The beautiful blue skies this winter are ideal for getting outside and soaking up the sun, but detrimental to the University of Oregon Ski Team. A competitive alpine ski racing club, UO Ski saw two of its four races leading up to the national tournament cancelled due to the temperate weather conditions.
The Western Regional Tournament, UO Ski’s final event before the national tournament, was held from Feb. 18-21 in McCall, Idaho at Brundage Mountain Resort. A few Duck skiers fell during their runs and were unable to finish, which was a result of their inability to effectively prepare.
“We didn’t ski our best and unfortunately did not qualify for nationals like we should have,” sophomore Mackenzie Moran said. “It would have been in our budget to actually go this year, and other years it has not. There hasn’t been a lot of snow this year so we haven’t been able to train at all. Regionals was kind of it for us.”
The national tournament will be held in Bend this year, and is close to home for many of Oregon’s skiers. The unfavorable weather unfortunately prevented the team from undergoing any outside training on the slopes prior to its competitions, which was the only time the team was able to practice at the gates during races.
“We have brand new gates that we can’t even utilize because there’s no snow on the ground,” team captain and president Megan Ganim said. “We haven’t been able to utilize those gates for two years now.”
Normall, the team practices twice a week at Hoodoo Ski Area in Sisters, Oregon. The ski resort has been affected by the lack of precipitation in western Oregon the past two years. Last season, Hoodoo Ski Area couldn’t open until Feb. 7 — the latest date in its 76-year history — and has been open for just 11 days in the 2015 season.
With puddles and vegetation peeking through the mere 1.8 inches of snow at the base, Hoodoo manager Matthew McFarland said it would need around 21 inches by mid-March or it may close for the rest of the season.
“It’s something you expect maybe once a decade, but twice in a row like this is a little crazy,” McFarland said to the Statesman Journal. “All the old-timers are saying they’ve seen this before, but never twice in a row.”
Co-captain Jake Railton, who was named United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association’s Northwest Men’s Alpine Division Skier of the Year in 2014, came into the tournament as the points leader in his division. He finished in the top ten in each of his races, but unexpectedly did not qualify for nationals due to a rule technicality.
Although they won’t be competing, many Oregon skiers are still going to Bend to watch the nationals, cheer on friends and volunteer. They may not be able to predict the weather, but they’ll be ready to go when the snowfall hits.
“We make the best of it,” Ganim said. “Maybe it puts us at a disadvantage as far as not training, but there are about 13 of us on the team and we all just rally and shred as fast as we can.”
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Editor’s note: Megan Ganim is an employee of the Emerald Media Group.