Feb 13, 2024 - Climate

Minneapolis organizers scramble to make snow for World Cup cross country ski race

Workers stand by equipment at Wirth Park

Crews work on the Theodore Wirth Park cross country ski trails. Photo: Nick Halter/Axios

Claire Wilson's phone lit up with text messages on Friday morning as a few flakes of snow fell outside the Theodore Wirth Park Trailhead building.

  • "Anytime there are snowflakes I get texts from everyone," the executive director of the Loppet Foundation told Axios as she looked out at crews in the park. Wilson could have used a lot more text messages this year.

Why it matters: Minneapolis is hosting the first World Cup cross-country ski race in the U.S. since 2001, and this winter has been the warmest and least snowy on record. That has pushed Wilson to beg and borrow to ensure a proper course for the event.

State of play: Less than two weeks ago, the race wasn't a sure thing as Wilson's staff and volunteers tried to build trails wide and deep enough to satisfy the International Ski Federation. With no wiggle room on dates or venues, cancellation was on the table. But the federation gave organizers the green light after around-the-clock snowmaking.

Catch up fast: With fewer than eight inches of snow this season and frequent temperatures in the 40s and 50s β€” too warm to make snow β€” building trails has been a Sisyphean challenge.

  • The Hyland Park Reserve donated 28 truckloads of snow, mainly for staging areas that would otherwise be mud.
  • Three Rivers Park District and Ramsey County loaned snow-making machines.
  • Wirth Park neighbor and sponsor Mortenson provided big blankets to cover the snow from rain last week.

What they're saying: "The whole Nordic ski community has rallied around this," Wilson said. "It's incredible."

The big picture: A successful race has implications beyond Minneapolis, where 30,000 spectators are expected. World Cup races are primarily held in Europe, but Wilson is hopeful that a well-executed Twin Cities race will entice the cup to make the U.S. an annual stop.

Zoom in: Afton-raised gold medalist Jessie Diggins helped bring the event here and she'll be a headliner for the weekend.

How to watch: Regular admission tickets are sold out, but VIP tickets are available. Free to stream on Outside Watch.

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