Olympians in mountain sports such as skiing, snowboarding trying to adapt to warm temperatures

The Associated Press

The forecast for tomorrow's temperature is reflected in the ski goggles of a volunteer at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Warm temperatures in the mountains made the snow too soft and caused the cancellation of Women's downhill training on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

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Over at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, site of ski jumping and Nordic combined, an increase of even a handful of degrees can make landing more difficult.

"Holes and ruts form if the snow on the landing zone is not hard enough," said Nordic combined athlete Wilhelm Denifl of Austria. "The snow becomes unstable, and if we are landing consistently in the same area, and at a high speed, the pressure associated with landing can make it unstable. And dangerous."

At the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center, three racers crashed in the soft snow during the men's freestyle sprint Tuesday, and there were other tumbles a day earlier. In cross-country skiing and biathlon, teams of more than a dozen technicians work to figure out the precise amount of glide and grip for a changing surface, and that can separate a medalist from an also-ran.

When it comes to Alpine skiing, 2006 gold medalist Ted Ligety says soft snow is inconsistent, which can be less fair.

"It's the same running first as it is to run 30th if it's really good conditions. That's really the main reason we like it icy. It's also more consistent underfoot and it feels safer to push on, safer to push your body, push the line, push the skiing," the American said.

After watching Ligety and Miller train, Sasha Rearick, the head U.S. men's Alpine coach, explained how skis slide on a colder, harder slope, and turn on a warmer, softer one.

A racer who comes from a technical background, such as Miller, gets more help on the ice than the slush, Rearick said.

Asked whether he was surprised about the temperatures so far, Rearick chuckled.

"I've spent a lot of time here. This is still mild," Rearick said. "It gets warmer."

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AP Sports Writers Andrew Dampf, Graham Dunbar, Mattias Karen, Tim Reynolds, Dennis Passa, Will Graves and Pat Graham in Krasnaya Polyana, and Jon Krawczynski and Steven Wilson in Sochi contributed to this report.

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