BBC BLOGS - Anna Thompson’s Blog
« Previous | Main | Next »

No snow crisis for Cypress but what about the fog?

Post categories:

Anna Thompson | 23:07 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

One of the big stories ahead of the Vancouver Olympics has been the lack of snow at Cypress Mountain, where the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events are set to take place.

Thankfully, the no-snow crisis has been averted after a snow-shifting operation that has cost millions of dollars, blowing the contingency budget of the Games into the bargain.

But just as organisers were starting to breathe a sigh of relief, a new danger thatcould threaten the start of the 14-event competition at the mountain just outside Vancouver has loomed large - fog.

Officials are extremely worried about the weather, and Saturday's women's moguls - which will feature British hope Ellie Koyander - could be a casualty. The judges need to have a clear view of the whole course - and that might not be possible if it is shrouded in low cloud and fog.

The forecast is for snow to turn to rain, then more snow, mixed with heavy clouds until Sunday. Cypress Mountain shrouded in fogCypress Mountain shrouded in fog

And freestyle skiing race director and International Ski Federation official Joe
Fitzgerald was unequivocal about it, saying: "If we get a fog band that sits up here in the middle, and we can't see, then we don't go ahead with competition."

Reserve days have been factored into the schedule and officials can also
change the start times. In a worse-case scenario, the moguls can be called off after the qualification round, with standings taken as final results.

In aerials, which will feature Team GB's Sarah Ainsworth, final results can be taken from the first jump.

This 11th-hour hiccup comes after organisers planned for unseasonably warm weather for four years, when long-range weather forcecasts last autumn predicted there would be a lack of snow. The forecast was correct - it turned out to be the warmest January on record - so the reservoir at Cypress Mountain swung into action to help create man-made snow.

But by Christmas week it was so warm even the snow cannons ceased to be effective, and crews had to begin stockpiling snow from higher altitudes on Black Mountain.

And with the clock ticking down to the first event at the venue, dramatic emergency measures were put in place, with helicopters flying in hay bales to help bolster banks on the snowboard cross course as well as sculpting the moguls.

A round-the-clock stream of trucks has also been moving snow from elsewhere on Cypress as well as other resorts, some a three-hour drive away, to make sure the courses are up to Olympic standard.

I visited the barren pistes which have given the Vancouver Organising Committee (Vanoc) such a headache on Wednesday with BBC commentator Ed Leigh, cameraman Chris Kirkham and producer Tom Gent - and it was a bit of a shock to find it bucketing down with snow.

One of the volunteers told us it had started to snow - for the first time since 15 January - at 1pm and by the time we left four hours later a good 10cm had settled.

What had been forlorn-looking runs a day before were dramatically transformed into a winter wonderland.

The half-pipe wasn't quite ready and organisers had the rare task of clearing fresh snow off the monster pipe, but you could sense it was finally all coming together with the grandstands, complete with Olympic branding, erected and looking amazing.

Snowboard race director Marcel Looze has probably had his fair share of sleepless nights over recent days, but he was particularly buoyant when we interviewed him - in a blizzard!

He told BBC Sport: "This snowfall is simply cosmetic, we don't actually need it. We are in good shape and ready for the main event."

But that was before the fog issue - and no matter how many millions of dollars are spent shifting snow around the mountains, no amount of money can prevent the low cloud.

Mother Nature could very well have a big say in whether these Games are deemed a success or a disappointment, and only time will tell.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.