AUDI FIS Ski World Cup

The art of constructing a World Cup racecourse in November

By Katy Savage

Making snow in Vermont in November isn’t always ideal.

The Killington Resort crew operates with a “no regrets plan” when it comes to snowmaking for the World Cup.

Typical snow production at the mountain begins at 27 wet-bulb degrees. Web bulb is the ambient temperature adjusted for humidity. High humidity means the ambient and wet bulb temperature will be approximately the same. If there’s low humidity, the ambient temperature will drop. For snowmaking, low humidity is good; high humidity is bad.

“For the World Cup, we are much more aggressive with the temperatures and produce snow at temperatures at or above the 27 degree number,” said Killington Director of Operations Jeff Temple.

About 120 snow guns are spaced about 20 feet apart on Superstar to maximize snow production. The snow guns create a surface that’s 2 to 4 feet high before it’s groomed.

After the snow is made, the course is built.

Advisor Tom Johnston, from U.S. Ski and Snowboard, typically arrives in Killington mid-November. He’ll ride the Superstar race trail in a groomer. Johnston is tasked with building the terrain, adding rollers beneath the snow and giving the course definition where he sees fit to make the surface more challenging.

If temperatures allow, the course is hosed with water the weekend before the race.  Then, a couple days before the race, the course is injected with water using long pipes with numerous “needles” on them spaced out every few inches. Crews move these bars down the course and inject water down into the surface every six inches or so all the way down. This typically takes almost a day to accomplish, said Temple.  The surface is then groomed immediately.

The goal is to make the course rock hard. When done, the race course is so slippery it can’t be walked on – in fact, most average skiers would not even be able to get their edges into the surface to stand up.

A week before the World Cup, it’s “Snow Control Day.” Johnston makes sure the race course is groomed to perfection and up to FIS racing standard. If Killington (or any FIS World Cup venue) fails “Snow Control Day,” the race could be canceled or postponed.

Photo by Paul Holmes

Course crews inject water into the snow on the Superstar course to achieve maximum firmness for the racers.

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