I covered four Winter Olympics - Calgary, Albertville, Lillehammer and Nagano, spending a total of 12 weeks in the company of God's Frozen People. There was zero snow in Calgary. Albertville, which sits on a valley floor surrounded by the majestic French Alps, was flakeless. The only snow I saw actually falling was the day of the women's downhill in Meribel, which is kind of like the Wildwood of the Alps. Les actually got snowed in up there covering hockey. He's on the cell phone describing the big, fat flakes and I'm 20 miles away in the La Lechere press center describing the big, fat raindrops. When I covered the men's downhill in Val d'Isere, the town just north of the Italian border still was choked with snow from an epic December storm. At lunch, a waiter informed me I was sitting exactly in the spot where, a month earlier, two people were killed when an avalanche thundered into town. Oh??
L'addition, s'il vous plait.
At Les Arcs 2000, I gathered material for a column on speed skiing, a demonstration sport in which the helmeted competitors careened straight down precipitous slopes at speeds topping 100 mph. Earlier that day, a competitor took the wrong route on a practice run and ran into a snowcat hidden behind a drift at 80 mph. He was killed instantly. It was 11 degrees and lunch was served at an outdoor cafe located atop 100 inches of snow, not one flake of which had fallen in my presence. The cloudless sky was cobalt blue and majestic Mont Blanc, more than 75 miles away, seemed close enough to touch.
The region around Lillehammer was pounded by a record December snowfall of more than 60 inches in some towns. Most of it was still in place that February for the juicy Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan Hairpull Olympics. The chill between the two figure skaters was nothing compared to the numbing cold that prevailed for those games. The only snow that fell was from a starlit sky during the Opening Ceremonies. It was 15 below zero and the atmosphere was so dry, what little moisture was there became large, fluffy, flakes that floated in slow motion. With overnight temperatures as low as 30-below, volunteers in vans patrolled the area, picking up media members and games officials waiting for buses before they suffered frostbite. Les and I shared a small cottage that would be moved with scores of others to a lakefront location after the games and sold as vacation getaways. Ours was surrounded by huge banks of plowed snow. Not a flake melted during our stay.
Three weeks in Nagano yielded one miserable, 2-inch event that became instant slush. And, yep, the men's downhill, first event of the games, was postponed a day by, you guessed it, too much snow in the nearby mountains and low visibility. Les went up into the hills and did a piece on the region's fabulous snow monkeys, who bathe in hot springs. Naturally, it snowed for him. Les is a snow magnet.
Now, with weather history about to be made - a possible third 20-plus inch storm in the same season - we're talking a maybe once-in-500-years occurrence, where am I? In Florida, waiting for the pitchers and catchers to show up. Not sunny Florida, either. This is the coldest place on earth when it is in the low 50s and the wind is howling off the Gulf. On the southern tail of the weekend Snowpocalypse, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms raked the Tampa Bay area. My son rubbed it in by e-mailing photos of a 5-foot drift against our front door.
So in the generous spirit of the Olympics, I think the Delaware Valley should reach out to snowless Vancouver, Canada's warmest city in winter, and invite the British Columbians to move their cross country skiing, their biathlon and trick skiing events to Buffalo on the Delaware. Dump 40 inches of snow in South Jersey's pristine Pine Barrens and you've got instant Norway. All you need is 50,000 folks camping out for a week to cheer their national heroes to victory.
And the demonstration sport can be the one that was improvised Saturday in Philly: the Art Museum Steps Toboggan Run. But we'll replace curling - bowling with brooms - with a sport derived from the rich tailgating tradition of Eagles fans: hurling.
Send e-mail to email@example.com.
For recent columns, go to