Even a snow-block version of the Great Wall could not protect the athletes from the cold wind that blew through Saturday’s slopestyle competition at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou.
The temperature at the start of the women’s snowboard qualifiers was about 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Steady breezes of roughly 15 miles per hour pushed the wind chill factor to about minus 20 degrees. Gusts reached 27 m.p.h. during the two-hour competition.
“The coldness makes it harder, or kind of zaps the energy right out of you,” said Jamie Anderson, the two-time Olympic champion from the United States.
Anderson finished fifth among 28 snowboarders. The top 12 advanced to Sunday’s final.
The slopestyle course, with three rail sections followed by three jumps, features a replica of the Great Wall of China, made of large blocks of snow. It serves as both a picturesque backdrop and as a windbreak for the upper part of the course.
Wind was expected to be an issue for events at Genting Snow Park, about 150 miles from Beijing. Wind turbines are visible on nearby hills. Next to the final jump on the slopestyle course is the halfpipe, where giant curtains have been erected to block wind from the prevailing direction.
To Enni Rukajarvi, a Finnish snowboarder, the temperatures were not a problem — it was warmer than it often is at home, she pointed out — but the wind was tricky.
“Hopefully there’s no more wind tomorrow,” she said.
Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand finished first in qualifications, and she is the most likely candidate to keep Anderson from winning a third consecutive Olympic gold medal. She beat Anderson at the X Games in Aspen, Colo., two weeks ago.
Japan’s Kokomo Murase qualified second on Saturday, ahead of Rukajarvi, Austria’s Anna Gasser and Anderson. Two other Americans, Julia Marino and Hailey Langland, also advanced to the finals.
The forecast calls for a slight warming trend in the coming days, with sunny skies and daytime temperatures reaching the midteens on Sunday and Monday, when the men will hit the snowboard course.
Wind, though, promises to be a consistent concern. One key to the competition will be staying warm between runs.
“It’s hard to keep your core temperature warm,” Anderson said. “Doing tricks feels a little bit more intimidating. You’re just a little bit stiff.”