Bitter Cold Wrecking Skis in the Korean Winter Olympics

Ben Cavet skiing the moguls

Ben Cavet skiing the moguls. By Dominic Trewin [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t Willie Soon – bitter cold weather in Pyeongchang is damaging the skis of Olympic athletes practicing for the games.

Cold weather turning skis to garbage in Pyeongchang

Rory Carroll

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Brutally cold conditions in Pyeongchang are warping skis and forcing some athletes to toss them out after training runs, an Alpine skiing course worker told Reuters on Wednesday.

“One of the coaches said they are throwing the skis out after today,” Craig Randell, a start crew technician working on his third Olympics, said on a chilly morning at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre, where the slalom, giant slalom and team events will be held later this month.

“You can’t do anything about it but with the cold temperatures, the snow adheres to the ski base and twists it.”

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

Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2018-alps-skis/cold-weather-turning-skis-to-garbage-in-pyeongchang-idUSKBN1FR0F5

Lets see, bitter cold in Asia, freezing conditions in the USA, icy conditions in Britain, People skiing in the streets of Paris, heavy snowfall in the Sahara, the Russian army is helping snowbound residents in Moscow, but remember any cold you are experiencing is a local or regional event, climate scientists assure us that we are currently experiencing an unusually warm year.

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106 thoughts on “Bitter Cold Wrecking Skis in the Korean Winter Olympics

  1. Snow too cold for skis – that’s a new one.
    Obviously the wrong kind of snow, caused of course, by “climate change”.
    /sarc

    • The whole story seems to be flawed. As an ex ski bun and racer, I have skied at -40F in western Canada.
      We wouldn’t actually start the lifts until it had warmed to at least -20F because of potential lubrication problems.
      However skiing at less than -20F is like skiing on gravel. The skiis do not run very well. My problem was that I couldn’t keep my feet warm at temperatures less than about -25F.

      However I never heard of a composite ski actually being damaged from this cold and the temperature according to Steve’s link, the temperature is just fine.

      The water mentioned in Steve’s link is used to harden the snow on the race course so holes, or deep ruts, do not appear at every turn. In fact it is safer to race on hard snow because of the danger of hooking or burying a tip in cruddy snow is a great way to get an injury at speed.

      So I think the ski story is contrived. The skis will run just fine at -4F although waxing may be unnecessary. Even the hardest wax scraped very thin will probably slow the ski at about this temperature – as for burning the ski, that seems a laugh.

      Cheers

      Roger
      Great days in my days as a international ski bum though.

      • I think the reporter got this one wrong. I can see changing skis because the base p tex formulation is wrong but a whole ski being destroyed; No. At worst a soft base will produce micro hairs that will significantly slow a ski.
        I will make the comment though that snow can be significantly different now than it was 40 years ago. It now changes much faster. 40 years ago I use to go from the slopes to the car with barely a notice of changes. Now the snow goes from being fantastic to damned snow as fast as walking from the slopes to the car. Still ski 5 days a week though.

    • Ah, memories of “global warming has affected the Winter Olympics”, i.e., Vancouver (too warm), Sochi (too warm)…repeat as needed.

      Its almost as if, gasp!, there is no “just right” when it comes to climate. A day/week/month/year/decade, etc. will almost always be off the average by whatever you are measuring.

      (Sorry, preaching to the numerate choir here I know, but its seriously starting to bug me that your average liberal arts grad last took a decent math class, if ever, back in middle school).

      • The thing is: Soshi is Russia’s riviera. It’s their “warm” spot, the most unlikely place for Winter Olympics!

    • Nonsense. I’ve been a skier for 50 years, starting at age 20. Yep. I’m still skiing at age 70. I’ve skied all over the Rocky Mountain West in all kinds of conditions on every kind of terrain. I’ve skied at -35 degrees F back in the day when they would still run a lift and allow you to ski at your own risk. I’ve owned more pairs of skis than I can count. While very cold snow can affect how skis perform, I’ve never heard of throwing out a pair because the cold ruined them.

    • Obviously they should be using Models of skies. Get with program guys! After all if a Nobel Prize winner uses models they must be good!

    • Oh that was fast. The thermometer says -0.3, when the official station is at -1.6C. Keep it coming, please.

  2. Don’t forget the several inches of snow in Southern Morocco – first time in some 50 years or so.

    • Snow isn’t just a metric for cold. In fact it is a bad one. It is a metric for cold and moisture content.
      Which is why lake-effect snow is heavier when the water surface is warmer. More snow but colder temps not as cold. We get that in England in an E to NE’ly with continental air crossing the North Sea. The air that got down to the Sahara was not unusual, the water content was. Uplift over the
      mountains prob released it.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/sahara-desert-snow-storm-climate-algeria-ain-sefra-africa-weather-latest-a8149226.html

      “a spokeswoman for the Met Office told The Independent 
      “It seems like the snowy pictures were taken across the higher areas in the north of the region, towards the Atlas regions, so it’s not surprising that the area would see some snow if the conditions were right.
      “With the setup over Europe at the moment, which has given us cold weather over the weekend, a push southwards of cold air into that region and some sort of moisture would bring that snow.”
      Ain Sefra, which was founded in 1881 as a French garrison town, sees average high temperatures of over 37C in summer and has seen record lows of -10.2C in winter. ”

      Non-unusual cold (record lows of -10C), but unusual moisture.
      And what is that a sign of?

      • http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1002/wea.485/asset/485_ftp.pdf;jsessionid=FC4C8D549D2C16CE404BABB67E2103F3.f04t04?v=1&t=jdep4i6o&s=b37d5611a1f3c0467436bbad531ebb1d2c6622eb

        “Over the north and centre of the Sahara desert, almost all precipitation occurs in the winter months, associated with deep cold air masses extending south across the Mediter- ranean. Although there is a southward pro- gression of cold air, the scant precipitation from these systems is generally non-frontal, falling from convective cloud developing from relatively warm air near the surface into cold air aloft.
        However, because the air over the desert surface is very dry to a great depth, precipi- tation may not reach the ground and, where it does, small quantities are the norm. Over high ground, which provides uplift addi- tional to that from free convection, sufficient rain may fall to support desert communities, in particular where precipitation may be stored in the rocks and is released slowly for those living around and on the uplands.”

      • That is a sign of dry desert air becomming moist allowing a desert to begin the greening process as opposed to moist are becomming drier and starting desertification

      • It is also a sign of, No matter how permanent/stable Man THINKS things are/should be, nature proves that things ALWAYS change (always have – always will)

      • “Non-unusual cold (record lows of -10C), but unusual moisture.
        And what is that a sign of?”

        Man Made Global Warming, of course. Isn’t everything?

    • In fact, cold can be an opposing indicator for snow. In Western Canada we are having a fairly cold winter, with too little snow, which raises the possibility of drought going forward as we have had little moisture of any kind since last spring. When winter temps drop below -30C we get very little snow. These temps are usually associated with clear skies ( high pressure systems). In the mid -20’s we get cloudier skies and more snow. The snow lasts until spring and provides the moisture for crop germination. So we don’t have much snow but we remain hopeful that warmer weather in March will provide something as it often does.

  3. Are skis different these days? I never heard about skis warping because of the cold. Folks have raced when it was colder. I’ve raced when it was colder but I wasn’t going to make any national teams. :-)

    • Went to Stowe with 2 high school friends 58 years ago. Bright sun, -20ºF warmed up to -16ºF, 20 mph steady breeze all day. You got two heavy hooded parkas when you got on the chairlift at Spruce Peak – one to put on normally, the other to cover your front with the hood over your face. Don’t remember thinking much about what the snow might be doing to the wooden Kaestle skis. I’m sure they didn’t warp. Prefer to ski at +23ºF.

      • Yes. I went to Jay Peak 54 years ago. I was 20 years old and it was still too cold – the coldest weather where I was actually outside. I learned my lesson.

      • I was skiing at Mount Tremblant at -35C, my binding shattered, when I hobbled to the rental shop it was full of bizarrely broken boots and skis, the tech said around -30 the different materials used start to shrink differently and crack.

      • @scraft1
        Yeah I think I was at Jay Peak about the same time. Remember some joker in the Men’s room complaining about “finding 2 inches of me in 8 inches of clothing”.
        Boy it was cold, made 2 runs that day and called it quits.

    • These were special skis, made for global warming. No temperatures below zero F allowed. Fortunately, all materials are recyclable and eco-friendly.

  4. In really cold weather the snow is not as slippery, and it causes all kinds of issues with the ability of skis to glide. You can mediate this some with fluorocarbon waxes, but there are limits to what can be done at very cold temps. It’s the failure to glide that causes elite athletes to “break” skis, (cause them to bend beyond the material recovery point), it’s not a warping problem from temp per-se.

    • Mark what a load of u know what …. there are all sorts of waxes available .. I have been skiing for 58 years and raced for some of those. Cold hurting skis is nonsense of the worst kind. They have raced at Lake Louise Alberta at -25 to -30 C for decades and nothing about cold hurting skis.
      Fake news of the nonsense kind.
      The cold hurts your toes :-)

      • Stewart, read my post, what’s happening is that the extra friction is contributing to the forces on the skis that cause them to break internally. An elite international alpine racer will, typically, break 5 to 8 pairs of skis, per discipline, a year. An elite international freestyle skier will break 15 to 20 pairs a year. This isn’t the old snap-in-two type of thing, it’s just a modest deformation that makes the skis worthless for an elite athlete. The drag on a ski is about 15-20% higher at -2F than at 20F, assuming optimal waxing, and that contributes to the problem, it’s nothing to do with if they race or don’t race, or if stuff gets broken or not, or even if club level racers would know the difference most of the time. The whole point of the article was that it’s cold in Korea, and skis are breaking at a higher than typically rate

        FYI, my wife worked for Solomon for more than 20 years, and back in the 80’s here FIS points for GS were in the low teens.

      • I’ll bet they’ve sized their equipment for an expected temp range and current conditions are some to much colder than expected. You substitute high performance fiber for metal (lighter and more flexible), and use it in sufficiently cold conditions, it will get brittle. I know in the oil patch, they shut down operations below -40F because they get a statistically significant increase in vehicle maintenance (popped seals / broken belts / etc). Sometimes you can get too technologically cute and reality rears up and bites you. Cheers –

      • Snow and ice near the freezing point is much slicker. That’s because it will melt, and that melted water provides the lubricant.

      • … or airborne (bad air drag). If what you say is true … then skis should would have massively concaved bottoms (think catamaran) to remove snow contact with the bottoms. Sorry. The ski is in contact with the snow. Edges AND bottoms. Wax is muy nessicita. Choosing and applying proper wax will make or break run times.

  5. Yup
    It’s fricking cold here in Korea

    ” but remember any cold you are experiencing is a local or regional event, climate scientists assure us that we are currently experiencing an unusually warm year.”

    Huh?

    Those that are making predictions for 2018 believe it will be colder than 2017.

    It’s Feb. We wont start making predictions ( with uncertainity) until we have a couple months in

    I’m betting colder than 2017.

  6. Hi Eric,

    You forgot the Japanese army is out in force to rescue drivers stuck under heavy snowfall west of Tokyo !

  7. Living and skiing in Colorado for the last 45 years tells me this is nonsense. I only get snow sticking to my skis when the temps approach freezing, ie. it is warm.

  8. Wasn’t the twist of the AGW crowd that such (snowy) conditions are “exactly what one should expect with more moisture in the atmosphere”? As part of the unfalsifiability-feature of the would-be theory.

    • “Wasn’t the twist of the AGW crowd that such (snowy) conditions are “exactly what one should expect with more moisture in the atmosphere”? As part of the unfalsifiability-feature of the would-be theory.”

      Not when the air is coming from Siberia it isn’t.
      By the time it gets to there it is extremely dry.
      Again failing to take into account meteorology whilst blinded by ….

      Very different to a NEer in the NE States.

      • Deserts and Droughts do predominate, haven’t you been watching any Post Appociclipse movies?
        You can start with “A Boy and His Dog” then “Damnation Alley” and the “Mad Max” series then “Cherry 2000” then go on to “The Book of Eli”, don’t forget Wall-E either (a reminder to pick up your trash)

      • @Jeff in Calgary

        John in Regina here.
        Amazing what people from warm weather climes think they know about snow and cold. They should go live with Inuit for a few years.

      • In Australia we were told by our Climate Commissioner that the dams would not fill and the rain would evaporate off the ground and there be no run off.
        Effectively eternal drought.
        Not that this happened.
        https://www.eldersweather.com.au/dam-level/nsw/
        I suppose if we wait long enough a drought will eventuate.
        The Chinese are buying up the Northern Australian farm, they recently purchased 1% of the Australian continental land mass, so their bet is rain, CO2 boosted plant growth and productive grazing and cropping.
        They deliver a lot of free atmospheric CO2 to Australia and are reaping its benefit.
        Whatever the cause of global warming it is intuitive that evaporation of the oceans will increase, leading to convection and rain or snow.
        The best estimates for CO2 driven GASTA when CO2 doubles keep on getting lower.
        The latest from Australia look at .6C after CO2 doubling.
        With the failure of the Tropospheric hot spot to burn,a key plank of the CO2 hypotheses, together with the failure of ice free Arctic and Antarctic catastrophic warming,or any warming for that matter, in its main extent,it looks as if we are in for a soft landing on CO2.
        As for the natural causes of climate change, unless one believes that we fully understand these, the predictions,’going forward’, vary like the share market.

  9. I can’t wait to see the NASA February temperature figures for that region.
    They will no doubt tell us its been very hot.

  10. Its a bit early to comment on temperatures , lets wait till they have been adjusted and homogenised, till then, its all speculation

  11. It’s so cold it froze the nuts off my Prius!

    It’s brutally cold in Japan, too, and is reported to be Japan’s coldest winter in 48 years. Areas in Northern Japan got 2 meters of snow in one afternoon the other day….

    Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along.

  12. One interesting thing about the location of the Winter Olympics for this years Olympics is that the natural snowfall amount for the winter is minuscule. The winters are extremely dry, cold, but dry. Almost all the snow on the venues is man-made snow. I am always dumbfounded when Winter Olympics are held in places that do not have much natural snow.

    The equipment, water, and power costs to generate this quantity of snow is huge. Not only that but you are using a scarce resource, water, to pump, freeze, and blow so people participate in a sport that is not naturally done in the area.

    Why not reuse old Olympic venues that actually have natural snow? Such a novel idea.

    • Because – in an excess of democratic zeal – putative host cities now have an election to ask their citizens if they want to put in a bid and the voters keep saying no! Both Oslo and Innsbruk voted no quite recently, the Swiss have been keeping their heads down as they can’t even agree on who is allowed to vote about whether to have a vote (joking, but not much) and the last democratic country to host a winter Olympics (Canada’s Vancouver games) is still trying to pay for it according to some accounts.

      We have to face it, to most locals, hosting an Olympic games is a pain in the wallet and the butt. This is especially so for winter games as they don’t have the same long lasting value in terms of infrastructure or tourism.

  13. When the UAH readout for Feb2018 comes out in early
    March I’ll bet it’s zero cf the 30 year mean. 0.21C now. Will the BBC parade that silly little girl scientist to explain? She was so ‘worried’ about the ‘hottest year EVAH’. I’ll bet not.

  14. Read the whole story at Reuters. It makes no sense whatsoever, quotes an athlete saying “The base burns.” Having worked with professional athletes on their equipment, they have no idea what is actually happening, only can tell you what felt different.

    There is nothing wrong with their skis, it is just cold.

    • Millennials. It’s all about the crowd and group think. Doesn’t matter that it’s fake, false or not-real. “Everyone’s do’n it”,.. everyone’s say’h it,… must be true… particularly LGBQ” (had to add in the last one,.. don’t know why,.. other than it rhymes,.. then again it’s added into every chant and thought anyway),..

  15. All fake news. I read on Accuweather and an AP report by climate propagandist Seth Borenstein that “scientists” believe it will soon be too warm on the earth to hold Winter Olympics. I believe everything they write/sarc. I wonder how many “too warm” for Winter Olympics stories had to be thrown out.

  16. Probably a translation language issues. When it gets that cold the skis stick more to the snow. Boots squeak on the ground and vehicle tires grip well on the snow. It doesnt damage skis as far as I know but it makes it difficult to achieve high speed – so they don’t work well. In cross country that makes it easier than closer to freezing – close to freezing skis slide well and cross country requires lots of sticky making it harder to grip. Same thing for skating – at extreme low temperatures the skates stick to the ice more than at Zero Celsius.

  17. The reporter may be confused.
    For racing, the slope is hard-packed and then something called “salt” is applied to make the surface even harder.
    In the Downhill, the top entrants run first, before the surface is carved up. The lesser ones run later–relegated to a chewed up surface. Even after the course has been made as hard as possible.

  18. “h/t Willie Soon – bitter cold weather in Pyeongchang is damaging the skis of Olympic athletes practicing for the games.”

    https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/2018-winter-olympics-site-pyeongchang-south-korea-is-the-earths-coldest-location-based-on-its-latitude/70003624

    PyeongChang’s climatology
    February will mark the waning weeks of the harsh, east-Asian winter, which is comparable in many ways with winter in the northeastern United States.
    PyeongChang’s winter months are typically cold and dry, and major snowstorms are rare in February.
    February’s average temperature there is minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit).
    “The average daily high temperature will range mostly between minus 1 and 4 degrees Celsius (30 and 40 degrees F), with lows averaging about minus 11 to minus 5.5 C (12-22 F),” said AccuWeather Meteorologist James Andrews.
    “Valleys are coldest at night in fair weather, when even late-winter temperatures can dip well below zero,” Andrews said.
    While winter is the driest time of year for South Korea, February in particular is considered PyeongChang’s driest month.
    “February WILL BE A BIT MILDER than normal as a whole, but there can be a cold shot or a period during the Olympics where temperatures are a little colder than normal for a few days,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls. (My caps).

  19. Are these temperatures within known parameters,or are they ‘record lows’? .Why should they be colder than previous temperatures .?. The BBC report mentioned earlier,(see quaesoveritas )shows cold winds coming across Manchuria from Siberia. Is Siberia colder than usual for this time of year ?if so why????
    For snow to form ,both cold &water vapour are of course needed./sic

  20. South Korea is exceptionally dry in the winter. Co-workers that moved there from the U.S. and took their wood furniture soon found the wood cracking because of the dryness.

  21. In Chicago, I was looking at temperature records. Most record lows were set in the 1980s. If climate cycles in a 60 year cycles, we have just had the 30 year warm phase, and now, as many observes have noted, we are heading back into the 30 year cold phase.

    I hope not, those records were -20, -25, -27F, often for several days below zero.
    I am not looking forward to a decade of repeating those temps.

  22. Yep! The places mentioned are having weather events. However Alaska, where it’s been warmer than usual for most of this winter is feeling the effects of “climate change” they say.

  23. Taiwan earthquakes were caused by the same Australian coalminers who killed all the polar bears on the Great Barrier Reef.

  24. The polar vortex in the lower stratosphere is in the phase of division into two vortices. This is indicated by the areas with the least amount of ozone.

    Current temperature in North America.

    Extreme temperature on the Hudson Bay.
    Feels like temperature -51.5 degrees C.

  25. People. World class athletes that use exquisitely designed equipment with the difference of being on the podium vs not being less than a second. They consider, discuss and complain about everything. The writer picked up on one thing to send his story. Stop overthinking.

  26. Living in Tokyo, which is an labyrinth of concrete, steel, and glass, both above and below ground, covered and crawling with electric and fossil-fueled machines, we expect the city to be getting warmer. But we recently broke a multi-decade cold record. The pond in the park across from my home became completely ice-covered, for the first time in all the years I have lived here.

  27. I have been living in Korea for more than 10 years and been snowboarding here for as many years. Winters in the Korean mountains can be cold. Temperatures of -20C are not uncommon. This year is like any other year: cold. Nothing special.

    Ski jumping and some downhill events take place in the resort Alpensia. Here is a link to the current temperature there: http://www.alpensiaresort.co.kr/AlViewInfoWeatherAlpensiaWeather.gdc
    Sorry, it is in Korean, but the orange line with the dots shows the temperature in Celsius.
    Today (Feb 9) it is going to be between -10C and +4C.

  28. More snow means it’s warmer.
    Energy is released to the air that would be in the water vapor before snowfall.

    • Well done – someone on here who realises that more snowfall doesn’t mean colder.
      And, as he says, it is in fact the opposite.

  29. Remember, in ski racing, 1/100th of a second can be the difference in being first place or not. Yes, the fibers in a ski break down with use and likely quicker if it is cold but are the skis really “warped” in a way that ordinary people would notice? Maybe the difference in a “good” ski and a “garbage” ski is tiny. I’d like to hear a clear description from a ski tech working with the racers, instead of a second hand reference to a comment a coach made.

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