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Vancouver 2010: One month to go

Thu, Jan  14, 2010 - By FIS

With the final month to go before the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, work is underway to prepare the Olympic competition venues for all weather scenarios - including the current spell of unseasonably warm and wet weather in Vancouver. The goal is to ensure optimum fields of play for the world's best winter sports athletes.

"We're putting everything we've learned and planned for regarding weather contingency into practice at the outdoor venues in order to be ready for the Games," said Tim Gayda, VANOC's vice president of sport. "Since the first snowfalls in Whistler and Cypress last fall we've been blowing snow and grooming our courses. As a precaution, we're also stockpiling snow to ensure we're ready no matter what the weather conditions are leading up to and during the Games.

"In Whistler, we were very fortunate at the beginning of the ski season to have large amounts of natural snow, which we've been mixing with our artificial snow to make a firm base that is perfect for racing. Both competition courses at Whistler Creekside and at Whistler Olympic Park are currently in great shape.

"At Cypress, we started off the season with cold temperatures and were able to make substantial amounts of snow. Recently, the warm weather and rain means we're working even harder to protect the snow and we'll make more snow as soon as the temperature drops enough to do so. In the coming weeks, we'll be pushing snow down the mountain to create our courses. We're doing everything we can to ensure we will put on great Games no matter what kind of weather we are faced with. It's really exciting to see these courses come to life at our venues," Gayda concluded.

Whistler Creekside: Alpine Skiing

Crews started building the courses for the downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined events in November thanks to an ample early snowfall and temperatures below -1 C.

Temperatures have remained within ideal range at Whistler Creekside and crews are currently in maintenance mode, mixing fresh snow with man-made snow to add to the hard base. The venue's snowmaking system also has the capacity to make 25,424 liters per minute; the equivalent of a gravel truck full of snow produced every minute.

Whistler Olympic Park: Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined

There is currently more than a meter of snow on all trails at this venue in the Callaghan Valley. Whistler Olympic Park typically receives large amounts of snowfall annually. Little snowmaking is needed additionally at the park because Cross-Country Skiing and Biathlon courses require shallow snow bases and lower snow densities.

At the ski jump landing hill, crews have been making snow at every available opportunity and will continue to do so up to and during the Games. Each of the ski jump inruns has a built in refrigeration system, automated inrun covering system and an integrated winch/track setting machine. These features allow staff to build the inrun early in the year and maintain it throughout the season with minimal maintenance.

Cypress Mountain: Freestyle Skiing, Snowboard

Cypress Mountain has a snowmaking reservoir of more than 22.7 million liters of water and the terrain has been shaped to accommodate the construction of Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard event courses with the minimum amount of snow needed.

State-of-the-art snow making using 35 snow guns has been operating around-the-clock since November and has converted over 95.3 million liters of water to snow that is needed to construct the courses. This snow has been stockpiled all over the mountain to ensure the terrain at Games time can sustain all weather conditions. Over the next three weeks, the snow will be pushed down the mountain by grooming machinery where it will be shaped by machine and by hand to create the freestyle and snowboard courses, including the 60-m-long superpipe, which is 19.5 m to 20 m wide and 6.5 m high.

The ski resort, operated by Boyne Resorts, has now been closed for public use because of forecasted heavy rain. The decision to close the mountain two weeks earlier than foreseen until after the Games follows several days of unseasonably warm and wet weather in the Vancouver area, during which VANOC has been running an intensive project to conserve snow, including stockpiling snow at higher elevations.

Contributed by VANOC