Balmy winter weather forces Sochi officials to tap snow reserve
02/11/2014 4:03 PM
02/11/2014 4:24 PM
The motto for the 2014 Winter Olympics is “Hot.Cool.Yours.” Unfortunately, it’s getting a little too hot in subtropical Sochi.
After Monday’s temperatures reached the balmy upper 50s and Tuesday’s temps appeared headed toward that direction, Russian officials went with Plan B and broke out snow stored from last winter. They applied it to courses that needed it at the mountain venues in Krasnaya Polyana.
“I cannot tell you how much. I just don’t know,” said Aleksandra Kosterina, spokeswoman for Sochi 2014, in an article from Olympic News Service. “I mean I don’t know the specifics but I know that we did.”
Some athletes were appreciative. “It’s nice out,” joked USA snowboarder Shaun White. “The sun’s out. I don’t know what the temperature is.”
It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and fans were crunching by in slush.
White said that after the grooming, the halfpipe was in much better condition during official qualifying runs Tuesday than it had been during the informal training on previous days. “I’m so thankful for that,” said White.
Temperatures dropped as night fell on the halfpipe finals Tuesday, and Seamus O’Connor of Ireland said the snow was better because the bottom of the pipe had re-frozen.
White, meanwhile, crashed on both of his runs in the finals, fell to fourth place and missed out on a medal.
Snow is a tricky business for the Winter Olympics Too much of it, like the near white-out conditions at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, isn’t a good thing. Too little of it — organizers of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver were praying for snowfall — isn’t a good thing, either.
Sochi is a large area with a dual identity. The Black Sea coastal area, where the skating sports arenas are located, has palms and fir trees. It’s there where the weather has been balmy. Less than an hour away are the mountains, which have natural snow at the higher elevations that’s been augmented with artificial snow.
Critics have complained about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put the Winter Games in the place in Russia where it snows the least. And Russian Olympic officials have had to deal with snow questions even before the games began.
“We do have a strong contingency plan in place,” Kosterina said. “We developed a special program I think two years ago certainly that included several measures, and one of them was the snow preservation.”
In a scathing report last May detailing alleged corruption in around the construction of the Winter Games, frequent Putin critic Boris Nemtsov wrote:
“Russia is a winterly country. On the map, it is hard to find a spot where snow would never fall, and where winter sports would not be popular. Yet Putin has found such a spot and decided to hold the Winter Olympics there: in the city of Sochi.”
Valery Lukyanov, the weather forecast manager for the Winter Games, said in a news conference before the games began that Russia added a dozen weather stations in the mountains and hired some 50 weather and technical experts to forecast and advise on conditions.
Some snowboarding athletes have complained about their venue. Monday’s half pipe practices were postponed as workers attempted to fix some of the concerns voiced by participating athletes.
Tuesday, some snowboarders continued to trip on the lip of the pipe or tumble in their landings. American snowboarder Taylor Gold said that soft snow, when it isn’t properly groomed, gets bumpy and rattles the competitors on their runs.
“It’s kind of scary,” he said.
“Figuring out how to ride this thing is a challenge,” Taylor said. “When the weather’s warm like this it’s bound to get soft and I’m sure it’s a challenge to get it up to competition standard. Had this event been held in a firmer pipe it would be a much better contest because we would’ve had practice and people would be going bigger.”
At a nearby event, some of the ski slopestyle competitors said they noticed the soft snow in their event too.
“Today, everything softened up,” said Devin Logan, Team USA’s silver medalist. “The landings were kind of mushy.” She tried to make the most of it, she said, imagining skiing on a spring day.
“Everyone was in the same conditions,” Logan said. “We can’t control Mother Nature. We just adjust to it.”
The forecast for Wednesday at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park calls for a high of 45.
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