For the first time since its launch in 1977, there’ll be no Winter Classic ski racing series this year after NZSki pulled the pin on the locals’ institution, due to lack of snow.
Conditions have achieved what Covid couldn’t, with the event going ahead during the depths of the pandemic.
Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr says ‘‘shit snow’’ forced the event to be postponed a few times before finally ‘‘running out of calendar’’.
‘‘We got to the point it just couldn’t run, so we’ve taken the difficult decision of canning it.’’
To be held at Coronet Peak on three consecutive Wednesdays, the schedule would have had the last day of racing last week, in time for the first of the FIS racing events on Thursday.
If the Winter Classic is akin to a social club rugby comp, then FIS races are Test matches where elite racers compete to earn spots in the likes of World Championships, World Cups and Olympics.
Kerr says even though the Winter Classic is run on the Easy Rider trail, separate to the FIS events held on numerous other trails, the sheer logistics needed make it impossible to run the events simultaneously.
Compounding the poor snow conditions, only two entrants had registered to compete in the Classic, he says.
‘‘It made it really hard to commit to the effort.’’
However, one of those entrants, Browns Ski Shop owner Paul ‘Haggis’ Vaitkus who had booked for the teams event, blames poor communication from race organisers for the lack of registrations.
‘‘There were new people running the event and there wasn’t a lot of communication.
‘‘The snow wasn’t there, so a lot of people think it’s not happening.
‘‘There’s normally a lot going on through Facebook, but [this year] there was not a lot going on through the usual channels.’’
Vaitkus, who has competed in the classic every year since 1987, says his ski shop was a focal point for a community disappointed not to have the races.
‘‘It was getting pushed off weekly — if they just said ‘everyone should register then we’ll have an event’ then people would have registered.
‘‘There’s a disconnect there.’’
Kerr says he can’t dispute ‘‘that [poor communication] isn’t correct from his [Vaitkus’s] point of view’’.
‘‘We have got a new crew this year, it’s a rebuild and that is a challenge … they are the facts we can’t hide from.’’
The Classic used to attract about 100 entrants, but participation has fallen to about 30 or 40 for the past 10 years, Kerr says.
The series is managed by Coronet Peak head of race and events Brenner Hiroshi Yamada, who started in May.
Kerr says he has been speaking with Yamada about how to revamp the event for next year.
‘‘He’s very excited, he’s come in fresh and he’s learning, but he’s pretty keen to work with us to make it something special and fun.
‘‘When we made the decision to cancel for this year … we also made the decision to rebuild it for next year and look at the calendar better so we don’t get caught in this situation again.
‘‘This is not the last you’ve seen of the Winter Classic.
‘‘You’ll see it next year.’’
In past poor snow seasons, the event has been shifted to The Remarkables.
Kerr considered that poss ibility, but says The Remarks are just ‘‘too busy’’ to accommodate it now.