The Club

The Club

Predela 2

Predela 2

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Weather/BNB fixing 17.01.20

20° Sofia 21° Plovdiv
20° Burgas 17° Stara Zagora
21° Varna 20° Rousse
CHF 1.59816 GBP 2.31651 USD 1.4962 is a member of

World Cup heat

Casting a glance through the window it is difficult to contemplate how a FIS World Cup event could be staged in Bulgaria at the end of February. Spring made an annoying and unexpected crash-in at the beginning of the month, as temperatures rose suddenly and flirted with the 20C mark, and with snow melting rapidly, the Bansko organisers will be forgiven if they are feeling just a little bit peeved.

The unwanted heat wave is cursed by organisers and regular tourists alike, as skiers and mountaineers have been waiting for the arrival of winter since – well for about a year, really. And if reports by the Bulgarian meteorological service are anything to go by, predicting a second cold front no earlier than February 22-23, then one can only hope that the alpine skiing World Cup event will be salvaged. The harsh reality is that even before the heatwave descended, this winter proved to be a massive washout and a gross digression from what was heralded to be as a "particularly cold and heavy season".

Admittedly, it was cold, but the snow cover has been nowhere to be seen. At Aleko, the ski resort near Sofia, the snow never exceeded 30cm at the best of times, when it should have been well above 80cm. Todorka in Bansko barely managed 70cm while it should have reached at about 200cm by now, and the situation is similarly disappointing in Borovets and other ski resorts across the country. There are just barely 50cm of snow in yet another ski resort in Pirin Mountains, Bezbog, where in mid-February the snow cover habitually reaches 260-300cm. According to the Bulgarian Mountain Rescue Service website, there were just 50cm of snow at the Markoudjik slopes in Borovets, at an elevation of more than 2300m.

As of February 9, there were no forecasts for new snowfall over the next 10 days, and with temperatures this warm, the snow cannons deployed in Bansko and other major resorts simply cannot operate at full capacity. This means that organisers in Bansko will have to wait out the warm spell until February 22 and then hope for the cold front to linger on while they blast out the artificial snow and pile up the snow to a level acceptable for a World Cup race.

The men's World Cup leg in Bansko will start with super combined on February 26, followed by slalom the next day, on the Bunderitsa slope, which will be closed for the 10 days prior to the race for tourists, so that the slope can be treated.

Fingers crossed, the weather will improve (or deteriorate, depending on your stance) and the World Cup's return to Bansko will be a cracker, like the women's World Cup leg in 2009 was. Bulgarian fans will be treated to two days of top class skiing and the cream of international skiers, including Ivica Kostelic from Croatia, the current leader in the World Cup standings with 1249 points, and his closest pursuers: Didier Cuche from Switzerland, Aksel Lund Svindal from Norway, Silvan Zurbriggen from Switzerland, and Romeo Baumann of Austria (575). American skier Bode Miller will also be one of the fans' favourites, in spite of him being down in 10th place in the World Cup rankings.

While Kostelic's lead in the overall standings is all but unassailable, and he has already wrapped up this season's super combined title, a good showing in Bansko would help him secure his second slalom World Cup after the one he won in 2002. The Croatian never won the overall World Cup before but he has been the most dominant skier this season and is likely to win the trophy this year.

The World Cup leg will cost Bulgaria between 4.5 million and five million leva, half of which were provided by the Government. With this unexpected weather though, the final tally could end up higher, although potential extra expenses could be offset by the private sponsorship secured by organisers.

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