No snow at Olympic site leaves VANOC scrambling
Contingency plan includes dumping snow from helicopters
Winter Games officials have given up on Mother Nature and are planning to truck in snow for the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events at Cypress Mountain on Vancouver's North Shore.
The Vancouver Olympic organizing committee (known as VANOC) says the forecast suggests there won't be any new snow falling before the Games kick off Feb. 12, and they won't be able to make enough in time for the skiing and snowboarding competitions.
"We are planning that we will not have snow," said Cathy Priestner Allinger, executive vice-president of sport and Games operations for VANOC.
Contingency plans are now being rolled out. They include using straw and wood in place of snow to build up the courses. Snow will then be brought in to layer over the straw and wood to build the course.
But officials believe there is enough snow elsewhere on the mountain, and they will use trucks, snow cats and, if necessary, helicopters to move snow to the event sites, said Priestner Allinger.
"We are going to create a fantastic field of play, and we are just doing it a little differently than we had originally planned," she said.
Could mean less-demanding courses
Peter Judge, chief executive officer of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, said he doubted the situation would have a huge impact on the Games.
Sports like moguls and aerials don't require much snow, he said.
But the lack of snow could result in a less demanding course for the ski cross and snowboard cross races.
"If they don't have the material, they can't build the features [jumps] as big or as radical as maybe they had originally planned," said Judge. "That may have some effect in terms of dumbing the course down a little bit."
Mild temperatures and heavy rains earlier this month forced officials to close the mountain ahead of schedule as snow gave way to mud.
Olympic officials have said they've been stockpiling real and artificial snow for months, just in case the region's temperate rainforest climate refused to co-operate.
Soft snow at Cypress forced the cancellation of a men's and women's World Cup parallel giant slalom snowboarding event last winter.