Why are there plants on Sochi’s ski jump hill? – USA TODAY
Every viewer watching the ski jump events at the Winter Olympics inevitably asks the same question: Who are these crazy people and how did they get into a sport that involves skiing down a 140-meter-high hill at 60 mph, jumping the length of a football field and attempting to land on two skis?
Then, after that disbelief subsides, a second question gets asked: What are those tiny pine branches doing on the landing hill?
They’re impossible to miss. In Sochi, there’s a line of pine branches that stretches the width of the landing area. Beyond that, there are more needles with a red line painted through them. A few meters up the hill, the needles are shaped to form the Olympic rings. The latter could pass for a design element, but the lines must mean something, right?
Is it something practical, like a way to tell how far the jumpers jump? Was the ski slope built on an abandoned Christmas tree farm? Is the presence of plants on a snowy mountain a sign of global warming? Maybe it’s product placement for Pine-Sol? Another #sochiproblem, perhaps?
The answer, like with most mysteries, isn’t nearly as exciting as the possibilities. The plants are there to let ski jumpers know where the ground is. Imagine flying through the air and only seeing a vast expanse of white snow as you fall toward uneven ground. (The red lines also serve as distance markers too.) Without a reference point, it’d be like being underwater in the dark or floating around space like Sandra Bullock in Gravity. You wouldn’t know where you are.
There are lines on airport runways for the exact same reason. It’s all about depth perception.
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