Sochi's Olympic Snow Stored Under Tarps Since Last Winter

Winter Olympics planners feared there might not be enough snow.

ByABC News
December 2, 2013, 5:59 PM

SOCHI, Russia Dec. 2, 2013— -- Halfway up what will be the women's downhill skiing course at next year's Winter Olympics, a massive silver mound covers much of the trail.

Inside is likely the key to Russia's pulling off hosting the Winter Games in this sub-tropical beach resort: tons and tons of last year's snow.

Afraid the weather would not cooperate, at the end of last season organizers created several large piles of snow and covered them with special insulated blankets. The hope was that enough snow would last the summer to use during the Olympics.

The idea was widely ridiculed in the media, but Mikko Martikainen, the man in charge of snow for the Sochi Games, may get the last laugh.

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Martikainen told ABC News that some 500,000 cubic meters of snow, or enough to fill about 200 Olympic sized swimming pools, survived the summer. That is enough, he said, to act as a backup in case the massive snowmaking machines fail or if it is too warm to make snow.

This snow-saving process is one that Martikainen pioneered 12 years ago. He called it a "dream come true" that it's being used at the Olympics.

"You just make snow or collect snow for huge piles in the spring and then you insulate them and in the autumn or early winter you take the insulation away and the snow is there," he explained.

He's also hopeful that there will be a lot of natural snowfall. The Caucasus Mountains, rising up from the Black Sea near Sochi, are some of the tallest in Europe and it is considerably colder there than by the sea, where the beaches were still busy in November.

"Don't worry. We will have snow of course because we studied the statistics about the weather. There will be snow. For sure," he said. He suggested the combination of warm air off the Black Sea and cold air from the mountains could even create "too much snow."

Some winters, conditions are indeed great, but last February, just a year before the Winter Olympics, there were dirt patches on some of the slopes. Martikainen explained that was due to "logistical challenges" that should be resolved in time for the games.

What organizers want to avoid is what happened during the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver. There they had to airlift snow at the last minute.

Martikainen dismissed concerns that might happen again in Sochi.

"Organizers are prepared for everything. Don't worry about the snow," he said with a smile.