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Beijing Olympics: Can you tell the difference between natural and artificial snow?

Maddie Mastro is aware of her snow.

The 21-year-old snowboarder from Wrightwood, Calif., can expound on the variations between the flakes upstate at Mammoth Mountain (“it’s actually heavy and moist”) and the powder in Colorado (“it’s sometimes dry and fluffy”), so she will be able to tell immediately when the snow in a halfpipe is faux.

Mastro says artificial snow—like the stuff that may dominate the Beijing 2022 Olympics—is sticky and “doesn’t glide the method natural snow glides,” so it seems like you’re driving on sand or carpet. However like all the skiers and snowboarders who will compete in the 2022 Olympics, she has realized find out how to alter to the icy imitations that may cowl the programs, hills and halfpipe in larger Beijing. Mastro, who completed twelfth in the halfpipe at the 2018 Video games, likens man-made snow to fine-grit sandpaper. As a result of it lacks any natural moisture or crystals, she says, snowboarders use a wax made for colder temperatures that’s more durable, to ensure their boards will “stand as much as the snow” and “slide as quick as attainable.”

“Natural snow sort of cuts like butter,” she says. “It’s easy, and the snow feels good. Man-made is sort of a harsher reduce. It rips moisture out of your board quick. You need your board to be as properly hydrated as attainable to assist it glide in opposition to the snow.”

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Slopestyle rider and 2018 gold medalist Pink Gerard echoes Mastro’s choice for actual snow, including that his “edges grip method higher” when competing on a course produced from it. Gerard says of the faux stuff, “It’s similar to a hockey rink when you have hockey snow. It’s mainly shaved ice. That’s what it seems like you’re driving on.”

In accordance with U.S. cross-country skier Hailey Swirbul, artificial snow can also be extra agency and harder-packed, which requires rivals in her sport to generate much more energy as they race. To forestall slippage and present traction on the course, athletes apply kick wax, or grip wax, to the center third of the ski, or the kick zone. The 23-year-old Coloradan says skiers select the kind based mostly on the situations—onerous waxes for colder temperatures, and softer, supersticky ones for hotter environments—however the man-made model makes it “slightly bit trickier” to determine due to the various humidity ranges that the snow is created in.

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Throughout coaching, most Olympic hopefuls don’t search out faux snow as a result of they encounter it all through the season, anyway. Mastro not often finds a halfpipe that’s utterly natural, on account of the quantity of snow it requires. Most are a mixture of actual and faux, so athletes may have expertise competing underneath numerous situations earlier than they arrive in Beijing. “It’s simply one thing that we get used to having to adapt again and forth to,” says Swirbul.

Regardless of its cheesy texture, the artificial stuff, Mastro says, “wouldn’t make snowball.” So don’t count on to see somebody’s model of Frosty alongside the slopestyle course or cross-country monitor this month.

Extra Olympics Protection

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• How the Artificial Snow Was Made for the Beijing Olympics
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