Venue lacks frozen tundra

As Northwesterners warmly embrace the mild-mannered El Niño winter sauntering through these parts, Canadians wonder why the bearer of wimpy weather wasn’t stopped at the border, since it didn’t have a passport, or a good reason for visiting.

With things so March-like, it’s difficult to remember that the Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 12 in Vancouver. Unless, of course, you’re hosting the Games. In which case you know exactly what day it is, and that efforts are under way to “conserve” and “protect” the snow that deigned to fall in January in order to head off an Olympian crisis.

The lack of snow is only a problem at one venue: Cypress Mountain, which is about 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver. It’s where the freestyle skiing and snowboard competitions will take place. Up in the real mountains, near Whistler, there’s snow aplenty for the other events.

At Cypress, not only is there no snow, it’s too warm to use snow-making machines. Cypress installed a snow-making system of 35 snow guns, 51 hydrants and a 5 million gallon reservoir designed to throw a 3-foot blanket of snow over areas used for events, The New York Times reported. (The 35 snow guns might have been the tipping point that made Mother Nature decide to make a mockery of it all.)

Now organizers must go to Plan C, which is to build the base, usually made of snow, out of straw, wood and pipe and cover it with snow “conserved” from the top of the mountain, and more of it trucked in.

(We could sure use some psychics in government — then leaders from Seattle to Spokane, and Bellingham to Vancouver, Wash., would have known to “conserve” all that blasted record snow from last year so we could sell it to desperate Olympics organizers this year. Then Canadians could wring their hands about their “dependence on foreign snow.” Adjusted for El Niño inflation, the money could fund freeway repairs required by our state’s ridiculous insistence on allowing studded tires.)

Americans have owned the snowboarding events since they were added way back in the 1998 Olympics. So this no-snow crisis could be a conspiracy to keep Americans from winning gold. Asked about this possibility, a snowboarder said something incomprehensible that sounded cool, which is another area where these athletes shine: their crunchy (great) slang.

Like Eskimos, snowboarders have many words for “snow,” including “freshies” (untouched powder) and “smud” (muddy snow on warm days) and good ol’ “crud.” Whatever Cypress Mountain manages to serve up, we look forward to the feats, athletic and verbal.

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