Winter sports: a fight that sports will lose more and more often

Winter sports: a fight that sports will lose more and more often
  • The start of the ski season reminds that winter sports can not win the fight against the weather in the long term.
  • The ski racers reported major problems in finding a spot in Europe for training.
  • Many a functionary promotes new racing formats. These should only help in the medium term.

From Johannes Knuth, Solden

Once you should at least have seen him, in the wild. It's best to come back every few years. Like a wall, the glacier slope on the Rettenbachferner in Sölden towers towards the sky, and every year, when the alpine ski racers start their season here, the slope actually gets a little steeper. Because the ice of the glacier melts and melts away. What is praised as an ever harder duel of the professionals against the elements, is also a harbinger of decline.

This year, at the season opener of the Alpine, it was again the expected hard test, even more: fog crept into the slope, snow fell on the ice. "Sölden is always extreme, but this time it was incredible," said the Frenchwoman Tessa Worley, who won with the women. The organizers had whipped up the race, the men the day after it was canceled, as in the year before. It had snowed too much.

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But alright, the new season is up, with or without winter. Alpine skiing will continue in Finland on 17 November, ski jumpers will soon be arriving in Poland, biathletes in Slovenia at the end of November. But the problem that they have solved in part in Sölden recently, should soon return to the other divisions: Should the winter be as moody as in previous years, then, before the competitions begin, first the weather must be defeated. And that is a fight that sports will lose more and more often.

Winters in the Alps are today up to 30 days shorter than 50 years ago

Many athletes who have been interviewed on this subject in recent weeks sounded more worried than ever. Eric Frenzel, the three-time Olympic champion in nordic combined, found it "frightening" how much the Dachstein glacier has retreated in recent years. The ski racers reported major problems in finding a spot in Europe for training. When the American Ted Ligety arrived in Sölden before the onset of winter, he thought he was in a "lunar landscape", with all the bare rocks on the glacier. The development is not new, but meanwhile, the climate change has such an impact on the everyday life of professionals that he can not be repressed.

In the early season opener Sölden many of these problems are concentrated. They launched the glacier race 25 years ago, on the one hand to promote the ski area, on the other hand to animate the spectators on the TV to ski. The glacier at around 3000 meters was a safe habitat for this advertising project for a long time; But now they even operate snowfarming on the glacier in Sölden, a type of snow over-twilight that they have practiced in biathlon for some time. They threw their snow cannons at the end of last season once more, pushed the snow together, stored it on plastic mats, above it came a water- and wind-repellent tarpaulin. After the summer, they made yesterday's snow a runway for today.

More and more ski resorts resort to this method, even in mid-elevations, where winter comes in less and less often. In Kitzbühel, where in the summer an insulated tarpaulin caught fire and the snow depot almost burned down, the slopes were ready at the beginning of October, at 21 degrees and in the midst of a brown-green landscape.

In Garmisch, the organizer of the largest Alpine World Cups in Germany, they have so far only used artificial snow, which they produce in the same winter. But they depend on cold, dry days, only then do the snow cannons work. And these days are coming less and less. Winters in the Alps are today up to 30 days shorter than 50 years ago.

In Garmisch they have equipped their snow groomers for three years with GPS probes, which record exactly how high the snow cover is in the area; so they can at least optimally distribute the smaller amounts of snow. "The snow production has become much smarter," says Peter Fischer, the OK boss in Garmisch, "the effort has not got much bigger". They also need natural snow, however, for the falls at their Kandahar run, they can not do it alone with the machine. When winter was as warm as four years ago, the World Cup races were completely canceled.

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