Soldier Hollow Ready for Cross Country Championships
The wax cabins have arrived at Soldier Hollow for the U.S. Cross Country Championships. (USSA-Tom Kelly)
SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Jan. 5, 2017) - The 2002 Olympic cross country venue of Soldier Hollow near Midway, UT is preparing for a vital event as the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships begin this Saturday, January 7. Over 600 athletes are expected to compete for U.S. titles as well as spots on upcoming World Championship teams.
Since the 2002 Olympics, Soldier Hollow has been a regular site for the Championships, last held there three years ago in 2014. Most notably this year it will be the final qualifying event for athletes seeking to make the 2017 USANA Nordic Junior World Championships and U23 World Championships teams that will compete on the very same Olympic tracks Jan. 30-Feb. 5. It will be the first time since 1986 in Lake Placid that the top international junior and U23 event will come to America. Over 500 international athletes from nearly 40 nations are expected to come to Utah next month.
The Soldier Hollow team prepares the track. (USSA-Tom Kelly)
The U.S. Championships will also be a component of selection for remaining spots on the 2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland coming up in mid-February, as well as for other important junior and development trips.
The four Championship events will all be a part of the International Ski Federation's Continental Cup program in Canada and the USA: the SuperTour. A large contingent of top Canadian racers is expected to participate.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Championships has grown to become a hugely popular event for U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) cross country clubs across America. With the growing success of the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, cross country membership in American doubled last year and continues to grow.
Heavy snow has fallen in Utah over the past weeks. (USSA-Tom Kelly)
"The popularity of the U.S. Championships is parallel to what we're seeing in the sport across America today," said USSA's Nordic Domestic Programs Director Robert Lazzaroni. "We're seeing that interest in races across the country, including the Slumberland American Birkebeiner and others. Spots for the World Championship teams will be hotly contested and what better spot to do it than to test out the same trails that will be used for the Junior World Championships next month."
Crews at Soldier Hollow have been busy over the holidays, managing heavy snows that have blanketed the Wasatch, with excellent skiing conditions going into the Championships.
"The U.S. Championships are especially important to us at Soldier Hollow this year as we can test our venue and systems for the upcoming Junior World Championships in less than a month," said Soldier Hollow Nordic Center General Manager Stuart Ashe. "It's been a really busy holiday period of trail preparation but we have had fantastic natural snowfall to supplement our own efforts with a manmade snow base. I'm certain athletes will find the trail ready to race this weekend."
Athletes warm up on the Soldier Hollow trails before the U.S. Champs begin on Saturday. (USSA-Tom Kelly)
The event kicks off Saturday, January 7 with mid-distance interval start freestyle technique racing, then features head-to-head classic technique sprint racing on Sunday, January 8. After a one day break, action resumes on Tuesday, January 10 with longer distance classic mass start plus the final day of racing for juniors. The event concludes Thursday, January 12 with freestyle sprints qualification - not a Championship event but results being used for World Championship Team qualification.
The 2017 FIS Nordic Junior World Championship and U23 World Championship teams are expected to be named on Tuesday, January 10.
Spectators are welcome at no charge. The Soldier Hollow trails will also remain open to the public.