Cypress a mountain of trouble

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

WEST VANCOUVER — Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics diplomatically referred to Cypress Mountain as their “special child.” But the El Nino-affected freestyle skiing and snowboarding venue acted more like a brat.

Unseasonably warm temperatures and heavy rain pelted slopes and turned snow to slush by mid-January. The popular day resort set among a provincial park was closed to the public and the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) went to work. First it moved snow around from neighbouring peaks to the competition courses, then it got desperate.

Three helicopters were used to move snow and equipment. Then more than 350 loads of snow were transported 160 kilometres in dump trucks from Manning Provincial Park’s Allison Pass, named for a 19th-century goldrush pioneer.

There was a flurry of last-minute speculation a week before the Games that organizers would move competitions to Whistler or Sun Peaks near Kamloops. Instead, athletes were forced to go to Whistler for pre-Games training as more snow was added to the slopes.

How much the venue rescue cost has not been disclosed, but Cypress became Canada’s outdoor gold mine with Canadian athletes winning four golds (and two silvers) there.

Alexandre Bilodeau of Montreal began the parade to the top of the podium Feb. 14 in freestyle moguls, claiming the first Olympic gold in Canada by a Canadian. Snowboard-cross star Maelle Ricker and ski-crosser Ashleigh McIvor followed. Snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson battled through fog and a rainstorm Saturday to win the parallel giant slalom, Cypress’s last event.

Silvers came from Jennifer Heil in freestyle moguls and Mike Robertson in men’s snowboard cross.

Chris Del Bosco wasn’t as lucky. The 27-year-old made a move hoping to gain victory in the men’s snowboard cross and ended up crashing before the final jump.

“It just didn’t work out for me,” Del Bosco said, pausing to wipe tears from his eyes. “Third, I guess it’s all right for some people, but I wanted to give 100% for my sport, my country.”

The Cypress half-pipe also provided the canvas for American snowboarding sensation Shaun White. The flamboyant redhead successfully defended his gold medal and created one of the Games’ finest moments when he executed his trademark Double McTwist 1260 move to win gold.

Though Canada had impressive results at Cypress, fewer people got to see them in-person because VANOC cancelled 28,000 standing-room tickets for safety reasons.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

POLL