Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go AWAY!!

When you think of the Winter Olympics what is the first word that comes to mind? Is it skiing? ice? snow? cold? skating? spandex? snow? Even if snow isn't the first word that pops into your head, isn't it something that you would assume is a given? OF COURSE there would be snow at the Winter Olympics...right? I mean, that's not even a question worth asking, right?....right?? The winter Olympics should look something like this: right?

Well, this year it may be pretty far from that. El Nino is visiting the Pacific Ocean this year and everyone is wishing that he would just go away, especially those of us up in the Pacific Northwest (myself included) and in British Columbia (read: everyone preparing for the Olympics). Most ski resorts in the region have been forced to close or are running on very limited operation due to the high amount of precipitation in the form of rain that is falling. Yes, I said RAIN, not snow. Cypress Mountain, the resort that will be hosting the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events, closed for two days due to the snow and permanently closed the runs that will host the ski and board events in an attempt to preserve what snow is there (see picture...YUCK!).

Perhaps you are sitting in other regions of the country and wondering how it could be possible for it to be raining in B.C. while it is unseasonably cold in places like Los Angeles. Well, take a look at this map, which shows how El Nino affects temperature patterns across the continent: Notice the big red WARM splotch covering the North West. Backcountry Skiing Magazine explains the phenomenon, saying, "West-blowing trade winds lessen across the South Pacific, causing the warm water typically blown west to drift back toward South America," resulting in promising ski seasons for CO, UT, NV, and CA but shortchanging the North West with high temperatures and rain. Yes, RAIN. Perhaps the worst word for the Winter Olympics.

Hopefully El Nino will stop playing this horrible, horrible practical joke on Vancouver. Hopefully, he will find it in his heart to let the temperature drop below freezing. If not, Cypress and Whistler will be forced to make snow and use what snow they have. Ski courses, halfpipes and everything in between will get chopped up quickly and will need constant care, not to mention the fact that skis and boards ride much slower the wetter the snow gets. As for the spectators, it'll be a wet spectacle, so be sure to pack your umbrella and leave your powder skis at home.

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