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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vancouver faces big snow job

By Mike Corder
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Volunteers work at the freestyle skiing venue at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver in preparation of the Winter Olympic Games that begin Friday.

JAE C. HONG | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Green rings on Vancouver harbor reflect the Games’ environmental theme.

JONATHAN HAYWARD | Canadian Press via AP

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — If the United States Olympic moguls team is worried about the conditions at Cypress Mountain, it doesn't show.

Trucks and helicopters were still dumping snow onto Cypress Mountain yesterday in an effort to get the Olympic venues ready for the Vancouver Games, which open Friday.

The first event scheduled is women's moguls qualifying on Saturday, with the finals to be raced later that day.

"I've skied on rocks, I've skied on ice, I've skied in the rain. This is nothing," World Cup champion Hannah Kearney said yesterday ahead of her first pre-Olympic practice run. "It's unfortunate for the beauty of the surrounding mountains ... but I don't think it is going to be a problem for us skiing."

Only athletes and their coaches were allowed at training yesterday afternoon, when they were to get their first look at the conditions.

"For safety reasons and our desire not to have any of the course preparation work impacted, we decided just to let on the people that are absolutely necessary for the training," said Dave Cobb, the executive vice president of the Vancouver organizing committee.

The weather in and around Vancouver has created some problems for Olympic organizers. Although the venues at Whistler — where the Alpine and Nordic events will be held — are fine, the Cypress Mountain venues closer to the city have been affected by the unseasonably warm weather.

"There's still a lot of snow being trucked and flown in to ensure we have enough contingency snow if the warm weather continues," Cobb said. "There's a lot of activity going on."

IOC president Jacques Rogge said he had "absolutely no concerns whatsoever" about the state of Cypress Mountain.

"There is no concern, and there is no Plan B," he said.

World champion Patrick Deneen was confident events would go ahead on Cypress Mountain. The men's moguls are Sunday.

"If there's snow we will ski for sure," he said. "I've seen pictures, and it looks like there's a lot of snow on that course right now. They've been trucking it in and really making it happen."

Christian Hrab, director of high-performance for Canada's snowboard teams, said the landscape of white ribbons of snow draped over bare hillsides reminded him of Bardonecchia, the similarly bare Alpine resort where the snowboarding events were staged at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

"It's kind of odd because outside of the field of play there is no snow, and where there was snow, they took it to bring it to the field of play," Hrab said. "And then there is this white, glistening paradise where the field of snow is."

Hrab said the snowboardcross track had held up well during testing over the past couple of days, and the halfpipe also looks good.

"The pipe has perfect walls, they are 22 feet high, the snow is white, and really they are ready," he said.

John Furlong, the CEO of VANOC, said the organizing committee briefed the International Olympic Committee on the state of the mountain Saturday.

The Americans said skiing on courses built on otherwise snow-free slopes was a fact of life on the moguls World Cup circuit.

"In Italy we were on a dirt hill that was dirt on both sides of us and a run in the middle," Michelle Roark said.

In order to get the venues prepared, organizers already have canceled two days of halfpipe training and pushed back parallel giant slalom training by two days.

Building the halfpipe is organizers' biggest challenge. Once competition begins, they'll also need to reconfigure the snowboardcross course into a parallel giant slalom course in a limited amount of time. Last year, a PGS event at Whistler was canceled when the course could not be converted in time.

At the halfpipe, Cobb said organizers were considering using chemicals to harden the snow on the course. The halfpipe competition starts Feb. 17.

"We're happy with the state of the other courses," Cobb said. "On the freestyle course today training starts. We'll get a sense of how the courses hold up over the next few days."

Shannon Bahrke said a bit of warm weather would not put off athletes who have trained for years for a shot at the Olympics.

"We've worked our whole lives for this," she said. If the conditions are not perfect, "it's not going to be, 'Nope, I'm not going to do it.' "

AP sports writers Chris Lehourites and Stephen Wilson and freelance writer Kevin Woodley contributed to this story.