British Columbia’s snow-starved Cypress Mountain, just outside Vancouver, is still set to host the Olympic snowboarding and freestyle events starting February 13 despite a dearth of natural snow. Dump trucks have hauled more than 300 truckloads of snow from neighboring Mount Strachan to Black Mountain where competition will take place. In lieu of snow, workers have built halfpipes and other ski cross and snowboard cross course features from 1,065 bales of straw.
Even 10 cm of snow cover on straw will work just fine according to Gian-Franco Kasper, president of the International Ski Federation, in an interview with The Canadian Press. “"We shouldn’t panic because there is no snow," he said.
According to David Jones, meteorologist at Canada’s National Weather Service, this has been the warmest Vancouver winter on record since 1937. Jones blames storms from the Southwest. “When storms come from Alaska (Northwest), they deposit great snow,” he said. “But we have a warm air problem—probably due to El Nino. As far as we can see, we don’t see the pattern changing anytime soon.” Instead of snow, the North Shore Mountains, home to Cypress Mountain, are getting drenched in rain—almost 20 inches in January.
However, competitors remain optimistic. In an interview with the Associated Press, Gretchen Bleiler, the 2006 halfpipe silver medalist, said. “We’re all in the exact same boat. We’re all going to the exact same halfpipe, and we all have to ride the exact same conditions,” Bleiler said. “We’re gonna have to make due with whatever it is and rise to the occasion and ride the best we can.” An unseasonably warm winter has plagued several ski resorts across the United States and Canada this season; however, Whistler Mountain, the site of the Olympic alpine events is experiencing record snowfalls thanks to its location farther inland and its high elevation. By the end of January, Whistler had received 32 feet of snow.
Cypress Mountain is slated to open to Olympic competitors for training on February 4.
Click here for the latest weather forecasts for the 2010 Winter Olympics.