Many skiers will claim that it’s never too cold to hit the slopes, so long as the skier in question is properly dressed for the cold. But there have already been reports from PyeongChang that throw this conventional wisdom into doubt. Reuters reported Tuesday that several Olympic skiers’ skis were effectively destroyed because of the cold weather, and had to be thrown out after training runs.
“It’s not because of hard conditions, but the cold conditions,” Austrian Alpine skier Marcel Hirscher told Reuters. “Snow crystals get really sharp when temperatures go to -20 degrees (C) and the base burns. It’s the same as lighting fire and burning your base because the snow crystals get such sharp edges.”
Hirscher said that, although it might seem extreme to throw away a perfectly good pair of skis on account of what might seem like minor damage, it’s a trade any Olympic athlete would make.
“When you are an athlete training to be the best in the world, every little millisecond, every little idiosyncrasy counts,” Hirscher told Reuters.
“You can’t do anything about it, but with the cold temperatures, the snow adheres to the ski base and twists it,” Craig Randell, a start crew technician who’s working the Olympic games told Reuters. “They are turning their skis to garbage real fast.”
To combat the freezing temperatures and help ensure that no skis get damaged during the Olympics themselves, organizers have injected the slalom race with water, Reuters reported.
One thing’s for certain: It’s super cold in PyeongChang and has been for a while. Last week, before the games kicked off, audiences walked out of a rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony when temperatures hit six degrees with wind chill factor of seven below zero, according to USA Today.
Not wanting to take any chances, Team USA has had special parkas with a “wearable heat system” manufactured especially for the American athletes to wear during the Opening Ceremony. Created in conjunction with Ralph Lauren, the parkas are lined with conductive ink, which provides heat with the help of an internal battery pack and can be controlled with athletes’ phones.
Nevertheless, the freezing temperatures in PyeongChang — the coldest city in the world at its altitude — will pose a threat to all of the skis set to grace the slopes for the Winter Games.
On the plus side, it definitely won’t be too warm to ski, as it was in 2014 when some skiers at the Sochi games reportedly landed in puddles of water instead of snow.