Beijing Olympics will be the first to rely completely on artificial snow

BEIJING — Next week, skiers and snowboarders in China will compete in the first Winter Olympics to rely completely on artificial snow.

At the last Winter Games in South Korea, roughly 90% of the snow was manufactured. At the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, about 80% of the snow was man-made. Now, in Beijing, 100% of the snow is manufactured and man-made.


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Using roughly a dozen machines, large canons spewed out snow for hours, transforming the slopes of Zhangjiakou, China into a winter wonderland worthy of Olympic competition. Following the snow, the mountains were then coated with water and a mixture of chemicals in order to complete the process and fully transform the landscape.

With the opening ceremonies just days away and commencing on Friday, Feb. 4 in Beijing, Zhangjiakou is now prepared to host an assortment of skiers, snowboarders, and ski jumpers. However, the creation of this new “winter village” comes with a price as this task was the culmination of a six-year project that required a lot resources, and of course, water.

As one of the most water-scarce areas in the entire country, Zhangjiakou’s transformation has experts worried about the long-term effects of this Olympic project.

“There is bound to be some impacts in a region where there is nearly no water in the winter,” Carmen de Jong, a geographer at the University of Strasbourg told Bloomberg. “For half a year, during the snow sports season, the water stays away from the natural ecosystem.”

“China could need as much as 2 million cubic meters of water — enough to fill 800 Olympic-sized swimming pools — to create enough fake snow to cover ski runs and access roads during the Games, according to de Jong.” — Bloomberg Green

That hasn’t stopped China from doing whatever is necessary in order to develop and mold Zhangjiakou into a premiere snow and ice destination. Not only does the town consist of multiple ski resorts that accommodate millions of tourists every year, but in just a weeks time, will welcome hundreds of Olympic athletes with the eyes of the world watching them ski across slopes covered in 100% artificial snow.

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