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IOC president backs Cypress Mountain events

The president of the International Olympic Committee said he's not concerned about plans to host some of the Olympic ski and snowboard events at Cypress Mountain, despite the lack of snow.

The president of the International Olympic Committee said he's not concerned about plans to host some of the Olympic ski and snowboard events at Cypress Mountain, despite the lack of snow.

"The latest I heard from Cypress Mountain is positive news. The field of play is absolutely impeccable and ready for competition," Jacques Rogge told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. 

Cypress Mountain Resort, which is located on Vancouver's North Shore Mountains, was closed earlier this month after warm temperatures and heavy rain melted much of the snow on the slopes.

Organizers have said they are confident they can build up the courses for the Olympic freestyle skiing, snowboard half-pipe and snowboard cross events, which are scheduled to run between Feb. 12-28.

Rogge also squashed rumours that Olympic officials would be forced to move events to another location.

"The competition, according to the latest we got from VANOC, will take place on schedule in Cypress Mountain," said Rogge.

The warm weather this winter has forced VANOC to turn to its contingency plan, which includes using straw and wood to build the courses. Both real and artificial snow is being layered on — brought in by trucks, Snow Cats, and helicopters.

All systems go

Olympic officials in Vancouver also hosted a news conference on Thursday morning to brief the international media about their plans to deal with the lack of snow at Cypress.

VANOC vice-president Tim Gayda said the international ski federation had expressed concern after reading about melting snow in the foreign media, but officials were given a tour this week, and the federation has given its approval for the preparations.

"We are very, very confident that we have enough snow to weather any kind of inclement weather we have rolling into the Games," said Gayda.

"From our point of view, if we get winter coming back, it just makes our lives easier. If it doesn't we have the resources in terms of equipment, people and snow to get the job done," he said.          

VANOC competition manager Eric Freemont said a chemical called urea will be used to harden the snow, but only as a last resort, if the weather gets too warm.

"These are last resorts. For example the half-pipe, if it is a wet day, on a competition day only, we'd use minimum amounts on the half-pipe to maintain the competition site," he said.

The concerns about the lack of snow only affect the Cypress Mountain venue. Farther north at Whistler Mountain, which will host the alpine ski events, the resort has received an unprecedented 9.9 metres of snow already this season.

Athletes are scheduled to start their training runs at Whistler on Feb. 5.