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  • Writer's pictureMatilde Pozzato

Alpine Ski World Cup Races Canceled for Lack of Snow

This winter's high temperature and lack of snow have caused the cancellation of ski races in Germany and France.

It’s not the first time that ski races have been canceled due to inadequate environmental conditions. More recently, it was the turn of the Alpine Ski World Cup. 

The men’s races on February 2nd and 3rd in Chamonix (France) were canceled after the Fis (International Ski and Snowboard Federation) declared the low level of snow too unsafe for a speed race.  

Similarly, the women’s races on February 3rd and 4th in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany) were also canceled due to a lack of snow and high temperatures.

“Ski, and winter sports in general, are slowly dying, because the absence of snow makes it very hard to train and to race,” says Andrea Gradizzi (21), a former skier who participated in national and European competitions. “It’s unsettling when a race is canceled or relocalized because of lack of snow. You don’t know the plan anymore.” 

Gradizzi training in Cogne (1534 meters), Italy in January 2021 © Andrea Gradizzi

Skii and the Environment 

“When I went to Switzerland in December, I remember that down in the valley there was grass everywhere and then some snow,” says Jana Pfeiffer (25), a mountain lover from Germany who likes to ski but even more loves spending time in nature in the mountains.

The atmospheric conditions of the last years are not only an obstacle for professional skiers but are becoming a danger to the sport and the industry as a whole. While fake snow has its perks, it cannot be a permanent solution.

“The warmer the snow, the harder it is to prep skies,” says Andrea. Natural snow stays at about 2 or 3 degrees below air temperature while fake snow is colder and lasts longer making it easier to get skies ready for races. Moreover, when spring comes and natural snow melts away, fake snow remains, prolonging the ski season. This is good for business but hard on the eyes.

“I was skiing down a really long slope and after 2000 meters the snow and the landscape were different,” says Jana. It has become common— both for professionals and amateurs— to ski in high altitudes on fake snow while surrounded by green fields and in 10 Celsius degree weather.

Flassin (1280 meters), Italy, January 2020 © Andrea Gradizzi

While fake snow so far is saving winter sports and winter tourism, it is also extremely costly both in terms of money and resources like water and electricity. The lack of snow and rain in the colder months has also forced many villages around the Alps to ration water during summer. Using the already limited amount of water to produce fake snow might not be a priority in the future.

“I like skiing but hate the industry,” says Jana, “it’s just not sustainable.” Alpine skiing especially is not environmentally friendly considering the great amount of energy required to carry people up the slopes. 

Ftan (1648 meters), Switzerland December 2023 © Jana Pfeiffer

Jana points to cross-country skiing as the less environmentally heavy option as it can be done pretty much anywhere where there is snow. However, Andrea explains that cross-country skiing is more impacted by the lack of snow because it is done at lower altitudes than alpine skiing, in turn requiring more fake snow. 

A vicious circle is created where one type of skiing pollutes because it requires lots of water for fake snow, while the other consumes lots of electricity to transport people uphill. In both cases, professional skiers, amateurs, tourists, business owners, and the environment are the ones losing this race.

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