Opinion

Mush! Move Cypress Events to Okanagan

We still can stage freestyle and snowboard events in an ideal BC setting, but time is melting away.

By Steve Threndyle, 29 Jan 2010, TheTyee.ca

big-white-resort.jpg

Big White Resort: Plenty of snow here

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Last week, the fictional TV series 24 started its eight season, with Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland saving the citizens of New York City from some kind of deadly terrorist attack within the space of a single day.

Right now, the organizers of the 2010 Winter Games need Jack Bauer to help organize a task that is surely less onerous than thwarting a terrorist attack -- he needs to come to Canada to orchestrate moving the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events from Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver to the ski resorts of the Thompson-Okanagan in the B.C. Interior.

I know, yesterday we heard from International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge that the wood and straw bale approach to crafting world class ski runs was going to be just fine. We adapt to weather."

Echoed VANOC spokesperson Tim Gayda, "We were afraid we might have to move the competitions, but that won't be the case."

Be afraid, I say. And don't give up on the idea of moving the competitions.

Mushy conditions

Gayda is being disingenuous about how well the natural snow cover will hold up. The forecast for the next week is highs of eight degrees. That is just not cold enough to make hard snow.

After several days of melt, snow -- even injected snow -- becomes isothermal and utterly unable to hold its cohesion. Last year, event organizers pulled the plug on the "soft snow" conditions at Cypress when it had a two-metre base. Besides, who wants to see the world's best compete in mush?

Quite simply, this is not going to work, and I believe the organizers know it. For one thing, we are obviously in a deep El Nino year, where unseasonably warm temperatures and driving rains have washed away much of the snowpack in the altitude-challenged North Shore Mountains. As we get into February, the chance of below zero temperatures for any sustained period is poor. Let's forget the fact that the long-range outlook remains highly suspect and come up with a real "Plan B."

In short -- the freestyle and snowboard events must be moved from Cypress to the quartet of resorts in the Thompson-Okanagan; namely, Sun Peaks, Silver Star, Big White, and Apex Resort. Every one of these four resorts has hosted national and international calibre events in the past, and I am willing to bet any money that they would all step up to the plate to bail out the 2010 Winter Games events right now.

In fact, if we here in British Columbia really want to show the world that we can put on a show, we'll move event venues tomorrow to make these Games happen in a true winter wonderland.

What about the Olympic ticketholders? Well, refund their money. Rock and roll acts cancel tours at the last minute all the time -- cancelled due to poor weather -- done. I am betting that the vast majority of ticketholders to those events come from B.C. anyway. Do what the premier said and take a few days off and enjoy the Games -- except enjoy them in the Interior. We need a mid-winter, er, mid-February holiday in B.C., anyway. Fill up those Sandman Inns and Coast Hotels and run buses up to the slopes.

Head on up the Coquihalla

It's too late to hold any kind of ticket lottery or whatever -- here's what the resorts do. They throw the events open free of charge to everyone. Or, they pass the hat around for Haiti. Don't just have people in the finish area, have 'em lining the course, waving flags, ringing cowbells, and cheering at the top of their lungs as Canadian skiers and snowboarder go for the gold. Think of the amazing visuals that will be beamed around the world.

And what about the tens of thousands of media who will be making the trek to Vancouver? Send 'em up on the Coquihalla as well. The airports have excellent connections through Vancouver -- have one security checkpoint at YVR and wave 'em through in Kelowna and Kamloops. The ski areas all advertise that it's what, a 3.5 hour trip to Sun Peaks? Let's put those estimates to the test. Heck, we’ll even give 'em a police escort.

O.K., so, here's the triage. Sun Peaks, you get the men's and women's snowboard cross and ski cross events. The surface for these slopes has to be rock hard. For years, your resort has hosted the Austrian alpine team -- in November, even. Call Nancy Greene-Raine back from the Senate to start kicking butt to get things done.

Big White? You get Shaun White, arguably the biggest name that the 2010 Winter Games will host. Start making snow in the Superpipe. Remember when you had to step in to host the Honda Tour of Champions (cancelled, er, due to lack of snow at Cypress)? Get moving on it.

Silver Star Mountain Resort near Vernon is home to one of the most active freestyle clubs in Canada, and has produced some of the top freeskiers in the world. The fact that they would rather compete on the Dew Tour and X-Games is a story for another day -- but the mountain has hosted national freestyle moguls events in the past. The mogul run spills right down into the village and would be an excellent venue from a spectator standpoint. You could even watch the runs from your slopeside condo.

And, there's even a sport for tiny Apex down near Penticton. Apex, too, has had a burgeoning freestyle scene for years. They could certainly step up and host the aerial events, and the Okanagan Run is even lighted for night skiing. Some of the national teams have already announced their intentions to train there before the Games.

What about Whistler, you might ask? Well, BCTV already did, and CEO David Brownlie answered with an unequivocal "no" about hosting the freestyle events. Besides, the highway will be congested enough as it is.

A big Okanagan welcome

As someone who once lived in the Okanagan, I cannot tell you how warmly the residents there will welcome the opportunity to pitch in and host the Games. Unlike the bleating hordes of Games-haters who are saying "I told you so" in Vancouver, they would take on this challenge and deliver a top-notch product. Think they're mad about the Torch relay in the 'heartland' of B.C.? Host the medal ceremony in each of the city's skating rinks and I can guarantee you the people will go crazy.

The advantages to the province are absolutely huge. Hell, we've thrown what, $3 billion at the Games -- I would bet that you could move all of these events to these resorts for well under $50 million. And give a huge shot in the arm to winter tourism and a ton of free publicity to the rest of the province.

Of course, VANOC organizers will be in a tizzy about locking down security for the Games sites. Well, guess what -- I just don't see Kamloops or Penticton being a juicy terrorist target -- besides, the vast majority of Games events are still going to be held in Vancouver. Maybe these satellite events will create some kind of diversionary tactic.

I, for one, do not want to see skiers and snowboarders doing their tricks on straw-flecked snow. This is Canada, and we're a winter country. As Jack Bauer would say: "Mr Furlong. With all due respect, you're running out of time."  [Tyee]

41  Comments:

  • Michael J

    7 days ago

    great idea!

    I couldn't agree more. I'm sure Stockwell would be happy to modify his jet ski for a little slope marshaling action at Apex. He'd certainly make a splashy entrance.
    And the apres ski nightlife? Whoa Nellie.
    Slack Alice's and Peach Tree mall. Doesn't get any better than in the OK.

  • barney

    7 days ago

    Slush Cup 2010

    I keep having visions of those April sports highlights of the various Slush Cups held at ski hills, where competitors slide down a sun-baked slope of slush donning little more than a g-string, resulting in an always failed attempt to cross the pond of water at the bottom.

    I think moving the event should have been a contingency option set up from the start of planning and site selection, so it could have been exercised a month ago. Instead, we have $200 bails of hay, and $1000/hour helicopters moving small buckets of snow from top to bottom. This is turning out to be snowball's version of Camus' Myth of Sisyphus - and it be a full blown comedy were it not for the fact we taxpayers are paying for those helicopters preparing for Slush Cup, the Olympic version!

    VANOC, for all the multi-millions spent, surely could have taken some time to establish a serious Plan B - be it Mt Washington on Vancouver Island, another location near Whistler or the Okanagan - for these events.

    Okay, supposing VANOC succeeds in getting all that snow trucked and choppered in come event day, what's stopping Mother Nature from raining down hard, with intermittent periods of spring sunshine, effectively melting away the course as competitors head up to the starting gate?

  • OilbertaRedTory

    7 days ago

    Temperate Rainforests

    ... and winter Owe-lympics never seemed much of a match. Even without global heating:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=150-years-of-warming

    So why not move to Calgary's facilities?
    http://tinyurl.com/CalgaryOlympics2

    Or does Mr Minority have a different show in mind?
    http://www.kelowna.com/2009/09/18/pm-in-charge-in-case-of-olympic-terror-norad-says/

  • alive

    6 days ago

    let them share both ways!

    Good idea about a stupid event.
    How about letting the interior share when it comes to paying for this overblown spectacle?

  • DavidEbner

    6 days ago

    Skeptical.

    1- The writer doesn't disclose his bias: "Big White's media relations manager, Steven Threndyle....." in

    http://www.edmontonsun.com/sports/snowscene/2009/12/03/12023961-sun.html

    2- Olymps in the past often deal with snow--too much (Sapporo 72) and not enough (Innsbruck 76 when the army trucked in snow and soldiers shovelled it on the bare--yes, bare--bottom of the downhill course) and too warm (Calgary 88).

  • sthrendyle

    6 days ago

    Skeptical.

    I can assure Tyee readers that while I do PR work with Okanagan resorts that no one 'paid' me to write this oped piece and that it in fact suggests moving events to my client's competitors. And after watching last night's news clip on CBC, I am impressed by the amount of snow that they are moving at Cypress. I'm under no delusion that my 'fantasy' of moving the Cypress events to the Interior will ever happen.

  • Conductor274

    6 days ago

    Bad idea

    I live in Vernon and no way in hades do we need a bunch of IOC or VANOC members running around here telling us how to act, what to advertise, where to hide the homeless, which computers to display in libraries, what business has to cover up their logo, who can erect what sign, and on and on. This is Gordon Campbell's boondoggle. Let him eat this failure and end up with egg all over his face when it's over. He doesn't deserve any positive recognition for putting us billions of dollars in debt for a 2 week party for the rich and famous. Maybe the next city that entertains the idea of hosting one of these Olympic fiascoes will think twice and turn it down.

  • kl

    6 days ago

    The smart thing

    The smart thing to do would be to move all the events from Cypress to Whistler. Vanoc has backed itself into a corner though and is refusing to budge.

    Vanoc needs as many events as possible in Vancouver so they can sell Vancouver to the world. The trouble is it's hard to sell an inferior product which is what the world will see when it's +4 and raining up at Cypress. I wouln't at all be surprised to see the events end up at Whistler after all. They've even closed off Crystal chair as of immediately and the rumors are swirling that they did this in case of a last minute change of venue.

  • biscotti

    6 days ago

    go north

    Do it at Powder King in the Pine Pass. Great snow, amazing back country, and maybe a big event there would help refurbish the ol' Atco Hotel there ;-)

    On second thought, don't. Leave the hordes in the south.

  • off-the-radar

    6 days ago

    makes sense

    would have been great to use the Okanagan for the winter olympics. (If the Olympics were actually about athletes and sport rather than corporate marketing, elitist partying, private profit and dubious public projects).

  • greenfirefly

    6 days ago

    Agreed

    As much as I am opposed to the Olympics (not the amateur sport part - just all the rest of the nonsense) I totally support your take on it. Move em to the Okanagan.

  • blackie

    6 days ago

    Mind your own business

    Having just booked a ski week at Sun Peaks because I want to escape the Olympics for a little sanity, I would be dismayed beyond belief if the d**n thing followed me out there.

    And Steve -- you should have declared the conflict. As a Media Relations person you would be the first to scream if some PR operative from Whistler anonymously wrote a piece extolling the virtues of Whistler at the expense of Big White.

    And to the Tyee -- didn't you ask? I recognized his name right away.

  • Umslopogaas

    6 days ago

    No snow for the Olympics?

    Oh Booh Hooh.

  • North of Hope

    6 days ago

    Good point Blackie

    I was at Sun Peaks last fall and they were looking forward to the skiers from the lower mainland coming up yo ski in the winter as Whistler will be too busy. This will be a tremendous boost for their business this winter and in the future.
    And all BCer's are paying for the Owelympics, it's not just the lower mainlanders who are stuck with the bill.

  • Stephanie

    6 days ago

    No Snow for Owe-lympics?

    Ahhh, poor Gordo, hope you enjoy the egg on your face!

    I have always been opposed to this venue, Vancouver & Whistler, given the simple facts of geography and Mother Nature.

    The sheer audacity of ego on the part of politicians, organizers, corporate sponsors and the like has amazed me from the beginning of this whole mess. I only feel sorry for the athletes! And for the generations in this province that will be paying for this for a loooong time....

  • Raedwulf

    6 days ago

    Interior Olympics

    In 2003, the shadow of the impending forestry disaster was on the horizon. A government with vision would have located our Olympic bid in the Interior. Can you imagine how positive that decision would have been. It would have sold the Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna winter sports areas, presently not that well known to the world. It would have balanced the economic fallout of the forestry collapse. Vancouver and Whistler are already major world class tourist destinations. The benefits of an Interior Olympics would have far outweighed the Whistler-Vancouver Olympics. Of course Premier Campbell's world begins and ends on the Coast, and his vision and imagination are non-existent.

  • happy

    5 days ago

    Stephanie and Raedwulf

    Perhaps you should cast the blame then, since you are so opposed to the Games being held in Vancouver and Whistler, to the ones resposible for dreaming up and launching the whole idea.

    Glen Clark and the NDP.

    Cheers

  • Jeffrey J.

    5 days ago

    Is Threndyle Curious?

    One of the most vital qualities a writer can have is curiosity. This trait is what makes people's ideas interesting, and leads to true creativity. I hope Mr. Threndyle has that quality and if so, he will have read UBC Prof. Chris Shaw's stunning book Five Ring Circus. My fear however is that he hasn't read the one book that has described the problems with VANOC and the IOC. Which has NOTHING to do with sports, athletes and spectators. They are not the problem, but they are necessary to create a false frame in order to bilk millions and millions of dollars from our tax base to fund a real estate development scheme.

    When Threndyle says "Unlike the bleating hordes of Games-haters who are saying "I told you so" in Vancouver, they would take on this challenge and deliver a top-notch product".

    "Game haters" is a clever term with tones of Sarah Palin's 'haters' and other glib terms without depth.

    I wonder if the citizens of BC's interior who are faing health care and school budgets would be any different from BC citizens who remain deeply concerned about the anti-democratic nature of VANOC and the IOC. I doubt it.

  • Raedwulf

    5 days ago

    Unhappy Happy

    2003 was 3 years into the Campbell and on the eve of the forestry melt down. Only someone as unimaginative as Campbell is still relying on the "blame Glen Clarke and the NDP" whine.

    Are you the Seattle "Happy" that keeps phoning talk shows with your right wing drivel?

  • happy

    5 days ago

    your point Raedwulf?

    So what if it was three years after Gordo took over. The decision to go for the Games was made in what, 1995? The process was in its closing stages when the Libs inherited it and contrary to your simplistic suggestion, the bid to hold the Games in Vancouver/Whistler couldn't be changed at that point to Kelowna/Big White. The bid wasn't submitted on the back of a napkin.
    I'm not "whining" about the fact the NDP initiated this. You should be if your so disgruntled about it.

    No, I'm not Seattle Happy, I don't listen to talk shows either.

  • bfearn

    5 days ago

    olympics

    The author of this piece, an obvious olympics supporter, never uses the words, 'global warming'. When I was a kid my dad shared a cabin up Hollyburn mt (Cypress) and I can remember getting into the two story cabin via a tunnel to a window on the top floor. An extension was added to the stove pipe to keep it above the 20 ft of snow. Last week I was in the Chilcotin where they have a few inches of snow when the 'normal ' is over 3 ft.
    Instead of dealing with global warming or other far more serious issues our governments have allocated over $7 billion on little more than a week of games.
    What is wrong with olympic supporters??

  • sthrendyle

    5 days ago

    this is the last of the WInter Games, as we know it

    Some excellent comments, here. For the record, I am not on the payroll at Big White or Silver Star mountain resorts but I do consulting work for them on an as-needed basis. While the Tyee has plenty of 'commentators' who have worked for special interest groups in the past, I should have disclosed that work at the outset. Whatever - the piece was designed as a tongue in cheek suggestion that of course will never happen in a million years - we ALL know how that you cannot turn the Olympics around on a dime. Frankly, I was living in Kelowna when the original vote was held and was actually surprised that the voters went for it. That said, I think this is the last big Games will see for one reason and one reason only - television as a medium is dead, and the sponsorship dollars along with it.

    Athletic competitions CAN be great things for communities (the BC Winter Games, Canada Games, the World Junior Hockey Championships) - and they can be a great party, too (Aspen Winter X Games).

    I pay taxes and I'm scared as hell of what it will all cost in the long term. But y'know, a lot of that government money wasn't likely going anywhere else - BC DID get over a billion dollars from the federal govt - who knows where that would have gone?

    The Games certainly are not without their flaws (I don't think ever came close to suggesting that), but once they come, I hope to be entertained and thrilled by the athletic performances, which for me are what they really are all about. And Whistler will truly look stunning since it's been an amazing snow year up there.

    I just wish more of the province could have benefited from spreading the events around.

  • lynn

    5 days ago

    The Believe/Deceive Real Estate Ruse

    Quote:

    "They are not the problem, but they are necessary to create a false frame in order to bilk millions and millions of dollars from our tax base to fund a real estate development scheme."

    Well put, Jeffrey J.

    The creation of "false frames" describes so well what is happening in BC on so many levels - from the Olympics, to the selling-out of BC Rail.... BC Hydro.... our rivers.... and our rights.

  • Raedwulf

    5 days ago

    Unhappy Happy

    So Campbell trashed everything that Clarke did, but didn't so much as question the future site of the Olympics. Don't you think the BC Interior would have been a better, cheaper more effective more bang for the buck location for the Olympics?

    By the way, how is questioning the site of the Olympics, Olympics bashing? I have a son on the way to qualifying for the 2014 Olympics. Perhaps you could help pay for the associated costs if you care that much about the Olympics, or are you all talk. By the way BC is one of the worst province when it comes to funding promising athletes. Perhaps you could consider that while Campbell is taking credit for our winning athletes.

  • happy

    5 days ago

    Raedwulf

    I don't think even Kelowna has enough facilities to stage the Games without even more major spending than the Van/Whistler bid.. They are using the Pacific Colliseum AND GM Place just for the skating events alone.
    And remember, before the Games were awarded, the IOC had reservations about the trip time between Vancouver and Whistler.
    Its longer to get to Big White or Silver Star so that would have likely been a non starter.
    The Kelowna airport would no way be able to handle the amount of people travelling.
    YVR is projected to be over capacity right before the Games open, and immediately following, and YVR has far higher capacity than Kelowna.
    Thats just a few thoughts off the top.

    Thats wonderful about your son, I hope he makes it.
    Print your name and address and I'll send you a cheque in the same amount I gave to the Tyee.
    Or are you just all talk.

    I'm not unhappy at all friend, life is what you make it.

  • helen highwater

    5 days ago

    relocating the Olympics

    I've got a better idea - relocate the entire Olympics to Alberta, or Ontario, or Quebec. Anywhere but BC!

  • sthrendyle

    5 days ago

    No, Mister Fearn

    I don't think I EVER said that I supported the Games being held at Cypress, or the Games... at all. We have 'em, now let's try and make the best of it. Actually, I wrote the history of North Shore skiing in Chuck Davis's book and went to the West Van archives and there were plenty of stories about warm weather and lack of snow at Hollyburn - back in the 1930s. Where do you get the idea that because I support the Olympics (and, generally, yes, I do) and that in doing so, support global warming? Provincial and national competitions are rescheduled ALL THE TIME is my point. And I never suggested moving ALL of the events to YLW; just the skiing/snowboarding events. Re: Helen - Alberta would absolutely LOVE to host the Games again. The more I research this (I will be working at the Games for NBC) - the more I believe that these will be the last really big Winter Games. The sponsorship will NOT hold up through 2014 - the world is a far more fragmented place.

  • sthrendyle

    4 days ago

    amateur sport.

    Well, there you go - my little thread succeeds in helping an amateur athlete (in a small way, I'm sure, unless "Happy" is the BC Federation of Labour, which is a major Tyee sponsor - in which case,Hugh, you might get a BIG donation!). Funding for amateur sport, of course, is yet another fractious debate. Personally, I think that 'elite level' training HAS gotten completely out of hand, cost wise. There are all of the countries (Australia being the best example) who make it some kind of 'national mission' to support amateur sport to the max. When a so-called 'amateur skier' has a full time 'team' of trainers, sports psychologists, and nutritional experts travelling with them, then things have gone off the rails. And what about the American who is on the Canadian ski cross team and the Canadian who is freestyle skiing for Australia? Sounds like freighters flying a flag of convenience to me...

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