In the coming days, as media attention focuses west, toward the Vancouver Winter Olympics, you’re likely to hear a lot of commentators talking about the weather.
In Washington D.C., it’s winter. In Bangor, Maine, it’s winter. But in Vancouver, British Columbia — home of the largest winter sporting event of the year — it’s feeling more like spring.
Temperatures have hovered in the 40s, often hitting 50 during the day. Preparation for the Games continues, but logistical headaches are complicating matters.
Worst hit among the Olympic venues has been Cypress Mountain, home of the snowboard events, including the snowboard cross races that will feature Maine’s Seth Wescott.
Natural snow at the lower elevations — where the course will be built — hasn’t been falling, and according to published reports organizers instead have been making snow at higher elevations and pushing it down the mountain to build the snowboard cross course and the halfpipe. More snow has been trucked in from other locations.
In January Wescott sat down at The Rack, the Sugarloaf restaurant he co-owns, and talked about a number of topics. Even then, about two weeks ago, Wescott was paying particular attention to the weather 3,000 miles away.
Wescott, 33, grew up in Farmington and went to high school at Carrabassett Valley Academy. He said he had high hopes for a Vancouver course he thought would fit his style of snowboarding well.
“I really liked the course [in Vancouver] last year. The course builder’s an old friend of mine, Jeff Ihaksi, who used to race with us,” Wescott said. “I’ve won the Olympics and the World Championship on courses that he built. I like the hill [where the Olympic snowboard cross will be staged.”
But steady warm weather had Wescott worried.
“To be honest, we’re incredibly troubled with the conditions right now,” he said. [On Jan. 22] I was looking on-line and it was 20 degrees, Celsius. We’re talking not prime conditions to be doing anything.”
For those who haven’t embraced the metric system, 20 degrees Celsius is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Organizers are building up the structure of the snowboard cross course with bales of straw rather than the piles of packed snow they’d typically use.
“Hopefully, Jeff has enough material to work with so that he can build something up to the par of what he builds, because he’s by far the world’s best course builder,” Wescott said, pointing out that before the 2006 Torino Games, Ihaksi was given 36 days (and plenty of snow) to build the Olympic course.
Over the past week or so, officials from the International Olympic Committee and Vancouver organizers have repeatedly said that snowboard events will take place at Cypress, and that course-building is progressing as expected.
Still, the number of training days for halfpipe riders has been cut, and last-minute work continues.
And a quick check of Internet weather sites showed there’s still reason for some concern: The temperature at Cypress on Monday afternoon was 36 degrees, and the long-range forecast called for a chance of rain on five of the next six days.
The Olympics begin on Friday.
Two local derbies on tap
Ice anglers looking for some competitive fun have a pair of options within a few miles of each other this weekend.
First up: The Orrington Rod & Gun Club will host a derby on Fields Pond and Brewer Lake that will run from dawn until dusk on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets cost just $2, and the angler who catches the largest salmon will receive $75. Other fish prizes: $50 for the top pickerel and $25 for the biggest perch.
A variety of shore prizes are also up for grabs.
The weigh-in will be held at 5 p.m. on Sunday at Bob’s Kozy Korner in Orrington. Tickets are available at Bob’s Kozy Korner and Crosby’s Gun Shop. For more information, call Jim Goody at 852-6252.
Just a few miles south, anglers will flock to Silver Lake in Bucksport on Sunday for the Bucksmills Rod and Gun Club’s annual derby.
The derby will run from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tickets cost $5 for adults, $2 for children, and $10 for a family.
Tickets will be sold at the boat landing on Silver Lake Road on the day of the derby. The boat landing will also be the site of the weigh-in. Shore prizes and fish prizes are up for grabs, and an ice shack contest will be staged.
Fish chowder, chili and plenty of other food will be available at the weigh-in site.
Free fishing this weekend
If you’ve got a pal you’ve always wanted to introduce to ice fishing, this is the weekend you’ve been waiting for.
The Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife is promoting its Family Fishing Days, and this weekend anyone can fish for free on the state’s legal lakes and ponds, no license required.
The only catch: If you’ve had your license revoked or suspended, that penalty is still in effect.
“Family Fishing Days provide the perfect opportunity for adults to introduce children to fishing,” DIF&W Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin said in a news release. “It’s also a chance to show family and friends who have never fished that fishing provides fun, memorable experiences that can’t be duplicated.”
With a number of fishing derbies on tap around the state this weekend, families may want to take advantage of the free fishing opportunity and spend a day or two participating in a local tournament.