• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Otway trails ready for Haywood NorAm races

      February 18, 2016

      Prince George Citizen: It was raining lightly most of the afternoon Wednesday at Otway Nordic Centre - just the kind of weather Jim Burbee hates to see.

      Last time Burbee checked, there was still a month of winter left on the calendar, but with El Nino still in effect, abundant snowfalls and cold temperatures typical for this time of year have failed to materialize.

      The good news for 315 skiers entered in this weekend's Haywood NorAm/Buff Sprints Western Canadian cross-country skiing championships is there's still enough snow to race at Otway. Most of the trails in use for the races are on north-facing slopes which don't get much direct sun when it's lying low on the horizon in winter and conditions should be fine for three days of racing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

      "We're living on the edge, there's no secret recipe - every day it changes." said Jim Burbee, the chief of competition.

      "The dusting of new snow Monday and Tuesday) helped a lot because we've got the frozen stuff we grind up and this fine stuff binds it together and it skis better. It really changes the nature of snow so it doesn't ice up. It's easier to manage and it slows the course down too. It makes it a lot easier to wax for classic. All it takes is one thaw or one little shower and then we're back to fast."

      Ken Hannah, the chief groomer for the host Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, has experience working at Whistler and Sun Peaks and Burbee says he's done a masterful job preserving the five- or six-inch base now covering the trails.

      Racing starts Friday with interval start skate races. The Buff classic-technique sprints are on Saturday, followed on Sunday by a mass start classic race on Sunday. Today is a training day...