The Winter Olympics are set to begin in Vancouver in just over a week, and the city's Cypress Mountain venue is the ideal setting for cold-weather sports like freestyle skiing and snowboarding — at least, it was before the snow started melting.
Now, Olympic organizers are scrambling to transport snow to the venue from over 90 miles away before athletes begin arriving for on-site practice, Reuters reports. The games don’t officially start until Feb. 12, but training starts on Feb. 4.
As reporters gathered for what was supposed to be a conference on the design of the new podiums — they were given a rustic makeover using local wood to fit the setting — instead they ended up talking about the weather.
The city has been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures, likely due to the El Niño weather phenomenon warming the surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean. Forecasters have been warning since early last year that El Niño could have an effect on the Winter Olympics.
"Cypress is the only venue that has presented us with a significant challenge,” Vancouver Organizing Committee Chief John Furlong told the media.
"I don't think there's anyone here for a second who thought we would have a January with no snow, but we did. What we have to do is that no matter what happens we have the backups in place ... We simply cannot have a start that is affected by weather.”
The Vancouver Olympic Games have been heralded as perhaps the greenest yet, with a sustainable Olympic Village fitted with solar panels and rainwater collection systems to a transportation scheme involving 20 hydrogen-powered buses.
Trucking in snow from another town doesn't fit neatly into the green theme, but it seems there's little choice — unless athletes are prepared to snowboard on grass.
Meanwhile, over at nearby Whistler Mountain, the snow seems to be holding up well enough for scheduled Alpine and Nordic skiiing — for now.