Scant snowpack in the Tahoe Basin, despite recent storms, has now claimed one of the region’s largest and most historic winter events.The Tahoe Nordic Search andamp; Rescue Team announced Sunday night that it has canceled the 2012 Great Ski Race for only the second time in 36 years due to low snow conditions.The race, which serves as the main fundraising event for Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue (TNSAR), was scheduled for Sunday, March 4.“It was a unanimous decision on behalf of the entire Tahoe Nordic Search andamp; Rescue team, the board of directors and the Great Ski Race committee,” said Chris McConnell, a TNSAR board member. “It’s really a sad decision that weighs heavy on all of us.”The Great Ski Race is one of the largest Nordic races west of the Mississippi River, covering 30 kilometers between Tahoe City and Truckee, and featuring as many as 1,000 participants. In 2005, a record 1,109 people registered to compete.“The Great Ski Race has the reputation of putting on a world-class race, and we felt the conditions we have would not allow us to put on that world-class race, and so we felt canceling it was the right thing to do,” McConnell said, adding that the decision had to be made early to allow those traveling from out of the area to adjust their plans — in addition to the small army of volunteers that help pull off the race.McConnell said the board also carefully considered the potential impact of the weather forecast, which accurately predicted snow this week. But the new snow is dry and not ideal for grooming a trail.“We met again last night (Monday) to discuss it and make sure we didn’t make any hasty decisions,” McConnell said. “The problem is we don’t have a base of snow to go on. The descent into the Cottonwood (to the finish line) is the primary area of concern. There really was no base on it, and we need about 2 to 3 feet of wet snow to groom an effective, safe race course.”The cancellation is a major blow to TNSAR, which uses proceeds from the race to purchase equipment and support winter survival and avalanche education programs. McConnell said TNSAR has submitted for grants to help offset the loss, while many of its devout supporters have donated money anyway.“We’ve seen a good level of support for the Tahoe Nordic Search andamp; Rescue, and we hope we continue to see support,” he said. “The Great Ski Race is our sole fundraiser. It allows us the resources to operate on a daily basis, so this is a huge hit to the team.”The Great Ski Race also was canceled in 1991 due to a lack of snow.
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