Friday, February 16, 2018

Powder Fever, Real Winter, Olympic Dreams

Much to talk about today.  I'll split this post into two parts, Powder Fever/Real Winter and Olympic Dreams.

Powder Fever/Real Winter

Wow, what a morning.  Yesterday's storm blew away my expectations for both snowfall amount and water equivalent.  The Utah Avalanche Center reports 12-18" of new snow in the Cottonwoods and along the Park City Ridgeline.  This morning is bluebird.  It's hard to imagine a better ski day after all the pain and suffering of the winter to date.  I suspect many dawn patrollers were out this morning and that it will be powder panic in and around the Cottonwoods this morning.   In the backcountry, the buried weak layers still give me heartburn.  Check the avy report and don't let powder fever cloud your decision making.

The models have also been shifting to higher totals for the storm sometime late Sunday to Monday, as evinced by the downscaled NAEFS plume for Alta. 
Totals currently being spit out by the Euro and the NAM are a bit lower.  Let's see how it comes together and keep our fingers crossed. 

One thing is for sure.  It is going to feel like winter early next week.  REAL WINTER.  The current GFS is dropping 700-mb temperatures to -21ºC by 11 AM Tuesday morning.  My 20/20 rule tells me that anything above 20ºC or below -20ºC is exceptionally warm or cold, respectively, for these parts.  You wanted winter.  You're going to get it.

Olympic Dreams

For me, the Winter Olympics have kicked into high gear now that the alpine skiing events are underway.  The compressed schedule might not be what the athletes want, but as far as I'm concerned, it's great for me.  Having the two tech event runs bracketed around a speed event means skiing dominates the broadcast, which makes me happy, although NBC still managed to skip Wendy Holdener's first slalom run yesterday, which was the fastest in the field.  I bet Austrian TV is smart enough not to skip the run by the skier ranked 4th in World Cup slalom points.  The DVR has also proven it's worth as I've been recording cross-country overnight and getting up early to watch before heading into work.

The schedule for tonight and the weekend is enticing.  Super-G 7PM MST tonight, Women's 4x5 km relay 2:30 AM MST Saturday, Men's GS 6:15 PM MST Saturday, and Men's 4x10 km relay 11:15 PM Saturday.  Throw in some freestyle skiing, and there's much to look forward to.  The main weather concern for these events would be wind, which hasn't been as bad in recent days, but still has shown its ugly face at times.  Hopefully all will go off without weather having a significant impact.

A few comments on the cross country.  I had the good fortune of attending both the Men's 4x10 km and Women's 4x5 km  during the Nagano Games in 1998.  The Men's 4x10 km is the Superbowl of Nordic skiing and at the time, the Norwegian and Italian ski teams had an incredible rivalry, that is well documented in Bud Greenspan's excellent Olympic documentaries.  The Italians upset Norway on their home snow during the Lilliehammer 1994 Olympics, with Silvio Fauner nipping Bjorn Daelie, the greatest male cross-country skier of all time, at the line by 0.4 seconds. 

In Nagano, the Norwegians changed strategy, putting Bjorn Daelie in the second or third leg (I forget which).  Below, Daelie is chasing down a competitor from the Italian team.

Instead they put Thomas Alsgaard, a better sprinter, in the anchor leg and he was able to take the win for Norway at the line by 0.2 seconds.  What a race!

An equally exciting race followed in 2002 in Salt Lake, with Alsgaard once again sprinting to victory.

I think the Norwegian team this year is overwhelming, but these team sprints are often closer than expected and always worth watching. 

Which brings us to the women's 4x5 km relay.  In Nagano 20 years ago, the US team finished in 15th place, just ahead of last place Canada.  I attended the race with high mucky mucks from the US Ski Team and Salt Lake Olympic Committee, who talked at length about how to get better.  It was great to be a fly on the wall for that one. 

Fast forward to 2018 and the US women's team is one of the best in the world and Jessie Diggins has been knocking on the door for Olympic medals.   The US women have never had an Olympic cross country medal and the men haven't had one since 1976.  The 4x5 is in play, as well as the team sprint.  Let us hope that this is the year. 

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