The organizers of the Vancouver Winter Olympics have prepared for everything, from athlete housing to food preparation to the construction of ski jumps and a new figure skating arena. But with just a few weeks to go until the games, there is one thing they are missing: snow.
The Olympics are scattered through a number of venues. While conditions are pretty good at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort, another Olympic site, Cypress Mountain isn't as lucky. The mountain, about a half an hour from downtown, is lacking snow and that is forcing organizers to take some extraordinary measures.
After several weeks of unseasonably warm and wet weather, the Vancouver Organizing Committee and the management of Cypress Mountain agreed to close the ski area's to the public early -- on Jan. 13 -- in order to preserve what snow was left on the slopes.
Then Olympic organizers began to take over the role of Mother Nature. The committee is preparing a base made of straw and wood forms that will be covered with snow to build the race courses. Currently snow is being stockpiled at the cooler top of Cypress Mountain and will be moved with trucks, snow cats -- and possibly helicopters – to the race courses below just before the competition starts.
Why no man-made snow? It's simply been too warm. To make snow, temperatures must be in the mid-20s or lower. But recently, the thermometer has been spiking in the mid-40s.
Cypress Mountain declined to comment, saying instead on its Web site: "Our snowmaking team[s] are taking advantage of every available window of weather which allows for production of machine made snow, concentrating on the Olympic Courses. Everyone on Cypress Mountain is optimistic about the conditions and we look forward to the arrival of Olympic Athletes from around the world and to the start of the 2010 Olympic Games."
Mary Fraser, director of media relations for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games said in an e-mail to ABC News that the mountain crews are working "24 hours a day to preserve and protect the snow and we're confident that these efforts will pay off." Fraser added that the, " work will ensure there is enough snow on the mountain to deliver an exceptional field of play and the best team in the world working to make sure the venue is Games ready."
Most skiing events including the men's and women's Downhill, Combined, and Super G will be held in Whistler, further away from the city at a high -- and colder -- elevation.
But six sports are holding their men's and women's competitions at Cypress, including moguls, aerials and ski cross, where four athletes race head to head down a course. There will also be three snowboard events: the halfpipe, snowboard parallel, giant salmon and snowboard cross.
David Wallechinsky, author of the "Complete Book of the Winter Olympics" said the Canadians don't seem to be too worried about what is going on in Whistler.
"They have a lot of snow stored up there," Wallechinsky said. "But the big one is this snowboarding and the freestyle skiing at Cypress Mountain."
He said officials seem to have things under control and in the worst case, might have to alter the courses somewhat.
"It's the nature of the Winter Olympics. It happens all the time. Not quite this extreme because they did this at low elevation," he said.