Dry weather, cold nights improve conditions at Cypress

  • Associated Press
  • Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:42pm
  • SportsSports

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — First, unseasonable rain and warmth nearly ruined Cypress Mountain. Now, an unusual streak of sunny days and clear, cold nights is saving the Olympic snowboarding venue.

For now anyway.

“Mother Nature is finally being kind to us,” Tim Gayda of the Vancouver organizing committee said Saturday. “I couldn’t be happier. … I actually slept last night.”

It took the unusual, merciful reversal in weather plus the trucking and flying in of snow from as far away as Calgary, but the chief of sport for the Vancouver Olympics said suburban Cypress is now in prime condition to meet its next challenge: converting the snowboardcross and skicross course into the parallel giant slalom course over two days, after skicross ends Tuesday.

“It’s one of the great success stories of our games,” Gayda said of Cypress’ restoration.

“We couldn’t ask for any better weather, where it is cold and clear at night and it’s freezing that base level right to the ground.”

And it’s supposed to stay that way. Through Tuesday, at least.

But — uh, oh — more rain may be on the horizon for Cypress Mountain, which has a relatively low base elevation of 2,990 feet and is only 30 minutes from coastal, downtown Vancouver. Forecasts call for a 60 percent chance of rain there on Wednesday, 40 percent on Thursday and 30 percent on Friday, the day the PGS competition is scheduled to begin. Temperatures are expected to remain in the upper 40s, with cloudier nights keeping lows above freezing following this week of optimal, course-hardening cold at night.

Gayda concedes Cypress isn’t perfect. He mentioned “the aerial jump hill is still quite soft in the landing area.”

Dave Cobb, VANOC’s senior vice president for revenue, said his organization has lost $1.5 million by having to refund more than 20,000 tickets because of safety concerns when the rains washed snow away from spectator standing areas at the snowboarding venue.

And last year, a test PGS event at Cypress was canceled because officials could not convert the course from snowboard and skicross in time.

“We’ve kind of learned our lesson,” Gayda said. “Because the ski area was open all through the season, we weren’t able to prep it the way we would typically prep an alpine course, which (would be) constantly grooming it and getting it hard.”

This year, officials closed Cypress Mountain to the public in December.

He also noted VANOC has one more day to convert the course to PGS during these games than it had for the canceled event last year.

The man who has become the official defender against Cypress’ many detractors said crews have “done everything and anything” to ensure snowboarding continues.

That includes infusing the new, imported snow with water, plus the unprecedented use of tubes filled with dry ice during cold nights, to aid the bonding with snow that is now almost two months old. Crews have used hay bales and wood to reinforce washed-away bases for courses.

Gayda said that even when he was at Cypress in sideways rain last weekend for the women’s mogul finals, competitors thanked him and his staff for building a great course.

“It truly is amazing what they’ve done,” he said.


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