1 hr Cross Country
Wednesday, January 13

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Story by Doug Armstrong
Photography by Cheri Smith
Audio by Doug Armstrong


Sixty Minutes at Solitude
ecreational cross country skiing at more than 8,000 feet (2,500 meters) is difficult due to the thin air. The eighteen racers who lined up for the grueling timed one hour cross country event thought it next to impossible. The athletes and spectators became winded during the short walk to the start of the course.

The object of the race was to complete as many laps around as the 1.9 km course as possible within 60 minutes.

The air temperature at Solitude was a brisk 25 degrees F (-3 degrees C) and the snow temperature was 20 degrees F (-7 degrees C). The snow pack was 4 feet (1.3 meters) in depth and the snow was nicely groomed. The course was set into the side of the mountain in a modified figure 8 with more uphill sections than downhill sections.

The venue was Solitude Ski Resort near the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Beautiful mountains full of snow and pine trees could be seen in each direction. The course was lined by 60-80 foot (20-25 meters) tall green pine trees. The trees received a 1-2 inch (2.6-5 cm) dusting of fresh snow overnight. At times the racers skied through tunnels created by the trees.
Light wispy clouds obscured the peaks of the mountains and a light snow began to fall as the race started. Deep into the course the mountain stillness was temporarily broken by the swishing of skis and poles sliding against the hard snow. This contrasted to the start/finish area where most of the spectators were gathered.

The athletes' humor was enjoyed by all each time they completed a lap. Athletes were offered plastic bottles of drinking water after each lap and responses included: "How about some chips and salsa?" or "I really need some tea.....hot tea". The most common question came from out of breath skiers wanting to know "How much time is left?".

All of the athletes appeared to be enjoying themselves and were glad to see the one hour time limit expire.















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Last modified: 11 May 2000