PEI

The snow must go on! Biathlon PEI hosting 4 events — despite weather challenges

This winter's fluctuating temperatures are making for some challenging conditions at the Brookvale Nordic Centre where Biathlon PEI is hosting four major competitions in 2018. Organizers had to truck in machine-made snow and even had volunteers with shovels and toboggans out on the trails.

Volunteers making the trails Mother Nature won't provide

Biathlon PEI will host four major competitions this winter so they need the trails to be snow-covered. (Biathlon PEI/Facebook)

This winter's fluctuating temperatures are making for some challenging conditions at the Brookvale Nordic Centre where Biathlon PEI is hosting four major competitions in 2018.

It's the second year in a row organizers have had to truck in snow to keep from cancelling events.

For the first competition last month, organizers had to bring in machine-made snow from the alpine centre and even had volunteers with shovels and toboggans out on the trails.

"We had to build a loop through the stadium and around one of the trails to actually run that, there was actually no snow here at all," said Bob Bentley, director of introductory programs for Biathlon PEI.

"This is what we have to do when Mother Nature does not co-operate."

The goal is build a thick base of machine-made snow that can withstand the fluctuating temperatures. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The trucks and loaders were back on the site on Wednesday to add another 800 metres of trail. The goal is to build a deep base of machine-made snow that can endure the see-saw temperatures.

"What we've had is a lot of up and down temperatures so we get a little bit of snow, next day it's gone," Bentley said.

"Without this base of snow, that lasts pretty well, we really would have nothing to train our athletes on or run the competitions that we are running this year."

The groomer from the ski hill is on loan to help spread the snow. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The heavy equipment is being donated and the groomer is on loan from the ski hill.

"This is a very substantial amount of work, it's a very expensive proposition to make that snow, truck it over here and spread it around," Bentley said. 

"We can't get snow to all of the trails at this stage of the game so we're actually moving snow with toboggans and shovels."

Three trucks and two graders were hauling snow to built another 800 metres of ski trail at the Brookvale nordic centre Wednesday. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The venue received $100,000 in upgrades in 2017, including lighting in the stadium area and on part of the trail. The hope is to extend the lighting to more trails as funds become available.

P.E.I. is bidding on the 2023 Canada Games, which will mean more upgrades to meet international biathlon rules.

"We're really hoping that the bid committee will see their way clear to add snowmaking as one of the significant upgrades as a legacy," said Stephen Hale, a coach and head of the Biathlon PEI development committee.

"It's really required that we can guarantee snow at the venue and that man made snow is much easier if it just comes directly out of a snow gun on to the trail."

On some parts of the trail, volunteers have gone with toboggans and shovels to add snow. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Hale said the Canada Games could be a big boost for biathlon.

"It's been a lot of years since there was any significant upgrade to the venue, the rules have changed and we're just making do now," Hale said.

"But to be really ready to host the rest of Canada in 2023, it's going to be a significant capital outlay.

Hale points out that the new lighting and the trucked-in snow also benefit cross country skiers who want to come out and use the trails.

The stadium area and range now have lights, as do some of the trails. Organizers hope to add more lighting as funding permits. (Biathlon PEI/Facebook)

But above all, the work on the trails is crucial for the biathlon organizers and their athletes, some of whom are preparing for the Eastern Canadian biathlon championships and the Canadian cadet championships in March.

"We would not be able to run a competition given these pretty significant weather pattern changes," Hale said.

Without the trucked in snow, the athletes would have to travel to find a place to train. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"It means they actually have a venue that they can train on, otherwise they would be travelling throughout the Maritimes finding snow wherever they can," Bentley said.

"Hopefully Mother Nature will be kind to us over the next and we'll get some decent snow on top of that."

About the Author

Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water rowing, travelling to Kenya or walking her dog. Nancy.Russell@cbc.ca