Saturday, January 23, 2010

Games Time: possible foreclosure and lack of snow make the upcoming Olympics interesting

Posted By on Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 7:47 PM

It goes without saying that the Canadians have thought of everything when it comes to the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. On one hand, the Vancouver Games are right in step with the times by having one of the key venues being foreclosed on by its lenders. On the other hand, VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) is paying homage to the 1976 Winter Games by trucking in snow to lay down a swath of snow on sparsely covered slopes.

 First to the foreclosure. Intrawest ( is one of several ski area holding companies. It owns Blue Mountain, Mountain Creek, Panorama and Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, Snowshoe in North Carolina and Stratton in Vermont.

In this regard they’re similar to Mt. Bachelor owner Powdr Corp ( which owns eight U.S. ski areas.

 Intrawest’s Whistler Blackcomb is the site for the Olympic alpine ski and snowboard events (the snowboard freestyle events will be held elsewhere-more on that later) and is home to the Whistler Sliding Centre where the bobsled and luge events will be staged.

 Well this week it was announced that lenders Lehman Brothers and Davidson Kemper Capital Management, among others, have foreclosed on Intrawest and will start to auction off its assets, including Whistler Blackcomb, during the Olympic Games.

 Wow, how cool is that. You can watch the downhill and then stroll over and catch the live auction and perhaps witness the ski area being sold to some Saudi prince or Wall Street hedge fund manager.

 VANOC officials say the alpine, luge and bobsled events will come off as scheduled but who knows.

 Meanwhile closer to metro Vancouver, the snow cover at Cypress Mountain, the site of the ski and snowboard freestyle events is, well, light. And with spring-like weather expected for the next ten days, VANOC is making snow and planning to either truck or helicopter it onto Cypress Mountain to be spread around.


The last time something of this magnitude happen was at the 1976 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Hoping for enough natural snow to fall for sufficient cover, officials of the ’76 games waited until the last moment before calling out the Austrian Army. The army then trucked in tons of snow from wherever they could find it and had troops lay enough down so all events came off without a hitch.


These days given the freaky weather and El Nino years being the norm rather that the rarity, it would seem that the making and hauling of snow to cover slopes, trails and sliding areas will be the way of the future for the Winter Olympic Games.








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