Pole Pedal Paddle 2019

Boats paddle down the Snake River during the 44th Annual Karen Oatey Pole Pedal Paddle on Saturday.

Warm temperatures over the past two weeks have melted much of the snowpack from the valley floor, forcing organizers of the annual Pole Pedal Paddle race to cancel the Nordic ski leg in favor of a longer run.

There is not enough snow to use the Nordic track at Shooting Star, said Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club Director Ali Sehnert. The club looked at a host of other options, including setting a course near the base area of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, as has been done in the past, but those options weren’t feasible, either — mostly due to widespread melting.

Instead, competitors will run a total of 5 kilometers from Teton Village to the Yellow Iron property along Highway 390, then double back to the Shooting Star maintenance facility, traditionally the transition to the bike leg.

“For all our endurance fanatics out there, we want this to be something that they enjoy,” Sehnert said. “We’ve all enjoyed the warm weather, but unfortunately it led to rapid snowmelt.”

Other aspects of the course remain the same. The annual race begins Saturday with a giant slalom from the top of the Teton Lift, then proceeds to the running leg, followed by an 18-mile bike ride to the Snake River and 10-mile paddle to the finish at Astoria Hot Springs.

There is a new feature on the river this year, thanks to bridge construction at Horse Creek, about 4 miles downriver from the launch at South Park. Narrowing of the river has created a fast train of waves, so paddlers should be prepared for a little more action.

Still, the feature is not very difficult and does not have swirling eddy currents for boaters to worry about, said Aaron Pruzan, race sponsor and perennial PPP competitor.

Wyoming Department of Transportation highway engineers graciously worked out an arrangement with the bridge contractor, permitting the cherished community tradition to resume a year after it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. WYDOT and contract crews will pause work for the PPP race.

Then on Sunday, WYDOT, along with contract crews from Oftedal Construction Inc., will be setting girders in the Snake River. The Sunday start date is dependent on weather conditions and the availability of cranes.

Motorists should be prepared for traffic delays of up to 20 minutes due to work on the Snake River south section, except during commuter travel between the hours of 6 and 8 a.m. and 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Contact Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington at 732-7078 or rebecca@jhnewsandguide.com.

Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington has worked for newspapers across the West. She hosts a rescue podcast, The Fine Line. Her family minivan doubles as her not-so-high-tech recording studio.

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