Truckloads of snow dumped on melting Vancouver mountain

VANCOUVER Tue Feb 2, 2010 5:29pm EST

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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Olympic organizers, who have endured a record warm January in Vancouver and are bracing themselves for more of the same, are transporting truckloads of snow to a melting mountain to ensure events go ahead.

With the Winter Games set to open in just 10 days, Vancouver Organizing Committee chief John Furlong told the media that everything was under control at Cypress Mountain venue, which will stage snowboard and freestyle competitions.

But despite Furlong's assurance, the situation has grown increasingly desperate with crews taking the extraordinary step of transporting snow nearly two hours from Allison Pass - which is about 150 km east of from Vancouver.

"Cypress is the only venue that has presented us with a significant challenge," Furlong told reporters. "I don't think there's anyone here for a second who thought we would have a January with no snow, but we did."

The warm weather is linked to an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean, according to weather forecasters.

"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," Furlong told a news conference that was supposed to deal with the design of the new podiums.

"This has happened at every Olympics and what we're trying to do is demonstrate we are on top of this."

While Vancouver residents have been basking in unprecedented warm weather, just a short 20 minute drive away more than 100 workers at Cypress Mountain have been scrambling to prepare the Olympic site.

Snow stockpiled at higher elevations is being pushed down the mountain, trucks rumble up the switchbacks with more white gold and helicopters have been busy ferrying bales of hay to help build a base on the race courses.

Although the Games do not officially open until Feb 12, the venues are supposed to be ready by Feb 4 so the athletes now arriving in the city can train on them.

While more unseasonably high temperatures and more snow-eating rain is forecast, the Cypress venue benefitted from a light snowfall on Monday night.

"We're taking that as a gift and a good sign," said Furlong, adding that it also helped with improving the morale of tired workers at the site.

While there has also been warmer than usual weather at the mountain resort of Whistler, Games officials said there have been no problems maintaining sufficient snow at the venues for alpine and Nordic skiing.

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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