By Gerry Furseth
CANMORE, Alberta — Monday brought the first official training day at Canmore for the Ski Tour Canada. Warm and sunny conditions greeted the athletes, bringing smiles to a lot of faces after some cold weather in the first week.
The day started sunny and -2 degrees Celsius (28 Fahrenheit), quickly warming up as the day progressed. This is fairly typical March weather at Canmore: below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Away from the course, most of the snow has melted, but the skiing is still good, especially in the morning with fast, slightly crusty, tracks.
Almost all of the snow base is manmade; locals say that is what makes the trails so consistently firm this time of year. The Tuesday classic sprint, Wednesday skiathlon, and Friday skate distance races are all scheduled early enough to hit the prime conditions, with only the final pursuit on Saturday in the late afternoon.
The new sprint course looks like a lollipop with two laps around the head, with the start and finish sections are unchanged. It seems much more double pole friendly than the old course, especially with fast snow. Listening to the wax testing, it seemed as if people weren’t finding one perfect pair of skis for the whole sprint course. Picking the right part of the course to select skis for may turn out to be critical. For the men, choosing between classic and skate skis may be difficult.
The distance courses had highly varied conditions by the end of the afternoon. Some exposed sections at the bottom were nearly slush. The top of the course was still crusty and fast. The mid-elevation sections varied greatly by sun exposure, with crust, wet transformed snow, and sugar all represented. The final pursuit on Saturday afternoon is expected to have similar weather; if so, there could be some significant changes in standings.
The distance courses are hard, with long climbs at 1,400 meters (nearly 4,600 feet) elevation. Some skiers were looking tired after four races and a travel day, others were energized.
A light snowfall in Monday evening brought the first fresh snow in weeks.
The Stage 5 classic sprint begins at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time with the women’s qualifier, followed by the men’s qualifier at 11:10 a.m. Heats start at 1 p.m. MT.
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