Travel Tips

No Snow in Vancouver: Winter Olympics In Trouble?

Locations in this article:  Vancouver, Canada

Olympic ringsWhile folks on the East Coast are snowed in, organizers of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver are sweating out an unseasonably warm stretch of spring-like weather.

Thanks to the warmest January on record and a mild, rainy start to February, the slopes—especially on Cypress Mountain—appear to have more mud than snow.

How will this lack of winter weather impact the Games? Keep reading to find out what organizers are doing to get the mountains ready for Olympic competition.

Maintenance crews have been busting their humps to get Cypress Mountain ready to host the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events.

In their quest to outfox Mother Nature, crews have turned to giant helicopters, the same that are used to fight forest fires, to drop loads of snow from above—an average of 780 tons a day. They’ve also employed a fleet of dump trucks to bring in snow from areas up to 150 miles away.

Learn more about the areas being used during the Games: Spotlight on Vancouver 2010 Olympics: Whistler & Blackcomb

Vancouver - photo by Seth GrantTo disguise the lack of depth, crews have been raking snow over hay bales and using snow machines when it has been cold enough.

So what kind of effect will this have on the events? Organizers say that there is no doubt the mountain will be ready, and the site of the freestyle skiing events already appears to be good to go.

However, the snowboard halfpipe could be a bit trickier because of its steep, vertical walls. Snowboarders have noted that wet and sloppy conditions can affect performance. Organizers say they are considering using chemicals to harden the snow.

Learn more about the Games in our Olympics Travel Section

The halfpipe was off limits to the media yesterday, but it is expected to be open for athletes on Sunday—two days behind schedule.

Vancouver skyline - photo by Seth GrantDespite the warm weather at Whistler, which is two hours north and higher in elevation, the mountain appears to have enough snow to host the Alpine, biathlon, cross-country and Nordic combined events.

This is not the first time a lack of winter weather has caused anxiety for Winter Olympics planners. In 1998, Nagano dealt with similar concerns over a lack of snow. At the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, the bobsled competition got put on hold when ice on the track began to melt.

The forecast for Vancouver is calling for temperatures in the low to mid-40s and more rain in the next five days.

By Dan Bence for

Related Links: The New York Times, BBC, ESPN Links: