Snow lines retreating and glaciers melting because of climate change is nothing new. Neither is artificial snow. Anybody who has been skiing in the past 20 years is likely to have seen the snow cannons blowing. The fake stuff was first used at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in the US in 1980, and today 95 per cent of ski resorts rely on it to some extent. But the Beijing Olympics will be the first to deploy almost solely man-made snow.
A basic understanding of geography makes it obvious that most of China, and certainly not Beijing, is not the natural home for the Winter Olympics. The downhill sports will take place well outside the city, where there may be slopes but very little snow. The Alpine ski site is adjacent to the 4,600 hectare Songshan National Nature Reserve, a protected forest ecosystem and home to species such as the golden eagle, the imperial eagle and the golden leopard.