Pyeongchang: Putting the 'winter' back in the Winter Olympics

 
 
Updated 2/13/2018 10:59 AM
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  • Switzerland's Irene Cadurisch tries to aim her rifle amid a gust of snow and wind during a training session. It's been so windy that biathlon bullets have been blown off-target.

    Switzerland's Irene Cadurisch tries to aim her rifle amid a gust of snow and wind during a training session. It's been so windy that biathlon bullets have been blown off-target. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

After two balmy Winter Olympics -- where athletes stripped clothes off to cool down and snow had to be trucked in -- Pyeongchang is bringing the winter back.

It's been so biting cold that athletes' skis are warping and makeup is freezing to the faces of BBC anchors (to be fair, it's probably freezing to the faces of other people, as well). Officials have even gone as far as to postpone the women's giant slalom, primarily due to high winds.

In contests not postponed, athletes are facing new and interesting challenges. Biathlon bullets have been blown off-target. Snowboarders, attempting to do some pretty epic tricks, have stalled by a brutal head wind before they could even catch air.

It was just eight years ago that these same Winter Games were mild and snow starved in Vancouver, due to the low elevation and the warming effect of the Pacific Ocean. Four years later, Sochi suffered the same fate from a similar physical geography; low elevation and proximity to the Black Sea.

Although Pyeongchang is also close to a warm body of water -- the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea -- it is downwind from the frigid Asian interior, and the cold Siberian air has been funneling in on howling winds.

A bundled up girl walks near Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018.
A bundled up girl walks near Phoenix Snow Park at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. - (Erik Johansen/NTB Scanpix via AP)

In what is expected to be the coldest Winter Games since 1994, temperatures are falling below zero in the mountains and winds gusting over 45 mph. Those two factors combined are pushing wind chills into dangerous territory. The strong winds have made it too treacherous to run the alpine speed events.

Conditions are expected to improve slightly at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre and the Jeongseon Alpine Centre midweek with milder temperatures climbing into perhaps the teens, and a calming down of the winds. However, the window will be brief as the Siberian wind tunnel is expected to crank back up for the weekend. This could cause further disruptions to the outdoor events.

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