A cross-country skier“s shadow races across a frost-covered fence at Tsalteshi Trails during a competition last weekend. Organizers for the Arctic Winter Games hope lack of snow or other unusual weather conditions don“t hamper the games in March.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Since the week before Christmas, snowfall on the Kenai Peninsula has been light. With the Arctic Winter Games 2006 less than two months away, a question arises.
What if there’s not enough snow?
“Most host societies have a contingency plan to haul in snow,” said Jerry Thick, International Committee president.
Hosts on the peninsula will create and implement such a plan for the 19th staging of the circumpolar sport competition, said Games General Manager Tim Dillon.
“Basically, you can only control certain things,” Dillon said. “We’re doing all our planning. But I see no snow as the same type of problem as the weather being too cold.”
This could be another problem in the category of “What if?” for the Games’ organizers and hosts.
Thick thinks there’s no real need for athletes and fans to worry. But he agrees there is a need to plan for it by the host society.
“We have always had every event that was scheduled,” Thick said of the Games’ history, which dates back to the inaugural in 1970 at Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been close calls.
“In 1992,” Thick recalled, “they had to haul in a little bit of snow for some of the cross-country ski trails in Whitehorse. All the other ones, we’ve been close to having no snow, and we had to put in a little bit of snow in places.”
Dillon said the problem comes when you consider the parameters of the sports involved.
For example, indoor events are obviously unlikely to be affected by outside weather. However, an outdoor event contested over a large area is another situation altogether.
“For some of the smaller sports, some of the games like Dene games, you have two different activities that take place in the snow outside,” Dillon said. “But there’s a big difference in that or putting snow all over Tsalteshi Trails.”
Thick said cold temperatures have been a factor, but never forced a cancellation. He also said the schedule has been altered before when snow had begun to melt, but never completely wiped out competition for an event.
This year’s Games are scheduled to include the nine contingents of Alaska, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Northern Alberta, Northern Quebec, Nunavut, Russian provinces of Magadan and Yamal, Greenland and the Sami people of Norway and Finland.
Dillon and his staff will have a plan in place so visiting athletes won’t have to go home without having competed, but he can’t guarantee it’ll be in perfect conditions.
“We’ve talked about what we can do and can’t do,” Dillon said. “There are some things you can do as far as making snow and trucking snow in. But quality, it changes all that in a big, big way.”
Dillon met with staff Sunday to identify those things that can be done, and he’ll meet again Tuesday with members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough disaster team. Dillon said he hopes to leave that meeting knowing that all aspects of the Games will flow well, given the plans in place by respective transportation and communications teams.
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