Winter Olympics Snow Woes?

It goes without saying that snow is an important ingredient for the Winter Olympics. So what happens when warm weather impacts the quality and quantity of snow? Sustained above-freezing temperatures create slushy snow that can impact winter sports in myriad ways – slowing down alpine skiers and halfpipe riders, making tricks more difficult, and creating dangerous conditions for ski jumpers and cross country skiers.

According to NOAA, Sochi is among the warmest cities to have hosted the Winter Olympics. Snowmaking machines that work in above-freezing temperatures, stockpiled snow, and rock salt are being used to help mitigate the melting, but what’s an Olympian to do? Skiers are turning to an important tool in their Olympic arsenal: wax. The right ski wax makes all the difference. Using more fluorocarbon wax, which repels water and dirt like Teflon, can help Olympic athletes go for the gold – even in less-than-ideal conditions. Learn more.

Read about long-term snow trends in Russia.

NASA image of the Sochi Olympic skiing and snowboarding sites: Rosa Khutar ski resort near Sochi, Russia, is in the valley at center, and the runs are visible on the shadowed slopes on the left-hand side of the valley. Height has been exaggerated 1.5 times to bring out topographic details. Red indicates vegetation, white is snow, and the resort site appears in gray. The area in the image is about 11 miles across in the foreground and 20 miles from front to back.




















Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

(Sources: NOAA. “Sochi Among the Warmest Winter Olympics Host Cities.”; Krasnaya Polyana, Associated Press. “How Warm Weather Affects Winter Olympics’ Sports,” February 11, 2014.; Eric Niller, Discovery News. “Slow, Slush Snow Makes Ski Wax Vital at Olympics.” February 14, 2014.; Mark McClusky. “Ski techs Turn Fluorocarbon to Gold.” February 14, 2010.

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