Artificial city

The snow at the Beijing Winter Olympics is almost entirely man-made

Artificial snow has been used in the Winter Olympics since 1980, but the Beijing Olympics will be the first to rely almost entirely on artificial snow.

The Beijing Organizing Committee kicked off the 2022 Winter Olympics with the opening ceremony February 4. Athletes from around the world will compete on snow and ice in and around Beijing for the next two weeks.

But will the athletes actually compete on real snow? Securities in the week leading up to the start of Beijing 2022 have suggested otherwise, saying the event will rely almost entirely on artificial snow.


Are the Beijing Olympics almost entirely dependent on artificial snow?



Yes, the Beijing Olympics rely almost entirely on artificial snow.


According to a report from Sport Ecology Group, the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games will go down in history as the first Olympic Games on “virtually 100% artificial snow”. Noah Molotch, associate professor of geographic hydrology at the University of Colorado Boulder with expertise in snow hydrology and a doctorate in hydrology, said these will be the first Winter Olympics to rely almost entirely on snow artificial and to consciously plan to do so from the start. .

“Many Olympics will rely on natural snowfall, but then cover with artificial snow as needed to augment the natural snowfall,” Molotch said. “But in those particular games, they knew it’s a place that gets very little natural snow and that they would rely exclusively on artificial snow.”

The use of artificial snow by the Olympic Games for the 2022 Games is confirmed in the Beijing 2022 Pre-Games Sustainability Report. The report explains the strategies that the Beijing Organizing Committee is trying to reduce water consumption in the creation of artificial snow, although the report does not confirm to what extent the Beijing Games will depend on artificial snow.

The Sport Ecology Group said artificial snow has been used at the Winter Olympics since the 1980 Games in Lake Placid. Molotch said the snow at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which took place in an unusually warm climate for the Winter Olympics, was 80% man-made.

“Made snow tends to be a lot denser, a lot more icy, a lot harder, more like concrete once it’s formed on the ground; whereas natural snow can be more like powder snow, lighter and fluffier,” Molotch said. “Natural snow can also become icy over time, but when it initially falls from the sky, it’s quite light and fluffy.”

Artificial snow is good at maintaining consistent snow conditions from the top to the bottom of a hill, making it ideal for downhill skiing and other competitions that rely on speed, Molotch said. For aerial events like the halfpipe, he said, artificial snow can be more dangerous for athletes who fall because of its firmness.

But there is no good snow formula to eliminate the dangers for athletes. Molotch said even a mixture of artificial snow and natural snow can become inconsistent on the surface and therefore dangerous when athletes scratch and melt the top layer of natural snow during a competition day.

Athletes know the characteristics of different snow mixes and prepare appropriately to compete in the specific conditions they will face, Molotch said. And they probably have plenty of opportunities to practice on artificial snow.

“Ski resorts around the world rely heavily on artificial snow at the start of the snow season,” Molotch said. “And depending on where you are in the world, they may depend on that throughout the ski season.”

The Sport Ecology Group report estimates that 95% of ski resorts worldwide rely to some degree on artificial snowmaking. Resorts use their artificial snow to ensure good quality conditions, extend the ski season, or both.

One of the main problems with artificial snow is that it requires a lot of water to create. That’s why the Beijing Organizing Committee devoted an entire section of its sustainability report to mitigating its impact on local water supplies. This includes its adoption of an “intelligent snow system” that can be monitored in real time with digital devices. The Beijing Organizing Committee estimates that it can save up to 20% water in snowmaking by using this system.

According to the Sport Ecology Group report, the need for artificial snow may continue during the next Winter Olympics due to climate change. A to study published in January 2022, led by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, predicted that in the event of high levels of fossil fuel emissions, only four of the last 21 host cities of the Winter Olympics, including Beijing , would constitute reliable winter accommodation sites in 2050 due to poor natural snow conditions. Researchers believe that only one host city – Sapporo, Japan – will still be a reliable host of the Winter Olympics by the end of the century.

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