Frigid air in PyeongChang damages Alpine skiers' skis

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
February 09, 2018, 10:34:53 AM EST

The harsh cold of PyeongChang, South Korea, has already had an impact on the performance of certain athletes.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the extreme cold conditions are warping skis and forcing Alpine skiers to throw them out after their training runs.

“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, told Reuters.

“They are turning their skis to garbage real fast,” he said.

Austrian Alpine skier Marcel Hirscher told Reuters that the snow crystals that form in the frigid cold can negatively impact the skis.

“Snow crystals get really sharp when temperatures go to minus 20 degrees [Celcius] and the base burns. It’s the same as lighting fire and burning your base because the snow crystals get such sharp edges,” he said.

alpine skiing

The composition of snow can impact how a skier navigates a course, whether it’s a Nordic or Alpine event.

"Colder snow (especially new, cold snow) has sharper/harder crystals that can act like sand paper against the ski, compromising glide," Emily Lovett, a cross country specialist with the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) National Team previously told AccuWeather. "When the snow is warmer, the crystals are less sharp and skis glide easier."

World Cup and Olympic race courses are typically held on very hard snow, according to Robin Barnes, a member of the (PSIA) National Alpine Team.

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“Sometimes the courses are injected with water and then allowed to freeze before the race is held,” Barnes said. “The hardest, iciest snow that the general public skis doesn’t really compare to the [icy conditions] of World Cup level injected courses.”

Barnes said she has personally experienced “burned” bases from hard, cold snow, but not warped skis.

Reuters reported that the slalom course at the Yongpyong Alpine Center was injected with water, and along with upcoming milder weather, this should help the skis maintain their integrity.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorolgoist Bob Smerbeck, the composition of snow changes when it gets colder because any liquid water within the snow will freeze which could make it more crusty.

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“Light and fluffy snow usually does not partially melt on its way down as long as its falling through a colder atmosphere to the surface that is below 0 C (32 F),” he said. “Light and fluffy snow is more powdery and usually contains less water than heavy wet or melting snow.”

The first Alpine skiing training runs began on Thursday, and the first medal event is slated for Sunday when the men’s downhill is held.

According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Eric Leister, while cold air will remain in place this weekend, it will turn unseasonably mild next week.

Destination PyeongChang

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