Cypress getting a snowy facelift

By RYAN PYETTE

QMI AGENCY -- VANCOUVER -- Snowball fights are still allowed on Cypress Mountain.

"As long as they throw it on the field of play," Dick Vollet, VANOC vice-president of mountain venues, said, "that's fine."

Recycling isn't limited just to empty pop cans and old newspapers anymore. Up on these peaks, it goes for snow, too.

The initial impression of the snow-challenged spot serving as the Olympic venue for freestyle skiing and snowboarding is a shocking one: Barren, jagged, dirt-puffed hills appearing naked without a healthy layer of powder.

So, now Cypress is receiving a snow-infused facelift of epic proportions with a round of 80-plus dump trucks lined up like all-terrain Zambonis delivering snow picked up from spots such as Allison Pass, which is three hours from Vancouver. Overhead, the steady whir of snow-delivering helicopters drowns out conversations -- but the talk is all about the same thing.

WHERE'D IT GO?

Where has the Winter gone in these Olympics?

"We're on the West Coast," Vollet said with a shrug. "You're going to get unseasonably warmer temperatures. We've never thought of moving the events. This has been in the works for six years and we're working with the hand we've been dealt.

"If this was last year at this time, we wouldn't have an issue."

Organizers are optimistic that work on ski-cross and snowboarding runs, expected to be finished early next week, won't cause major delays in the schedule.

They are working all day, stopping the helicopters only when it's training time and it becomes a safety issue.

But with eight straight days of rain in the forecast, they are staring at a George Foreman-like uppercut.

"We're winning right now," Vollet said. "We are very lucky the temperatures went down (Monday night), but I don't want to say too much because you don't want to anger Mother Nature."

The athletes largely don't understand the national fuss the no-snow story has caused.

"I've been skiing for 24 years and I like to think I've been down the hill in every possible condition," Canadian ski-cross competitor Dave Duncan said. "It's the same for everyone. No one's going to complain about it. I watched all the TV coverage and the cameras kept showing the one bare spot that isn't being used.

"I know it's not all like that and you never know at Cypress. It can snow up there in a hurry and who knows if they won't be removing snow at some point?"

Shovel time would be, like snow, manna from heaven.

RYAN.PYETTE@SUNMEDIA.CA

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