Warm, wet weather adds new elements of danger on snowboard-cross track

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. - First came the mild temperatures.
Then came the high winds and blowing snow. Then rain, by the bucketful.
Such was the weather Friday atop Cypress Mountain, a snow-starved, rain-soaked peak that's adding new elements of danger to the risky sport of snowboard cross.
Two female boarders - one from France and another from Japan - were taken off the Olympic course on stretchers after their training runs. Another rider from France limped away from the track after reaching the bottom.
With Environment Canada forecasting rain all weekend, coaches and riders are bracing for the worst from Mother Nature by the time the first snowboard-cross race hits the mountain on Monday.
"I wouldn't anticipate that they're going to get better if it keeps raining, so if anything it's going to get worse out there," Tim Milne, Canada's snowboard-cross coach, said of the runs.
"The snow's a little tricky today so it made for challenging conditions."
Rain and record-high temperatures have created a severe shortage of snow on the snowboarding and freestyle skiing courses at Cypress, forcing organizers to shore up the tracks with bales of straw and truck in more of the white stuff.
Crews have been working 24 hours day to ensure the mountain is ready for Saturday's moguls event.
On Friday afternoon, more than a dozen dump trucks filled with snow were lined up near the gate of the resort, while empty trucks sped off after unloading.
The slushy snow conditions on the hill were perfect for making rock-hard snowballs.
All that wet snow could also freeze over the weekend, Milne said. "And then things could get really icy and fast and dangerous."
The temperature stayed above zero for most of the day.
Enough sunlight poked through the clouds above Cypress Mountain in the morning to even encourage one hill worker to take his shirt off.
But the blowing wet snow soon whipped in, dropping the temperature and reducing visibility on the track.
"With the conditions being how they are - the new snow coming down and the wind - you're making a lot of last-minute decisions on-course," said U.S. medal contender Nate Holland.
"I grew up in this stuff over in Idaho, so I'm pretty comfortable to be able to ride by Braille down the course. That's why it's important to get the course in your mind and know where every little hiccup could be."
Holland said injuries are part of the sport.
"That'll happen, unfortunately - that's why you've got to ride smart," he said.
"It's less than optimal (on the hill), I could agree with that. But we could be getting massages down here, that would be optimal.
"It's snowboarding, we work in this stuff all the time."
Still, many of the snowboarders liked the tough track.
"If you don't care (about) the rain, the snow, the wind and everything, the course is great - they did an awesome job," said Canadian racer Francois Boivin. The snow was better than he expected, but still tough to ride on, Boivin added.
"It makes it more difficult because every little mistake you make is, like, times 10."

Organizations: Environment Canada

Geographic location: Cypress Mountain, France, WEST VANCOUVER Japan Canada U.S. Idaho

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