The 2014 Winter Olympics are headed to Sochi in Russia in a few months. The new Rosa Khutor resort will host the skiing and snowboarding competitions, but as John Buccigross explains in his New York Times article, the conditions there are ‘nearly perfect’ for avalanches.
Scattered high on the craggy, snow-swept cliffs of the Caucasus Mountains, dozens of wide-mouthed metal pipes jut horizontally from the rocks. An elbow joint turns the pipes downward, like spouts of giant faucets.
They are part of an intricate arsenal designed to protect Rosa Khutor, the new resort that will host Alpine skiing and snowboarding events at the 2014 Olympics in February, from the potentially catastrophic and deadly destruction of avalanches.
The experts found that conditions for avalanches were nearly perfect.
That has to be a bit unsettling for competitors and fans at these events. There certainly will be a large number of people and traffic to make things more unstable. Buccigross says there are teams devoted to preventing avalanches and they have plans in place.
That is why there is a team of experts devoted solely to avalanche prevention at Rosa Khutor, some posted in a tucked-away office near the base and others stationed in a ridgeline cabin, above timberline, called “avalanche house.” That is why two backhoes crawl like giant insects atop the highest ridges, knocking away dangerous cornices before they topple. That is why mountainsides have been reshaped, with 30-foot-tall dams, to steer avalanches away from buildings, lifts, ski runs and people.
And that is why there are 43 huge pipes sprouting from the rocks, each of which can emit a remote-controlled explosive burst of oxygen and propane to create artificial avalanches before large-scale natural ones occur.