2022 Beijing Olympics and Fake Snow

The Winter Olympics at Beijing have begun, and the athletes are competing in entirely fake snow. Normally, the Winter Olympics are held in locations that see high snowfall; average of at least 300 inches per year or more, given the nature of winter games and generally needing snow.

However, as seen on the Olympics footage, the mountains and surrounding landscape in Beijing are brown, showing no snowfall. Beijing does not often see high snowfall or accumulation.

Real snow and fake snow are both made of frozen water, but most athletes can tell the difference, and it has to do with the process of freezing.

Natural snow starts as a tiny ice crystal in a cloud, and as the crystal falls through the air, the ice crystal grows into a six-sided snowflake. Human-made snow simply freezes from a single droplet of water, which results in snow with billions of tiny spherical balls of ice. The color may be the same, but when it comes to snowing on it, the results are very different.

Human-made snow is very dense, almost like ice. Powder snow or natural snow, has a weightless feel, as it is made of more than 95% air.

Of course, natural snow has its downsides; it’s harder to slide down natural snow, so Olympics organizers may pour water and harden the snow.

But the downsides are equally bad. The hardened snow made entirely of man-made snow, can be too hard which can make jump landings difficult. It also makes speed control harder for skiiers due to its smooth top.

Already, several athletes have lost control during the skiing events. It wouldn’t be too big of a deal, except these are world class athletes. How much performance this will impact is not yet known.

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