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Russia Hoarded 400,000 Tons Of Snow To Deal With Mushy Snow At Winter Olympics

February 12, 2014

For the past few weeks one of the stories about the Winter Olympics that has gained some coverage has concerned how warm Sochi can be at this time of year.  How can the snow events take place where palm trees blow in the breezes?  Yesterday it was very apparent that Shawn White could have used better snow and ice conditions when competing, and there are weather reports to indicate warmer temperatures are expected in the days to come.  So how can the Olympics proceed without snow of the quality needed for the athletes?

Russia may not have enough toilet paper, light bulbs, or shower curtains, (or bread for the Subway shop near the Olympic village) but it does have snow, and the way they stored it, and are now using it is a story that merits more attention.

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Sochi tapped its strategic snow reserve. Around 710,000 cubic meters (25 million cubic feet) of snow have been hoarded near the skiing and snowboarding venues, shielded from the elements by thick reflective blankets designed to keep the powder intact. These stockpiles became tourist attractions in themselves during the summer. At 400-600 kilograms per cubic meter, we’re looking at a mid-range guess of 355,000 tonnes (391,000 tons) of the white stuff.

The less charitable take on Sochi’s snow stockpile is that it’s the predictable result of hosting the games in a subtropical climate. That the organizers needed to stockpile snow from two winters to ensure proper coverage is proof of the folly of holding the games there. With February temperatures in Pyeongchang, South Korea, host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, rarely rising above freezing, this won’t be a problem the next time around. Then again, it won’t be nearly as comfortable for fans who like to watch skiing in the morning and stroll along the seaside in a t-shirt in the afternoon.

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