Mammoth's high elevation poses problem in World Cup Biathlon

As it turns out, we’re too high for our own good up here.

Not really, but when it comes to World Cup biathlon, Mammoth is way over the limit in terms of elevation regulations, according to Mammoth Winter Biathlon Director Mike Karch.

That does not take Mammoth out of the winter biathlon universe, by any stretch, he said.

But it might make it difficult if Mammoth has any designs on conducting a World Cup event.

Under rules of the International Biathlon Union (IBU), the elevation at the highest point of any sanctioned World Cup biathlon course should be no higher than 1,800 meters, or 5,905 feet above sea level.

The Lakes Basin, where Karch and his volunteer crew conducted the Mammoth Winter Biathlon last month, is at 9,000 feet.

The elevation regulations drew the attention of the recreation commission this past week as it worked through the process of allocating Measure R funds.

But Karch, an orthopedic surgeon at Mammoth Hospital who has big thoughts and big plans about the future of Nordic sport here, parried back.

He said the IBU has the authority to make exceptions to the World Cup elevation rule, and has done so several times over the last several years.

Unlike Mammoth this past season, many European resorts suffered through a poor snow season, and it has been poor for several years.

Karch said his request for funding of a feasibility study really isn’t centered on World Cup racing anyway, although a World Cup race certainly would put Mammoth on the world biathlon map.

Rather, what he envisions is the development of a “world-class Nordic trail system and biathlon center.”

Where this would be situated, he said, is up in the air.

He said he would like $35,000 to contract with Morton Trails, a trails and winter sports outfit in Vermont, to do the study.

“With this feasibility study,” he said, “a road map will be in place to help make informed decisions for where to invest limited financial resources and achieve the greatest return for all parties who are engaged and interested in bringing this area on par with some of the most recognized Nordic and trail-based destinations in North America.”

But there’s one sure thing the road map can’t provide:
Cutting the elevation almost in half.