Ten days before the Suzuki Nine Knights competition was scheduled to begin, the big air contest has been cancelled as a result of lackluster snow conditions in the Nebelhorn region of the Alps in Germany. The event, which would have been in its fourth year, was scheduled to take place April 16.
"The plan was to progress the sport in terms of building the perfect jump and [having] the guys do triples," said event organizer Nico Zacek. But, after meeting with the event crew at the Oberstdorf resort on Monday to assess snow conditions, Zacek was forced to call off the competition and the film and photo shoots that are part of it. "We figured we could neither progress in terms of beauty nor in terms of being super sure that this is going to be the spot where the sport would be progressed."
Snow conditions have been less than optimal for most of the 2010-11 season in the Alps. While North American resorts are enjoying record-breaking seasons, Europe has been left mostly high and dry. The base in the Nebelhorn region is roughly 1.6 meters, or just over five feet. Two weeks ago, a snowfall of 70 centimeters broke the drought in the Nebelhorn, but persistent sun and warm temperatures has made most of that disappear.
"All the locals said, there's always late snow coming," Zacek said. "But so far it hasn't. Right now I'm in Innsbruck and I'm wearing a t-shirt."
The snow that remains at the Obsertdorf resort was badly suited to build the event's castle-shaped feature, which would require about 35,000 cubic meters. "The snow that is there is three months old. It's super mushy," Zacek said.
According to Zacek, conditions are such that snow cats would not be able to get enough grip to move snow at the site, which is located high on the resort and out of range of snowmaking equipment. Depots held catchments of snow reserved for the contest, but reduced snowfall and warm temperatures meant there was little extra snow to be found. The resort offered to take snow from groomed areas to support the event, but dirty, poor quality snow was deemed not good enough.
"We don't see any way to guarantee the high standard that we've delivered the last three years or that we've just delivered with Nine Queens," Zacek said. "I didn't want to destroy the reputation of the event. I'll be very motivated for next year, with new plans for the Nine Knights."