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Snowless Sochi sees spring-like temperatures

Sochi 2014 organizers are not depending on Mother Nature for snow.
Sochi 2014 organizers are not depending on Mother Nature for snow.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

While much of America continues into a deep freeze marked by record cold snaps and snowfalls from the Canadian border through to the Gulf of Mexico, Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, is relatively balmy.

The weather forecast for the next week at the Black Sea summer resort will see the mercury nudging near 60°F which isn't far off its average daily high temperature in winter of 56°F.

By way of comparison the average daily January temperatures of some U.S. cities such as; Phoenix (54.2°F), New Orleans (52.6°F), Houston (51.8°F) and Jacksonville in Florida is 53.1°F all fall below Sochi's winter average temperature.

Most of the board events — ski and snowboard — are located 25 miles from the sub-tropical Sochi at the mountain resort of Rosa Khutor. Yet, even in the mountains high temperatures and a lack of natural snow has been an issue for Sochi 2014 game organizers.

Unfortunately, the lack of snow and warm temperatures is a developing trend for the Winter Olympics. This is the second straight Winter Olympics, following Vancouver in 2010, where temperatures are more spring-like than winter.

Whether you put this down as a climate change issue or a poor understanding of geography by IOC officials to find a cold weather venue for the Games one thing is clear — it is warm in Sochi. The warmth was evident during yesterday's opening ceremonies as dignitary after dignitary spoke at the podium without the benefit of a winter coat.

With lessons learned from Vancouver's warm temperatures and snow shortfall, Sochi organizers began stockpiling last winter's snow as a safeguard measure. Around 710,000 cubic yards of snow was stored in "snow reservoirs" on north facing slopes at Rosa Khutor at a reported cost of $11 million.

Wrapped under thermal blankets that deflected the sun, the snow is ready to be trucked in at a moment's notice. Sochi 2014 organizers are now saying that the stored snow is unlikely to be used as snow-making equipment is providing adequate snow cover.

As expected from a $50 billion event, Sochi has spared no expense in laying out the financial capital for snow-making equipment. There are more than 450 conventional snow-making machines working night and day to ensure an adequate base of snow. The familiar snow-guns, like those seen on American ski hills, convert 12,000 gallons of water per minute into snow.

Snow-guns are being augmented by multi-million-dollar snow-making machines that require the need of two 18-wheelers to transport to the Games site. In total, more than 230 million gallons of water have been converted to create artificial snow for the Games that claim to be environmentally friendly.

As of today, the last natural snow to fall on the mountains was on January 30.

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