Great Ski Race canceled for second time in three years |

Great Ski Race canceled for second time in three years

Sylas Wright
More than 750 cross-country skiers line up to compete in a past Great Ski Race from Tahoe City to Truckee. The race is set for this Sunday.
File photo |

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TAHOE CITY, Calif. — The Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team is not interested in putting on a “Good” Ski Race.

The region’s historic point-to-point cross-country race, as its name implies, should be nothing short of Great, said Chris McConnell, president of the Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team and co-organizer of the annual Great Ski Race.

Due to the lack of snowpack in the Truckee area, the Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team on Wednesday made the difficult decision to cancel its main fundraiser for the second time in three years. It was the third cancellation in the 38-year history of the Great Ski Race.

“It’s definitely a disappointment. But Mother Nature is control of that,” McConnell said. “The decision ultimately came down to the conditions. We asked ourselves, ‘Can we truly put on a Great Ski Race?’ That’s something we feel is important to the reputation and legacy of the race.

“We want to be proud of the race, and conditions just wouldn’t allow it.”

The race, which begins at the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area in Tahoe City and finishes 30 kilometers later at the Cottonwood Restaurant and Bar in Truckee, was scheduled for Sunday, March 2.

The event remains one of the largest cross-country races west of the Mississippi. It draws between 500 and 1,000 participants annually to its wooded trail, which features 1,200 feet of uphill and 1,800 feet of downhill before ending on a steep pitch in front of the Cottonwood, where a festive party greets the participants.

Conditions have been less than ideal in recent years, however.

Last year, despite a steady rain that deteriorated the course and made for challenging skiing, 750 people registered and 609 reached the finish line, while in 2012, the race was canceled due to insufficient snowpack. The race was canceled only one other time, in the 1980s.

“You wonder if climate change is a factor, or if it’s just a blip on the radar and we’re going to come back with a banner winter next year. I hope so,” McConnell said, adding that the Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team — a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization — is exploring options to hold a different fundraiser to recoup its losses. “This is our primary fundraiser, so it’s tough to make up for it. The Great Ski Race is the main source of our nonprofit revenue that basically funds our entire operation for a year.”

One option that McConnell and crew considered was to move the race to Royal Gorge, as the cross-country resort atop Donner Summit offered to host. A poll conducted on the Far West Nordic website indicated that enough people were interested.

“In 48 hours we got hundreds of responses, so that was encouraging,” McConnell said. “But at the end of the day, with the bar that we’ve set … I think nobody felt like we could put on a great race given the conditions that we’ve been dealt by Mother Nature. Royal Gorge has good skiing, but they don’t have the requirements for us to put on a 30-kilometer ski race for hundreds of people, and even potentially up to a thousand people.”

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