The year 2013 has been a very dry one for Central Oregon, and the lack of moisture has left snow levels below normal for the U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle.
“(It) is just a fun thing to do that extends my ski season into the spring,” said Julie Downing, an outdoor enthusiast from Bend. She will be participating in her 18th PPP this Saturday. “It is challenging. By the end, you know you’re breathing hard.”
Downing will be racing the cross-country ski, long-distance run and kayak portions of the race. Most of her time preparing is focused on the cross-country leg. But a lack of snow and difficult slushy snow conditions at the Nordic Ski Center are the worst she has seen in a long time.
“When I did it in 1992 and 1993, we had years when they had to put straw down when there was hardly any snow. So we’ve been through this before,” said Downing. “But in the last 10 or 15 years, yeah, this is one of the lowest (snow) years."
Other PPP participants feel the same. Carolyn Daubeny will be racing the course alone, and she feels slushy conditions on Saturday will make the cross-country portion the most difficult.
“This is the least amount of snow I’ve seen in the five recent years I have done it, and the six years I’ve lived here,” said Daudeny.
For an average season, Mt Bachelor receives 370 inches of snow between early September and late May. This season, a total of 352 inches has fallen on the mountain.
That puts this season 18 inches under the average. That may not sound terrible, but most of that snowfall was received early in the year.
SNOTEL observation stations in the Cascades report only 39 inches of new snow since March 1st. And the last time a measurable amount of snow fell in the Cascades was over a month ago, on April 8th. It is this lack of snow that has already turned much of Bachelor into big pools of mud.
“The warm temperatures (have) affected our snowpack here,” said Mt Bachelor spokesman Andy Goggins. “This time of year we turn into farmers.”
Goggins says when conditions are warm and snow is lacking, groomers take to farming snow across the mountain -- essentially moving areas of snow from once side of the mountain to the other, such as down to the Nordic Ski Center.
“We definitely pull from areas we have snow and we put it on the runs, so that the primary runs and snow surface is skiable. It’s all about farming and providing a great on-hill product,” said Goggins.
Even with snow being relocated onto the cross-country track, Daudeny expects a difficult race.
“You get to those slushy spots, and have the start-stop conditions. I’ve had a few good crashes because of those kinds of conditions,” she said.
Experienced racers like Daudeny and Downing plan to prepare their skis with a special type of wax, to try to counter the slushy and warm snowpack.
“You have to make sure your skies are prepared really well. And that you have rills in your skies, like little lines, and the right wax,” said Downing. “And just realize it’s going to take you a little bit longer, and it will be slushy.”
And even though conditions will be more difficult, Daudeny is happy to share the course with other racers.
“It’s the biggest thing in Bend, and it’s definitely the one that the whole community gets behind," she said.
"People who don’t do any other race all year will get together and do a family team or something. It’s great to see that participation -- it’s the one event where the masses come out. It’s more fun that way, with the big numbers.”