Examining Our Past: Right now, lack of snow not a big Games' concern

This article originally ran Jan. 13, 2012.

Both Winter Games' manager Bonnie Feakes and chairman Brad Schneider suggest the lack of snow won't create many problems for the upcoming event, even so, contingency plans have been put in place. File photo

Share Adjust Comment Print

Editor’s Note: This article originally ran Jan. 13, 2012. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are tapping into our archives more, particularly for arts and sports. This special section will return to its regular schedule when the crisis concludes with Alberta reaching Phase 3 of its relaunch.

By Gord Montgomery

Sports Editor

No snow doesn’t necessarily mean ‘no go’ for the outdoor events scheduled to happen during the 2012 Alberta Winter Games in the tri-municipal area.

In a winter that’s been downright rude to tow truck drivers, snow removal companies, hardware stores selling shovels and snow blowers and yes, Winter Games organizers, the lack of the white stuff on the ground will have, at best, a minimal effect on the staging of the games, Brad Schneider and Bonnie Feakes suggest.

Schneider, the games’ chair and Feakes, the games’ manager, said last week that in the worst-case scenario, one event at most could be lost due to the lack of snow cover.

“We’ve talked about this the last while,” Schneider said, noting the weather that has been present for the most part this winter would be ideal for the week of the games. “That said, we’ve got a month of Alberta winter to go (before the games kick off on Feb. 9) and things could change.”

He continued by saying there are only five of 22 sports that are dependent on snow to take place: alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, biathlon and cross country skiing. Of those, only the last sport is in danger of possibly being wiped out should more rain than snowfall from now until the major sporting event begins.

“Rabbit Hill (alpine skiing) and Sawatine (near Westlock for freestyle skiing and snowboarding) make their own snow so they’re OK. Biathlon is at the Strathcona Nordic Centre and they want snow so they do have contingencies to shorten up the track or have the athletes run instead of ski,” Schneider said of a worst-case scenario.

That leaves one outdoor sport that relies heavily on snow to happen – cross country skiing, scheduled to run at Chickakoo Lake.

“We’re still crossing our fingers there will be some snow, and there’s time left. When it comes down to it at the very end, if we need to make the call (to cancel) it will be ourselves and the foundation and the sport association,” the chairman explained. “Really, it’s out of our hands then. It’s their decision – we’re a party to it, but it’s their decision.”

While it’s a long trip from southern Alberta to the tri-muni area only to find out you can’t compete as an athlete because of weather/terrain conditions, Feakes agreed, things like that can, and have happened.

“If it’s cancelled, it’s cancelled, but we’re not even close to being there yet,” she said. “If we have to take the kids out of the region, we’re looking at that option or we’ll possibly considering some in-region options but it’s too preliminary at this point to take too much time to worry about contingency planning. Now we’re just waiting to see.”

The final calls on pulling the plug on any event are up to the Alberta Sport Council and the sport foundations. Options will be weighed carefully before any drastic measures are taken but everything will be considered and decided upon if, and when, such a time comes. There is also the possibility of rescheduling events but again, that is something that only comes at the time a decision is made to postpone a sport.

Schneider, in pointing out “there will never be an event held that creates a danger to the athletes,” added the snow conditions at Rabbit Hill at present were extremely good.

“They have a ton of snow, three feet in some areas and the snow breaks down quite nicely,” due to the warm weather. “You can stand at the top of the hill and look at the area around and it’s bare, but where the ski hill is, it’s well-covered. I do think the ski hills themselves will be OK. Those sports don’t concern me – it’s the biathlon and cross country skiing that do.”

If the need is seen to truck snow for venues — if any can be found to do so — there is money for such plans, Feakes said.

“There are funds allocated for that. We haven’t looked that far down the road yet.”

Surprisingly, the lack of snow really isn’t the biggest fear of organizers,” Feakes suggested.

“I think if we were looking at frigid temperatures, going into a deep freeze during the games, that would be more of a concern,” she explained. “Ultimately, the only thing that would prevent more events from taking place than a lack of snow would be cold. Cold can actually create a much broader spectrum of problems.”

So, while no one’s pushing the panic button yet over the lack of snow, hopes remain high some will fall prior to the biggest provincial sporting event of the year kicking off.

“We’d like to see more obviously but what we don’t want to see is two feet of snow and 30 below that weekend,” Schneider stated. “We love this weather but if we can get a foot of snow between now and then, that would be ideal.”

Thus this unusual weather pattern this winter is leaving the organizers of the 2012 Alberta Winter Games smiling in anticipation of a successful, weather-friendly event for athletes and spectators alike if the present conditions can continue for another month.

If you know of any sports news or events happening in the area, email jothomas@postmedia.com