Top ski athletes demand action from governing body over climate crisis and lack of snow

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Feb 22, 2023 at 11:47 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Some of the most successful professional skiers from around the world have signed a letter to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) demanding that it takes action regarding the ongoing climate crisis.

According to The Guardian, the athletes are asking the FIS to overhaul its lacklustre sustainability strategy. They have asked for a more “geographically reasonable” race schedule to reduce carbon emissions, as often the races entail flying across the world multiple times.

They’re also asking for the ski season to be changed to keep up with climate breakdown. They athletes have suggested shifting the start of the season from late October to late November and the end of the season from mid-March to late April. As stated in the letter, “the seasons have shifted and in the interest of us all we need to adapt to those new circumstances.”

The call to action, signed by 200 athletes, was written by the Austrian downhill skier Julian Schütter, an ambassador for climate campaign group Protect Our Winters (POW).

Schütter began the letter by stating: “We are already experiencing the effects of climate change in our everyday lives and our profession. The public opinion about skiing is shifting towards unjustifiability. We need progressive organisational action. We are aware of the current sustainability efforts of FIS and rate them as insufficient.”

This news isn’t overly surprising. Global heating has had an enormous impact on the amount of snow in top skiing locations—places that previously had guaranteed snowfall for a majority of the year.

Now, while I wouldn’t normally feel particularly sorry for the top one per cent having to vacation in the Bahamas instead of the Alps—or indeed some of the richest athletes in the world having to take up badminton—it is worrying to see just how much climate change has completely changed the landscapes of numerous skiing resorts.

At the beginning of 2023, satellite images were released that showed how the European January heat had blitzed so many usual ski top spots. A number of countries smashed new January temperature records as a wave-like pattern in the jet stream brought warm air from further south, exacerbated by global heating by humans, as reported by Sky News.

Sports and climate change are more intrinsically linked than one might think. And there are thankfully academics and engineers who’re pioneering new ways in which sports can continue to thrive, while reducing its carbon footprint. For example, Saud Ghani, mechanical engineer at Qatar University, has created an innovative new outdoor stadium concept which, while it will keep football fans cool, won’t negatively impact the environment.

The FIS has not yet released a statement responding to the call to action.

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