The scenic vistas of the 2018 Winter Olympics are essential. It's a snowy wonderland built for snowboarding, skiing, and whatever this is. But, according to a report from USA Today, almost every snowflake you see is man-made.
"It's at least 98% (man-made)," Ian Honey, project manager for Michigan's Snow Making Inc., said. He supervised the installation of the system that makes the snow at PyeongChang's Jeongseon Alpine Centre. Athletes like the consistency of the snow, even if there are concerns about fake snow and the amount of water it requires. (Others have noted chemical concerns and noise issues for local habitats, as well.)
"We have supplied over 160 fans for the Jeongseon Alpine Centre," the company wrote on Facebook. It's the sixth time the company has supplied fake snow for the Winter Olympics, reports the Weather Channel.
Honey, whose company puts snow-making machines in place for skiing and snowboarding events at the Olympics, says this isn't out of the ordinary. Around 80% of the snow at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was man-made. "With the speeds they're doing and the responsiveness of their skits, it seems what they need is a more durable and better and consistent product on the mountain," Honey said.
Seoul tends to be dry in January and February, so it requires a little support from technology to get enough consistent snow for Olympic competition. The courses aren't likely to be at the quality Olympic athletes expect without the assistance of man-made snow.
It's not uncommon for ski resorts to use man-made snow as well. It can help stabilize the ski season when the snowpack is becoming increasingly unreliable in many areas. In fact, the skiing magazine Powder wrote, in an article about artificial snow, "It's easier to single out ski areas that don't use human-made snow as opposed to those that do." The magazine said in 2016 that almost 90% of ski resorts in North America use man-made snow to some extent.
In fact, the team monitoring the course doesn't want natural snow. Once the fake snow is in place, they're hoping natural snow doesn't settle on top. “We’re working against Mother Nature,’’ mountain operations manager Geoff Marriner told USA Today. “Once you have a course built, watered. and ready to race, you don’t want any natural snow, you don’t want any wind, you don’t want a lot of stuff you normally don’t mind."
h/t USA Today