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Snowy Secrets from the Olympics

January 19, 2022

by Megan Russ, Engagement Coordinator

What do 200 snow cannons and 49 million gallons of water have in common? The Winter Olympics, of course!

This year, the greatest athletes from around the world will meet in Beijing, China for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Sports like bobsledding, skiing, hockey and figure skating will take the stage in a battle to bring home the gold. That means lots and lots of snow and ice … or does it?

While many of the Winter Games will be held in different arenas and venues across the country - snowboarding, skiing and others need to be outdoors. Zhangjiakou and Yanqing - cities about 100 miles north of Beijing - will host most of these outdoor events. On average, these cities only receive about seven to eight inches of snow a year, so with no guarantees, the Olympics will attempt something that’s never been done before: artificial snow.

That’s right! The Beijing Olympics will rely 100 percent on artificial snow to cover the ground. I know what you’re thinking - that’s A LOT of snow - and you’re right. In order for this to happen, they’ll need to use an estimated 49 million gallons of water and about 200 snow cannons that will spray the ground along the slopes. Water and pressurized air will be pumped uphill to the snow cannons. The water is then atomized - or broken down into fine water droplets - and then sprayed in front of the cannons. Hopefully, the fine mist droplets will freeze before hitting the ground creating snow.

Artificial snow has been used in the Winter Olympic Games before, but never on a level quite like this. Now, when you’re watching from your living room, you will know the science behind the snow.

The XXIV Winter Olympic Games begin February 4 and run through February 20. Here is one more little tidbit, Beijing is the first city to host both Winter and Summer Olympic (2008) games.