The “Rosa Ski Dream” is shaping up to be a nightmare for the second season in a row on the women’s World Cup tour at the site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games of Sochi, Russia. Never-ending snowfall stymied all five days of the women’s speed program in Rosa Khutor in March of 2019, and similar circumstances have now wiped out the first four days of this year’s edition as well.
Warm temperatures followed by heavy snowfall wreaked havoc on the speed track where the women were slated to contest both downhill and super-G over the February 1-2 weekend. After three consecutive days of downhill training were cancelled due to continued rain and snowfall plus unfavorable course conditions, an aggressive plan was devised to hold both a training run and the downhill race from the reserve start on Saturday.
“The weather forecast says that we will have snowfall probably until 9:00 [Friday]. We can expect 20 to 30 centimeters of new snow again. But the course crew will work on the course to re-prepare it and to make it clean and ready for tomorrow,” said FIS Chief Race Director Peter Gerdol on Friday morning when the last scheduled training run was cancelled. “During the night we will most likely have some hours of clear sky and quite cold temperatures which could help us make the surface hard enough and good enough to have this program for [Saturday].”
Athletes prepared for a 10 a.m. downhill training run with a race to follow at 12:30 p.m. But the snow hung around longer than expected and the clear skies and colder temperatures were tardy in their arrival. Blue skies, sunshine, and a majestic winter scene greeted skiers on Saturday morning, but the race jury had to cancel the day’s downhill program at Rosa Khutor.
“Today, unfortunately, the course was not safe enough to have a race. The course crew did a great job during the night. Yesterday, we had snowfall until 3:00 in the morning and the temperatures were still not cold enough … nevertheless, the guys here did a great job preparing everything: the nets, the safety installations on the sides,” remarked Gerdol on Saturday morning. “But the snow surface itself was not hard enough, and this – for us – is always the main concern. The safety of the athletes is the absolute priority, always, and so in this case the decision was not to race because of the possible safety issues for the athletes.”
The racers have made the very best of the situation by exploring the ski area and Rosa Khutor village. On Thursday evening, several jumped at the opportunity to push for speed on a slightly different kind of track – the 2014 Olympic bobsled run. To the entertainment of teammates and fellow competitors, Ilka Stuhec, Federica Brignone, and Kajsa Vickhoff Lie managed to flip their bobsled for the first time in track history since it opened for public rides. Thankfully, they were uninjured and quickly jumped back in for a second go-around.
Organizers and race officials are hopeful that the short weather window with clear skies and cold temperatures on Saturday will enable them to prepare the hill sufficiently for Sunday’s super-G race so the whole week is not a total loss.
The cancelled downhill race could potentially be replaced in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, or Crans-Montana, Switzerland, the final two venues with downhills on the schedule that could accommodate an additional day of competition. The FIS has not yet announced if either one of these locations will take on the event.