PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics: High Winds Could Threaten Skiing Events This Weekend

Jonathan Belles and the Associated Press
Published: February 8, 2018

The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics is expected to be plenty cold for winter sports, unlike the last two Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and Vancouver, Canada. In fact, this could be the coldest Games in decades. 

High winds could threaten downhill ski events this weekend, according to the Evening Standard in the United Kingdom. The winds, which could gust to 35 mph on Sunday and potentially over 40 mph on Monday, could put gondolas that will take athletes to the top of several venues risk during the Games. If the gondolas are closed, the events using the slopes will have to be postponed. The downhill ski events will be held at the Jeongseon Alpine Center, which peaks at near 4,500 feet in elevation.

Temperatures have warmed up in advance of the Opening Ceremony, and temperatures should be near freezing during the ceremony. 

This wasn't the case on Wednesday when athletes had to discard skis following nearly every run due to icy snow that damaged the skis. Temperatures dropped into the single digits below zero. 

At a rehearsal for the opening ceremony Sunday, audiences walked out because it was so cold, according to ABC News. Temperatures were in the single digits and wind chills were in the single digits below zero at the rehearsal. Even ATMs were frozen by the Arctic air.

(MORE: We Knew It Was Going to Be Cold Months Ago)

According to organizers of the PyeongChang Olympics, spectators of the opening ceremonies and Games held in the open-air Olympic Stadium will be given a lap blanket, knit caps, a warm seat cushion, multiple hand and feet warmers and a raincoat. Temperatures are expected to be in the 30s (or 1 to 3 degrees Celsius) for much of Friday in PyeongChang.

According to organizers, the majority of drivers are expected to park about a 20-minute walk from the venue. Along the way, 13 warming tents and food trucks will provide hot drinks to those going to Olympic Stadium.

Heating stations and warm food will also be available for spectators to use during the opening ceremony, which is expected to be attended by 35,000.

Even without the weather hampering the games, the norovirus is causing officials in South Korea to scramble to contain its spread. Organizers of the Olympics have sequestered 1,200 people in their rooms and 32 workers have been quarantined, according to the AP. 900 military personnel have been brought in to work at 20 venues until the sick and sequestered can return to work.

(MORE: Winter Olympics Norovirus Outbreak Worries Organizers; 128 Cases Confirmed in PyeongChang)

More news leading up to the games can be found at the bottom of this article. 

Current Weather




Current Temperatures and Feels-Like Temperatures

Forecast For The Games

Weather conditions leading up to the opening ceremony at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in South Korea on Feb. 9. are likely to be chilly and dry for the most part. Temperatures could reach into the lower 40s on Friday before a reinforcing shot of cold air reaches the Korean peninsula later this weekend. 

Temperatures are expected to be within a few degrees of freezing during the opening ceremony with generally cloudy skies. 

Forecast for the Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony will be held at the following time on Friday: 

- Eastern Time: 6 AM

- Western Time: 3 AM

- PyeongChang/Korea Time: 8 PM

(FORECAST: PyeongChang)

Following the slight warm up, temperatures will return into the 20s Sunday into Monday. This is typical for mid-February there and is substantially warmer than what athletes had to contend with during the Olympic trials over the last week. 

Winds are a concern for events at the Jeongseon and Alpensia ski centres on Sunday through Tuesday. Winds could gust more than 35 mph on Sunday and Monday due to a developing storm system to the south and east of South Korea.  Precipitation should mainly remain to the east. 

PyeongChang Forecast

Climate for South Korea

PyeongChang visitors and residents can expect high temperatures topping out in the 30s to near 40 degrees and morning lows dipping into the teens or 20s, on average (or in the low single-digits degrees Celsius for highs). 

The region sees somewhat less snow than other places at the same latitude and at the same proximity to water. This is because the predominant wind in February is off mainland Asia, often bitterly cold and dry air from Siberia. 

This weather is similar to what Des Moines, Iowa, and Albany, New York, see in February, and to a lesser extent in Chicago, Detroit and Toronto. 

(MORE: Cold Temperatures Are Not All Bad News: 3 Reasons to Be Thankful for Frigid Weather)

A few other weather patterns may occur in South Korea this time of year.

If winds are out of the southwest, that may be particularly disruptive to the Games. This wind direction, if it is persistent, taps warm, humid air from the Yellow Sea and would bring rain, which would melt mountain snow and make it difficult for Olympic sites to keep snow on the ground. If this pattern only sets up briefly, snow still manages to fall in the mountains.

A pattern many athletes may like is one with generally east winds. Flash snowfalls are possible in the mountains, and if the cold air is deep enough near the ground, record precipitation can occur. 

In between large-scale patterns, South Korea can get days of snow and nights of fog and lowered visibilities. Flurries can fall in the colder air when enough moisture is present, and fog can form due to the cooling effect of the mountains at night in weak winds. 

The mountains can bring some adverse conditions for athletes and spectators on rare occasions. Here are a few weather records near PyeongChang: 

Weather Records in PyeongChang From Feb. 9-25
Records date to at least 1974 (Site: Daegwallyeong)
Meteorological Parameter Value
Record High 61.7°F (16.5°C)
Record Low -17.7°F (-27.6°C)
Record Gust 76.5 mph (34.2 m/s)
Record Daily Snowfall 34.3 inches (87.0 cm)
Record Daily Precipitation (rain and snow) 2.69 inches (68.3 mm)
Record-Low Humidity 10 percent

To the east, in Gangneung, where all of the ice events are taking place, temperatures are generally 10 to 15 degrees (or 6 to 9 degrees Celsius) warmer due to the lower elevation and closer proximity to water. This warmth brings less than half of the snow to Gangneung compared to the more mountainous venues, but slightly more precipitation overall.

Athletes heading to the Paralympic Games in mid-March can expect temperatures to be roughly 7 to 9 degrees (or 3 to 6 degrees Celsius) warmer, with highs generally in the upper 30s or lower 40s (or 4 to 6 degrees Celsius). Increasing precipitation can also be expected. 

PyeongChang is roughly 80 miles, or 125 kilometers, east of South Korea's capital of Seoul, which hosted the Summer Games in 1988. 

Locations of the venues of the Winter Games in South Korea.

The PyeongChang Olympic sites are mostly located in the Taebaek Mountains of northeastern South Korea.

The Olympic venues generally range from 2,100 feet to 4,700 feet in elevation with differing winds at various heights. PyeongChang is 700 meters high, roughly 2,300 feet, in elevation. 

Source: Meteorology and Climate Team of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

News Archive

The cold weather is already taking its toll on Athletes and their gear. Skis are being warped so badly at the Yongpyong Alpine Center that athletes are throwing their skis out after each run. That is the center that will hold the giant slalom, slalom and alpine team events later this month. The cold weather favors sharper snow crystals which often damage skis badly enough that athletes need to throw them out. 

Temperatures in PyeongChang were near 3 degrees (F) below zero on Wednesday morning but several higher elevation sites likely had temperatures in the mid to upper single digits below zero. 

Volunteers traveling to the venues were seen huddled around heated patios on Wednesday as temperatures climbed from a frigid low of 3 degrees below zero. There is some concern about the well-being of both competitors and spectators throughout the entire Olympic games due to the cold weather, according to the Associated Press

Course engineers are hoping that warmer weather into next week will help loosen up the snow and lessen the damage to skis. The slalom race course has also been injected with water to combat damage to skis. 

Volunteers are being given free tickets to ski jumping and curling trials to help fill stadiums to capacity, according to the Korea Herald. Lower turnout is expected at these Olympics due to the Siberian chill. 

MORE: Early Winter Olympics

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