No move planned for Vancouver freestyle venue

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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - There are no plans to relocate the snowboard and freestyle skiing competitions at next month's Vancouver Olympics, despite concerns about insufficient snow at the venue, organizers said on Thursday.

Weather and snow conditions at Cypress Mountain, just north of Vancouver, have become a bit of a public relations problem for organizers as the February 12 start of the Winter Olympics on Canada's Pacific Coast nears.

"We have no intention of moving from that venue," Tim Gayda, the Vancouver Organizing Committee's (VANOC) vice-president for sport, told reporters during a special briefing on the situation at Cypress.

"Things are well at Cypress and we have things in hand," he said.

A crew of some 100 people has been moving snow that was stockpiled at higher, colder elevations, and using straw to help rebuild a snow base that was melted by unseasonably warm weather in mid-January.

Temperatures at the competition area, which also goes by the local name of Cypress Bowl, have not been cold enough to let crews produce large amounts of artificial snow.

Cypress has always been seen as a possible trouble spot for the Vancouver Olympics. Fog and rain disrupted World Cup freestyle skiing there in 2008 and the World Cup snowboarding parallel giant slalom race had to be canceled last year.

VANOC said part of the problem last year was they had only one day to prepare the course after the snowboard cross event ended, and Cypress is much better prepared now with equipment that allows them to build a backup snow supply.

"We came up with some new plans to make sure that doesn't happen again," said Eric Freemont, VANOC's competition manager at the venue.

No significant natural snowfall is expected between now and the start of the Games. "If we get it, it will just make our jobs all the easier," Gayda said. Vancouver is known for having some of the mildest winter weather in Canada, though its nearby mountains are usually snow-covered.

There probably would have been extra attention paid to Cypress even without the snow concerns. It will be the venue for ski cross, which is making an Olympic debut that organizers hope will draw new, younger fans to the Games.

Lack of snow is not a problem at the alpine and nordic skiing venues at the resort community of Whistler, about 125 km (80 miles) north of Vancouver. The snow base where the alpine skiers will race is 9.88 meters (32.4 feet) deep, VANOC said.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Peter Galloway and Rob Wilson)