Rain 'not necessarily bad' at Harris Hill Ski Jump

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Photo Gallery | Grooming Harris Hill Ski Jump

BRATTLEBORO — Competitor Spencer Knickerbocker, a crew from Evans Construction and several other volunteers braved the cold earlier this week to prepare for the weekend's Harris Hill Ski Jump.

"We're shooting the snow down the in-run to the end and we work our way up and pack it in," said Jason Evans, standing towards the top of Harris Hill as snow periodically dropped from the top and met the others down below. "It's probably a six-hour process."

Evans and the other guys were getting the in-run ready on Monday so any fresh snow or rain would just soak right into it. He leads efforts to prepare for the event.

"The rain's not necessarily a bad thing," he said. "Because it will make this snow that much more dense and pack it together and make it harder in the end."

Skiers travelling from all over the United States and the world will come to Brattleboro's 90-meter ski jump on Saturday and Sunday. Some of the contests will earn them points within the International Ski Federation. The event has been around since 1922.

The track is usually assembled then the Brattleboro Fire Department brings a pick-up truck to the hill and pours 1,000 gallons of water on it. The resource is donated.

"In this case, Mother Nature is going to do that for us," said Evans. "I think we may still get the fire department up here but it will be after we actually cut the track into the snow, which won't be until Wednesday or Thursday depending on the weather. Then they'll come and give us more water basically to freeze it up."

Firefighters run what looks just a little bit bigger than a garden hose to the hill, Evans said, and then they spray the snow.

All the snow was already made by Monday. Evans said they started making it last Thursday then shut it down on Saturday night around 9 p.m.

"We were making the best snow of the whole period because it was about 0 (degrees) on Saturday night at that time. But at the same time, I think we had enough snow at that point so there wasn't any sense in working in the 10 below weather," Evans said. "With the snowmaking, it's always nice to be able to start it up and know the temperatures are going to be cold enough for two days, three days, so you don't have to shut it back down. Because there's so much wasted labor, hooking hoses up, unhooking them."

He waited for the right succession of days to start.

A winch cat came on Wednesday to smooth out the snow. The landing hill was expected to be ready by Thursday.

Last year, the event was held a week earlier. If that had been the case, participants and attendees would have been bracing for a second frigid event in a row.

"That would have been brutal," said Evans. "If it's 40 degrees, twice as many people show up to watch."

Some potential rain on Saturday could hurt attendance.

"It's looking quite mild here for the weekend with high temperatures in the mid- to upper-40s," said Jordan Root, meteorologist at Accuweather. "The question is there's a chance there could be a rain or snow shower early on Saturday, maybe a lingering rain shower on Sunday. I think it's spotty for you guys on Saturday."

However, he said Saturday won't be a rainy wet day. He expects Sunday will clear up and be dry but cloudy.

The weather looks "quite warm" for Brattleboro during this time of year, Root told the Reformer. Dry weather is in Friday's forecast with single digit temperatures in the morning. The afternoon could reach up to 37 degrees.

As long as there's not too much rain or snow, Evans said, "We'll be fine."

If the rain comes down hard, Evans' crew will put a piece of plastic over a section of the in-run to protect the track.

The landing hill below the jump is handled by volunteers with rakes. If a glaze comes over the hill, Evans said they will have to rake it off.

"The track basically wants to be ice," he explained. "So that's not so much of a big deal. They just can't be landing on glare ice. There needs to be some kind of grip to it."

The parking lot does not pose as many problems as it has in previous years. The ground, which used to be a cornfield, is now covered with grass. The anticipated warm weather could still create sloppy conditions. The town usually sends plows to move snow if needed.

"I think it will hold up fine. It's supposed to get up to 40 (degrees) or something but I don't think it's going to affect the field too badly," said Evans, who along with other volunteers will set up safety fences, banners and do "anything that needs to get done."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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