- This year’s Winter Olympics used artificial snow machines built by the company TechnoAlpin.
- After several athletes crashed during their events, many wondered if the man-made snow was to blame.
- Beijing’s head snow maker told Bloomberg the incidents were likely a result of lack of traditional test runs due to the pandemic.
TechnoAlpin, the company that manufactures the artificial snow-making machines used at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, told Bloomberg that fake snow is not the reason several alpine athletes crashed during their events this year.
While many were quick to blame the faux snow for Olympic injuries, TechnoAlpin’s Asia Manager Michael Mayr instead pointed to the lack of test runs available to athletes compared to previous years. Due to the pandemic, most Olympians were not allowed to travel to Beijing prior to the Olympics to assess the exact conditions of the courses.
“Normally, there are two years of test events where the athletes can ski and snowboard down in order to learn about the course ahead of time,” Mayr told Bloomberg.
Mayr, approximately 95% International Ski Federation events use man-made snow, which is according to becoming vital to winter sports as climate change alters precipitation levels. Mayr told Bloomberg the quality of artificial snow can vary by location, adding that Beijing’s Yanqing mountains can be “very, very compact” due to the area’s dry, cold conditions.
Team USA’s Nina O’Brien, a 24-year-old slalom skier, broke her leg during the women’s giant slaom event on February 7. Japanese snowboarder Rina Yoshika, who was able to train on the Beijing course, injured her spine and underwent surgery after she crashed during a practice run.
Still, the Olympians have differing opinions on the artificial snow, CBS Sports reported. America’s two-time Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin told Sports Illustrated the conditions were “incredible,” despite falling twice and failing to qualify for the slalom and giant slalom events.
Several top athletes and coaches told Canada’s largest newspaper that courses using artificial snow are icier than natural snow, which can cause harder and more dangerous falls.
Mayr previously said artificial snow is the “perfect snow for athletes,” in an interview with Time Magazine, explaining that the automated machinery allows for conditions customized specifically for individual events.
“For the alpine venues, we need very icy snow … on the freestyle venues, we need a little bit softer snow. We thus can set the quality for all of that,” he said.