Snow and rain force training cancellations

By Deborah Charles

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Heavy rain washed away most of the fresh snow at Cypress Mountain and thick fog and snow forced the cancellation of the women's downhill ski training at Whistler on Thursday.

On Cypress, a mountain on the outskirts of Vancouver, heavy rain began to fall in the pre-dawn hours. With temperatures rising, the rain washed away most of the much welcomed snow that had blanketed the bare mountain on Wednesday.

"All of the lovely white stuff that we got last night, that I was so excited about -- it's all gone," said Cypress venue spokesman Stephen Bourdeau.

After days of importing snow from other sites by truck and via helicopter in order to sculpt the freestyle and snowboarding courses, organizers had welcomed the arrival of the real thing through a day of snow showers on Wednesday.

The fresh snow helped on the moguls course, where competition begins with the women's medal event on Saturday.

"I'm psyched that it snowed," said Scott Rawles, coach for the U.S. women's moguls team, adding that conditions were likely to change every day.

Training in the morning on the snowboard parallel giant slalom course was canceled at Cypress. Workers pulled tarpaulins over the moguls and the halfpipe to protect the course from the rain.

SNOW DESCENDED

At Whistler, organizers first delayed then canceled women's downhill training on Thursday after fog and snow descended on the course.

Organizers twice sent skiers down the course but each time the run was halted after just one woman had gone. Training was stopped early on Wednesday because of poor visibility.

Gold medal favorite Lindsey Vonn, who is struggling with an injured shin, was unable to test out her leg.

The weather has been extremely mild in Whistler, like it has throughout the Vancouver area. As temperatures dropped in the past few days, a fog descended over the area, making it difficult to see the mountain tops.

Rain is forecast to fall heavily again on Saturday at Cypress, where the women's moguls are set to be run in the afternoon.

The race may not be canceled just because of rain, but organizers will be looking closely at visibility since judges must be able to see the skiers as they perform their tricks.

(Additional reporting by Patrick Vignal in Whistler. Editing by Ed Osmond)