This winter's dismal snowfall have put the Lunar Cup, traditionally held around the Fourth of July, in risk of disappearing from the summer calendar along with the rapidly vanishing snowpack. But Manning and his devoted crew of Lunar Cup volunteers, not to be deterred by Mother Nature, have taken it upon themselves to bump up this year's event to June. Nearly a month early than usual, this year's Lunar Cup will take place this Sunday, June 11, starting at 9 a.m.
"The goal is always to hold it near the Fourth of July, but the real Lunar Cup tradition is that it is a local ski race held in the summer," said Manning. "And I just didn't have the heart to cancel it."
Warm and dry spring weather conditions have made quick work of erasing what remains of the snow from the region's mountain tops. Manning, a 13-year Telluride local, is among many who have commented on the unpredictability of the seasons in recent years. "It seems like you used to be able to say that on this date there would almost definitely be snow at this location," said Manning. "But as anyone who skis here a lot can tell you, it seems like the changing of the seasons is becoming much more dramatic than it used to be. It's either feast or famine.
"Last year it stayed cool in the spring and kept snowing," he said, allowing for a Lunar Cup after the Fourth of July. "This year was a triple whammy a mediocre winter for snow, no snow in April and a very warm May."
Big swings in weather patterns make scheduling Lunar Cup an unpredictable task.
"It's becoming harder and harder to plan the Lunar Cup," Manning said. "The problem we had this year is that there was such a tight margin of possibility for a date we could hold it. We had only a small window between when the road was plowed to the basin and when there would still be snow on a weekend that there wasn't already a big festival."
Sunday's Lunar Cup will play host to the same high altitude fun as years past, and at an elevation of close to 13,000 feet in undeveloped Savage Basin, spectators and participants need to be completely self-sufficient. Water, sunscreen and warm clothes are a must, and carpooling is essential since there is very little parking near the venue. Only well-behaved dogs (ones that won't chase the racers) are invited.
Five-person teams can register at the main street Paragon store. Registration cost is $60. There will be alpine, snowboard, telemark, as well as mixed-discipline teams. All teams must have at least one member of the opposite sex. Individuals may find a team to race with by signing up at Paragon.
With race time slated for 9 a.m., Manning suggests allowing at least one hour to travel to Savage Basin via Tomboy Road. Four-wheel drive vehicles and carpooling are recommended, and drivers are asked to avoid blocking the roadway when parking.
As always, volunteers are needed. "It is a zero profit, labor-of-love event that wouldn't be possible without volunteers,"said Manning, who can be reached at 708-0631.