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Deteriorating conditions cancel part of Friday World Cup downhill race at Aspen Mountain

Canadian ski racer James Crawford skis into the finish area of the Stifel America's Downhill course at Aspen Mountain on March 3, 2023. Crawford was one of only 23 competitors in a field of 59 who made it down the hill before deteriorating conditions prompted officials to call off the race and scratch the results.
Kaya Williams
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Aspen Public Radio
Canadian ski racer James Crawford skis into the finish area of the Stifel America's Downhill course at Aspen Mountain on March 3, 2023. Crawford was one of only 23 competitors in a field of 59 who made it down the hill before deteriorating conditions prompted officials to call off the race and scratch the results.

A World Cup men’s downhill race at Aspen Mountain was canceled partway through the competition Friday due to winter weather that impacted visibility and course conditions.

Some of the first racers out of the gates around 11:30 a.m. clocked times that were seconds faster than the training runs they took on the same course the day before. And after skiing down the route in advance of the races Friday, course forerunner Cheyenne Brown said the track was much firmer and “way faster” that morning than it had been Thursday.

But as more racers headed down the hill, mellow overcast skies turned dark and stormy and fresh snow started to coat the course. Athletes in later starting positions struggled to match the speeds of their earlier-starting competitors, and the racers who had the earliest starts remained at the top of the leaderboard.

Only 23 racers in the field of 59 made it down the hill before officials called off the race and scratched the results.

The International Ski Federation (F.I.S.) requires at least 30 athletes to compete in order for the results to count toward World Cup points.

Canadian racer Broderick Thompson was slated to start in 39th position. He didn’t get to compete Friday, but recognized that the weather clearly favored athletes who started earlier.

“I was definitely hoping to [race], yeah, but with these conditions and it being a little bit unfair, it’s a good call and that’s the way it goes,” Thompson said.

Announcer Chris Ernst, also known as "Uncle E," chats with a group of fans from Norway during the Audi F.I.S. Ski World Cup downhill race at Aspen Mountain on March 3, 2023.
Kaya Williams
/
Aspen Public Radio
Announcer Chris Ernst, also known as "Uncle E," chats with a group of fans from Norway during the Audi F.I.S. Ski World Cup downhill race at Aspen Mountain on March 3, 2023. Though the races were off to a speedy start, the event was canceled partway through the competition due to winter weather and deteriorating conditions on the course.

Another men’s downhill is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. and a super-G is slated for Sunday at 10 a.m.

But the International Ski Federation warned in a web post Friday that “heavy winter conditions… could further disrupt the men’s races in Aspen this weekend.”

The National Weather Service is forecasting a snowy and windy weekend, with wind gusts as high as 35 to 45 miles per hour in Aspen. A chance of snow showers is in the forecast into Friday night before skies clear briefly, with more snow possible Saturday night into Sunday.

Though the forecast may generate some excitement for recreational skiers seeking a soft surface and fresh tracks, U.S. Ski Team coach Ben Black explained earlier this week that new snow accumulation isn’t such good news for World Cup racers who need a slick surface to clock their fastest times.

"It's great for everyone who wants to go powder skiing,” Black said. “But the reality of it is, it's the last thing we want to see as Alpine racers. … From an alpine racing standpoint, we'd rather have a nice, icy, firm surface.”

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.