It also works without snow (

The “white tongue” of the artificially snowed Schattenbergschanze is currently particularly noticeable in the middle of green Oberstdorf.

Photo: imago/MIS

If you drive into Oberstdorf these days, the ski jumps on Schattenberg draw even more attention than usual. Between green meadows and grey-brown houses, the tongue of the ski jump, prepared with snow, shines in glistening white. Just like the opening competition on Thursday (after the editorial deadline), the remaining three competitions of the 71st Four Hills Tournament are also secured. For example, although spring-like 12 degrees plus are predicted around the traditional New Year’s competition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and even up to 20 degrees elsewhere in Germany.

In a previous cold period in the middle of December, however, enough artificial snow could be produced at all four locations – “with minimal energy consumption,” as tour president Dr. Peter Kruijer hastily adds. Eventually, the organizers of winter sports events like the Four Hills Tournament have come under even more pressure from the energy crisis associated with the Ukraine war. In addition to the increasingly warm winters, the public, who are being asked to save electricity, are looking closely at how much energy is “burned” by the production of snow or by floodlight jumping.

“According to the operators, snowmaking on a ski jump currently costs around 150,000 euros,” says Horst Hüttel, who is responsible for ski jumpers in the German Ski Association (DSV). If prices continue to rise, this can also threaten the existence of organizers of major winter sports events. Is this effort still worthwhile in times of climate and energy crisis?

The start of the season in Wisła at the beginning of November proved that there is another way: In Poland, the athletes landed on plastic mats for the first time at a World Cup. The majority of the ski jumping scene supported this step, even if it took some getting used to for many like Karl Geiger.

That the Four Hills Tournament, as the largest traditional event in ski jumping, comes in a »green mat robe« instead of in white, the violinist from Oberstdorf still »can hardly imagine. I would definitely have melancholy feelings because snow is simply a part of this traditional event at the turn of the year. Besides, it wouldn’t be that easy to do the whole thing on mats,” says Geiger. All ski jumps for summer training are already equipped with the bristle mats invented in the GDR, but to make them suitable for winter, nets have to be stretched over them and the water, which usually allows good gliding, has to be shut off. If you don’t do this, the entire slope could freeze over and become dangerously slippery in the event of a cold snap. If it also snows, the snow collects in the outrun and would have to be removed at great expense in order to get the ski jump ready to jump.

So whether you want to go through the tour without snow would have to be decided very early on and planned completely differently. Even the German ski jumping legend Martin Schmitt doesn’t see that coming in the near future. “I’m sure they’ll be able to manage the snow for another ten years. One should not underestimate the power of television images. Snow is simply a part of ski jumping,« says today’s TV expert from Eurosport, describing the viewers’ viewing habits. The energy and cost balance at the ski jumps is also relatively moderate: “Such a landing slope can be prepared with artificial snow with relatively little effort – in contrast to a long alpine descent.”

Schmitt meanwhile remembers his active time when a Four Hills Tournament without snow was discussed as early as winter 2000/01 after all World Cups had to be canceled due to lack of snow following the World Cup opener in Finland. The tour president at the time, Hans Ostler, brushed aside thoughts of his major event without snow in view of the water needed for the landing mats to glide better: »Anyone who has dealt with ski jumping a little knows that if there is possible frost in winter cannot be jumped on mats.«

In the meantime, however, this alternative is being considered much more seriously in the International Ski Association. “There are ideas and discussions about at least going into the fall,” reveals German national coach Stefan Horngacher. The Summer Grand Prix series could also be upgraded to a World Cup – after all, the ski jumpers would be “done” in basic training in the summer anyway. So they are already summer and winter sports enthusiasts. According to Horngacher, the ski jumpers are prepared for all the problems of the climate and energy crisis and can fly under all conditions: “Day, night, summer or winter – it doesn’t matter.” Only the (artificial) snow at the Four Hills Tournament still seems indispensable .



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