"International Olympic Committee delegates recently skied the course and were very pleased with the results," says Tim Gayda, Vice President of Sport for the Olympic organisers VANOC. "From the beginning of the season, VANOC and Whistler Blackcomb crews have worked hard together to prepare the courses to create a very dense base of snow that involved a massive snowmaking effort.
Add to that the incredible amount of natural snow that has fallen in Whistler this season, and we're now ready to deliver an Olympic-class alpine skiing venue that will live up to the reputation that the renowned Dave Murray Downhill course holds the world over. We look forward to debuting the spectacular new woman's course on Franz's Run. We're in to the home stretch on our final preparations."
Deep snow at Whistler Blackcomb is not unusual, but reaching the average annual snowfall (10.13 metres/ 33 feet) this early is truly unique. Since snow reporting began in the 1979/80 season, this is the first time that Whistler Blackcomb has received this much snow by the end of January. The prior record was set in 2006/07 when 945 centimetres or 31 feet of snow fell by January 31.
The news is not so good at Cypress Mountain, the Olympic venue for snowboarding and freestyle events, is continuing to battle to be Games Ready however, although Olympic organisers insist it will be. Cypress is close to Vancouver which has been unseasonably warm all year and most of the snow at resort level has melted. The venue has been using hay bales to build structures like the half pipe and has been trucking in snow to cover them, rather damaging the ‘green' reputation the Games have been striving for.
With no good news on lowering temperatures as the Games get closer the organisers are now using a Sikorsky S64 Skycrane, the second largest helicopter in the world, to transport snow onto the Olympic competition areas. Snow from the upper regions of the mountain will be moved by the helicopter and transported to the areas they are needed.
Elsewhere in North America there have been snowfalls at most resorts, particularly on the US West Coast in California and further north in Alaska, where Alyeska has had the biggest snowfall in the world over the past 7 days - 107cm or 3.6 feet. Other resorts across the West have had big falls of 2-3 feet, although the snow hasn't been quite as abundant in Colorado and other ski areas in the Rockies, although most have had good falls there too.
More unusually large falls have been reported in South eastern US states like Virginia where ski areas have reported 50cm (20 inch) accumulations an there have been similar large falls in other southern US states to the west like Arizona and New Mexico.