and the Audi FIS Ski World Cup ladies’ races – scheduled at the Vermont resort for 26th-27th November. With 120 snow guns currently lining the Superstar trail, there’s one stationed roughly every six meters from start to finish ready to pump out the white stuff when temperatures allow. The snowmakers are fully committed to the operation and are working in split shifts around the clock to create a race-worthy surface.

"Killington has some of the best snowmaking capabilities in the country and possibly even the world,” said Killington Chief of Race Ted Sutton, a veteran from the region with over 50 years of experience in the ski racing industry. “Temperatures in New England have gotten progressively warmer each year, but we’re in better shape right now than all the other areas in the country. Even in Colorado they’re losing snow during the daytime right now. But in the Northeast, we rely on snowmaking to guarantee our races.”

More than 75 percent of the necessary coverage on the slope was complete prior to the weekend, and weekend temperatures allowed for additional snowmaking on the Superstar trail. However, there will likely be a pause in production at the start of this week as temperatures rise again. Official snow control will be held on 18th November, and a cold front is expected to move into the area one week prior to the giant slalom and slalom competitions.

Sutton served as chief of course the last time the tour make a stop in New England, a quarter century ago at Waterville Valley for the 1991 World Cup Finals, so he knows what it takes to put on an event of this caliber. Killington might be a new venue on the calendar, but the Organising Committee is staffed and led by many with past experience hosting world-class races. Killington Organising Committee Chairman Herwig Demschar, an Austrian and U.S. national team coach for many years who also served as a member of the organising committees for the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games, knows how much is at stake to hold a race in the eastern United States.

“Especially with the history of the ski schools, there is a huge connection between Europe and the eastern part of the U.S. and a rich legacy of skiing. When you look at all the big pro sports teams like basketball, football, baseball – people in the East like do sports but also watch sports. If you go to Colorado or Utah, people like to do sports themselves and if they have time to watch they will, but not necessarily. We’ve sold for the grandstands and VIP sections each day about 3,500 tickets. We’ve also organized a children’s parade for the area ski clubs on Saturday, and it looks like 1,000 kids are going to walk into the stadium. If you take all their parents, the volunteers, the teams participating, right away we’re at around 5,000 people not even counting spectators who will come to watch without tickets.” 

To pull out all the stops on the weekend, the Organising Committtee also arranged for a rock concert by the chart-topping band O.A.R. to begin immediately following the giant slalom race on Saturday, 26 November. Those grandstand and VIP tickets to the races sold out in a matter of hours, but there’s ample standing room in the finish area that fans can access for free, and spectators will also be permitted to hike up alongside the race course behind all the fences.

“We planned to do something special to make it not only a ski race but an event, and we settled on O.A.R. because the members of the band like to ski and snowboard. They’re going to play a gig starting right after the race [on Saturday] and we hope to keep the crowds there to see that.”

Hoping all plans come together as expected, it looks to be a race weekend for the northeastern U.S. that will be certainly be memorable.