VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Unusually warm weather and a lack of snow less than a week before the start of the Vancouver Olympics have caused havoc with the training schedule at Cypress Mountain, site of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing.
Games organizers (VANOC) said on Saturday they decided to cut training days for snowboarders competing in the halfpipe from five to three days and send freestyle skiers to train at Whistler Mountain, site of the Alpine skiing events.
“We are reducing the number of official training days for halfpipe by two days to protect the field of play,” VANOC vice president for sports, Tim Gayda, told reporters.
“We are knee deep in contingency plans for little snow. We have been continually hit by warm temperatures so we believe we have made the right decision,” Gayda said.
Vancouver has been basking in unusually warm weather with January being the warmest on record. The current weather conditions are linked to an El Nino climate pattern in the Pacific ocean, according to meteorologists.
Gayda said hundreds of workers were busy trucking and flying in more than 5,000 cubic meters of snow from other areas, including Mount Strachan and Manning, in an effort to complete the courses for the snowboarders and skiers.
“We have enough snow on the actual courses and our main areas of concerns are the finish areas,” he said, adding that snow hardener — a fertilizer — would be used closer to the competition dates to make sure the courses would be up to par.
The international skiing federation (FIS) said conditions were problematic, yet not unusual.
“These are circumstances we face on a regular basis. We are in the hands of the weather and it is all about dealing with it,” said FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis.
“Definitely it is a challenge, an enormous effort,” she said, adding that cutting down on the training days for snowboarders was not going to affect performances.
“It is the same for everybody ... and a lot of the athletes are arriving (in Vancouver) a little later anyway,” Lewis said.
Colder weather was expected in Cypress mountain in the coming days and Gayda said there were no plans to relocate the competitions.
“We are not relocating these events, 100 percent,” Gayda said. “The fields of play are pretty much built.”
He said any snow transportation only involved “operational snow” for the courses and not for the surrounding areas, which have little snow.
“(Snow) for the optics we expect from the sky,” he said.
The Games run from February 12 to 28.
Editing by Jon Bramley