Pyeongchang 2018: A Different Cold

001_adifferentcold_021518View of the snow blown by the wind in run two of the ladies halfpipe qualification during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.

Growing up in the unforgiving winters of East Chicago, Indiana, I was pretty sure I’d felt and experienced it all with respect to frigid outdoor temperatures. I’ve had school cancelled for days because of negative wind chills. I’ve witnessed broken steel water pipes hemorrhaging their vital fluids into icy messes. I know the feeling of the inside of your nasal passages freezing seconds after stepping outside. I even know extreme cold on a first-name basis, “The Hawk.” This was the name given to the biting arctic wind that would reach around street corners in downtown Chicago and fly off with the breath from your chest clutched between its icy talons. Sound painful? It is.

Given the background that I’ve just outlined, you can see why I’d be somewhat cavalier about traveling to the Winter Olympics and working outdoors for two weeks plus. My entire life has been a cold weather boot camp, and I feel that in may ways I’ve mastered the complex art of staying warm (and, just as important, dealing with the discomfort when not warm). I snickered at social media updates from my colleagues from warmer weather climates as they packed for the Games, loading palettes of hand warmers and extra boots into shipping containers. OK, so there were no palettes or shipping containers, but things sure seemed excessive at times.


Moguls course workers actually constructed an igloo to provide respite from the biting night winds of Pyeongchang.

Fast-forward to a week in the mountains here in Pyeongchang, and I can share with you a disconcerting revelation that I’ve had: The cold here is different. I thought I’d tasted every type of cold known to man back home, but there’s something about the cold here to be reckoned with. Perhaps it is the dryer air? Perhaps it is the elevation? The cold of Pyeongchang is piercing. It will find any sliver of exposed skin on your body and rip through you down to the bone.

The cold here laughs at the $50 winter gloves I purchased just for the trip, with finger pain at night events being par for the course as the temperatures routinely dip into the single digits. Holding a camera the entire time which is essentially a block of metal doesn’t help matters. Hand warmers? Forget it. The cold in Pyeongchang thumbs its nose at your hand warmers. Sure, they work plenty good in the media tent when you crack them open and give them a few shakes. The second you step onto the course and into the elements, however, it’s as if the ingredients in these things are like, “Welp, I’m done!” I can’t say as though I blame them.

003_adifferentcold_021518Chloe Kim (USA) drops in for run two of the ladies halfpipe qualification.

If there’s one thing I can take solace in with respect to the extreme cold here, it’s that the athletes are competing in the same temperatures that we’re photographing them in. I often use this as a motivator to stick it out when I’m feeling like I’m at the limit of what I can take, especially when we’re on course for three to four hours at a time. “If they can do it, so can I,” I’ve often said to myself. Granted, I haven’t spent my entire life perfecting a skill that exists solely outdoors in the cold like they have, but a lifetime of East Chicago cold weather training can’t hurt!

004_adifferentcold_021518Seppe Smits (BEL) falls as he competes in the mens snowboard slopestyle finals during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.

005_adifferentcold_021518Redmond Gerard (USA) competes in the mens snowboard slopestyle finals.

006_adifferentcold_021518Gift ceremony presenters following the mens snowboard slopestyle finals.

007_adifferentcold_021518Redmond Gerard (USA) after taking gold in the mens snowboard slopestyle event. At seventeen years old, he’s the youngest team USA member to medal in the last 90 years.

008_adifferentcold_021518Perrine Laffont (FRA) reacts after wining gold following her final run in the ladies freestyle skiing moguls final.

009_adifferentcold_021518Detail of the snowboard of Holly Crawford (AUS) in run two of the ladies halfpipe qualification.

010_adifferentcold_021518Chloe Kim (USA) competes in the ladies snowboard halfpipe final. Kim was exciting to photograph, providing visuals far beyond the other competitors. Her eventual gold medal reflects this on the competitive end.

011_adifferentcold_021518Shaun White (USA) competes in run three to win gold in the mens snowboarding halfpipe final during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.

012_adifferentcold_021518Shaun White (USA) celebrates winning gold on the podium in the mens snowboarding halfpipe final during the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Phoenix Snow Park.

Guy’s Korean Word of the Day is, 감기, pronounced, “Kahm-gee,” meaning, “Cold,” as in, “감기 won’t stop me from capturing the best images that I can.”

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Sports, Travel by Guy Rhodes on February 14th, 2018.

One Response to “Pyeongchang 2018: A Different Cold”

  1. Debbie says:

    Amazing snowboard pics !!! Thanks for sharing your experience..