"If you are entered in the slalom race, please report to the registration table," rang Mike Critz's voice over a loudspeaker as he looked over the snowy landscape.
No, this was not the opening event of the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. Try Washington, D.C., 19th Street between Dupont Circle and M Street NW. It snowed in a three-block section of the District yesterday morning. Well, it sort of did.
The first Ski/D.C. Wintergreen in Washington fund raiser slid into motion yesterday with a crowd of 400 onlookers, many wondering what in the world was going on.
At the request of the Chicago Bar & Grill in Northwest Washington, the Wintergreen ski resort, about 170 miles southwest of Washington, blew and packed 18 inches of snow in the city to benefit the Sunshine Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to chronically and terminally ill youths.
Ski enthusiast John Kaufman, 20, from Cornell University, was impressed. "I'm from upstate New York, and this brings back memories. I feel like going and getting my skis out." Said Susan Bean, 35, of Fairfax County: "It's a winter wonderland in the middle of D.C."
Until she saw machines pumping 450 gallons of snow per minute onto the sidewalk and trees early yesterday, Pat Fox, president of the local chapter of the Sunshine Foundation, had her doubts about the event.
"I arrived here at 4 a.m., and it looked beautiful," said Fox, who praised District officials for allowing the event, which organizers hoped would raise $10,000 through registration fees and food and beverage sales. "It looked like a typical Washington snowfall. One lady who lives here came outside and was amazed. She wondered what was happening."
Mark Glickman, director of public relations for Wintergreen, said his resort wanted to prove "that we could make snow anywhere. We wanted to help the kids, and Washington is one of our biggest market areas," Glickman said. "All those factors combined made it the thing to do."
Yesterday's activities were highlighted by a number of competitive events, including ice sculpturing and slalom and toboggan races. Indeed, many of the sights in this oasis for snow lovers were a bit unusual.
Thomas Gunlock came dressed in bear costume -- fur, fangs and all. "This is what I wear when I go up to Lake Placid," said Gunlock, 47, of Chevy Chase. "This was definitely one of the occasions to wear it." Weather forecasters would agree with his conclusion: Yesterday's high was 29 degrees after an overnight low of 11.
Gitty Duncan, 19, was one of the contestants. She positioned herself on the ski ramp. She looked intense. In a few seconds, she was off. Down the ramp she came. Down to the ground she came -- before reaching the first marker. Some of the spectators began to chant "One more time." Undaunted, Duncan started over. This time she made it.
"It's not easy," said Duncan, a teaching intern at Wilson High School in Northwest Washington. "I'm a little embarrassed. I've never used these skis before."
Scott Swanson, Nanette Flock and Vickie Dollins attempted to get in the right frame of mind for their toboggan race. "It's outrageous," said Swanson, 26, of Alexandria. "We are going to do some damage."
By sundown, the skiers' fun had ended, and then the cleanup began. Organizers said that volunteers took portable heaters to the snowy streets, and by 9:30 p.m. the last traces of Washington's winter wonderland had melted into the gutters.