Climate experts called in to save skiing

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Norwegian sports officials are applying to host the Nordic Ski World Championships in Trondheim in 2021, even though the prospects for having enough snow are increasingly bleak. They’re seeking help from local climate experts to make sure they’ll be able to carry out the huge international competition, and ensure the future of a sport that in Norway is part of the cultural heritage.

The application committee for what’s called Trondheim-VM 2021 is cooperating with researchers at Norway’s highly regarded technical university NTNU in Trondheim and with state research agency SINTEF. The goal is to be able to maintain ski trails for racing in the event of warm temperatures and rain instead of snow.

“We think it’s a good idea to launch a project to find out how we can produce snow in a better and more environmentally friendly manner in the future,” Guri Hetland, who leads the Trondheim-VM committee, told newspaper Aftenposten. The initiative comes at a time when climate researchers are ominously predicting that Norway may not get much natural snow in the years ahead.

The researchers will be looking into new methods for producing and storing snow, not just for use during the world championships but also for other winter sports events on an international basis. The organizers of the recent Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, for example, were criticized for the poor state of ski trails because of unusually warm weather. The conditions were worrisome, not least because climate change is causing problems for ski centers from the Alps to the Baltic and beyond.

“One goal is to develop better technology for snow production,” Hetland told Aftenposten. “Another goal is to be better at taking care of snow. Falun’s challenge was they didn’t fully manage to take care of the snow they had in an optimal manner. It has to do with salting and how to salt.”

Erik Røstej, president of Norway’s national ski federation (Norges Skiforbund), hopes the project can help the sport of cross-country skiing tackle and survive climate change. “It’s a challenge for all winter sports,” he told Aftenposten. Warm winters are especially bad news for cross-country skiing and the international ski federation FIS.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund