Monday, February 01, 2010

Would you like some chemicals with your snow?

With the continuing warm temperatures in Vancouver, VANOC has had to resort to drastic measures to keep the snow at Cypress Bowl, the local snowboarding and ski venue.  They have said that they may use "snow hardening" chemicals to help prepare the snow for the games.  And this has local residents expressing concerns about those chemicals.

VANOC has ignored requests to identify which chemicals they will be using.  They have claimed that this measure was included in the provincial environmental assessment for the venue.  However, I was unable to find any mention of snow hardening or preserving chemicals in the assessment.

Generally the chemicals used to prepare ski and snowboard courses can include sodium chloride (salt), calcium chloride, urea, ammonium nitrate , and potassium nitrate.  Some of the chemicals used can be bio-accumulative.

A swiss study found that water in streams fed by treated ski runs had much higher concentrations of salts than background levels measured in neighbouring streams. In fact, elevated levels were detected more than 15 years after treatment ended.  The chemicals also can contribute to higher levels of chlorides, nitrogen and phosphorous in the local water systems.

This is part of ongoing analysis of how "green" the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games are. More articles at