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It’s official: the biggest story at the Olympics is Lindsey Vonn’s shin. It has recieved more coverage than the nations of Latvia, Montenegro, Moldova, and San Marino.
We sat down with Vonn’s shin inside the wax room but it would only give us canned answers in the vein of “I just want to take it one day at a time.” So we decided to ask the serene yet inflamed bone for a weather prediction. Silence. Then we just checked the excellent resources on the Whistler website, specifically the live temperature map.
Apart from the engorged bone, the second-biggest story is that these are the world’s first Winter/Summer games. Don’t worry, Shin, you’re still on top. You have made us forget that for the last seven days, the snow wallahs have been trucking snow from south-central British Columbia and shellacked it to Cypress, a Vancouver ski area conveniently located near sea level. But a few days ago, Whistler, which is a full 2,214 feet above the city, began feeling the heat, too. The Atlanta and New York-based media were only too happy to openly question the viability of Whistler as a mountain venue.
Days of rain in the village. Days! They seemed surprised that no accounts of ark building were reported. Why? Because the viability questions were only coming from those who have never been to Whistler. The koan-like question often heard at Whistler is this: What’s the difference between rain and snow?
Today, that answer is “mid-mountain.” Whistler has the biggest vertical drop in North America—a vertical mile—so it has three distinct weather zones: the base, mid-mountain, and the alpine. In the last 48 hours, while it has poured in the village, the mid-mountain and alpine have received a foot of new snow.
This is not news. There are many winter days when it will rain in the village. Tourists will shutter themselves and the recently transplanted will throw another log on the fire and pick up their PlayStation controllers. But locals will check the live temperature map to ensure that it’s cold up high, ride one lift, and ski deep powder on the top third of the mountain. Which brings us to this week’s forecast: above freezing temperatures in the village with lots of precip in store. Ian McIntosh, a local pro skier who has appeared in countless ski movies, stopped just short of rubbing his palms together.
“The media is blowing up this story about warmth and rain and I don’t get it,” he said. “Whistler is sick right now.” It is, though not for all. Fresh snow is the enemy of ski racing. Soft courses get chewed up faster and grey cloud and fog impair racers’ vision but this week should be a good one for everyone else.
Only nobody knows it. The Shin has star power. It’s simply too important to ignore.