Sara Takanashi

The Green Olympics: Sochi to have recycled snow on hand

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Good news out of Sochi: If there’s a shortage of snow next winter, Olympic organizers have a battle-tested method that will ensure the Games will go on.

Much has been reported about the Sochi area’s climate, which is warm at the Black Sea coast (49 degrees is the average high in February). Although it’s cooler in the mountains, about 30 miles away, where the skiing and sliding events will take place, the threat of not having enough snow for the competitions is real.

But there appears to be a solution: Underground storage facilities that can house 250,000 cubic meters of snow.

On Dec. 8-9, this backup plan was implemented at a women’s ski jumping event at the Olympic venue.

It seems to have worked.

Organizers removed 4,600 cubic meters of last winter’s snow from the subterranean chamber and dropped it at the ski jumping venue. Then the snow was smoothed over the under-padding at the hill and the result was a perfect surface that was fit for competition. In other words, it was a success.

“Snow in February is guaranteed, but in case of warm weather, we have prepared a backup plan,’’ head of the Olympic Organizing Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko told the Toronto Star. “We are storing snow from the previous season to use at all the venues. During the World Cup in ski jumping, we successfully tested the system.’’

In addition to keeping the year-old snow (does it have an expiration date?), there will be more than 400 pieces of snowmaking equipment on hand.

Will Sochi defy the naysayers and actually become one of the snowiest winter Olympics in history? That might be taking it too far, but it seems that any weather worries may be unnecessary.

Mikaela Shiffrin wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

MORE: Vonn eyes January return from her most painful injury

High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

VIDEO: Vonn details the most painful injury of her career