Skiers are in a truly privileged position to witness the ravages of climate change.
Once upon a time, glaciers embodied eternity, an enduring backdrop to our passion for skiing. However, today, these majestic age-old witnesses of nature are transformed into silent narrators of climatic upheavals.
The Zermatt glacier in Switzerland is the one I have frequented the most throughout my skiing career. For over 20 years, every fall, we went there for training camps. The last time I walked these slopes was in 2011. Looking at recent photos of the glacier, I am stunned by the change. I’m not just talking about a decrease in snow cover, it’s a transition so dramatic that I struggle to recognize the places where we were hitting the slopes not so long ago.
Closer to home, Blackcomb Glacier in Whistler has subsided about 50 meters over the past two decades. This sparked serious discussions about a permanent shutdown of summer skiing. The idea of
eternal snow, once associated with these glaciers, is now a thing of the past. In less than 50 years, the Alps have lost a month of snow, a phenomenon which seems to be accelerating.
Journalist Sébastien Anex captured images of the work on the glacier in Zermatt as part of a report for the “20 minutes” bulletin.
Photo: Screenshot – 20 minutes / Sébastien Anex
Yet instead of adapting to this reality, Zermatt has gone viral on social media in recent months not for the majesty of its Matterhorn, but for shocking images of excavators devouring the Matterhorn glacier. Their mission? Build a World Cup downhill track linking Switzerland to Italy. An absurdity that defies all logic, as absurd as killing a panda to save bamboo forests.
Am I exaggerating? Barely. It is inconceivable to me to imagine that human beings could sit around a table and decide that the answer to our need for snow for a ski race lies in the destruction of such a fragile glacier.
This famous race, billed as a postcard spectacle, was supposed to take place over the last two weekends. Expectations were high, photographers were salivating at the idea of publishing these powerful images of a skier crossing the border in the air at more than 130 km/h with, as a bonus, the famous Matterhorn in the background. However, all these efforts, this environmental destruction, have proven to be in vain. All this effort for nothing! The weather conditions made the race too dangerous, and everything was canceled.
Ironically, it seems that Mother Nature has decided to take revenge for the misdeeds inflicted by the organizers for the construction of this track. A bitter lesson on the absurdity of our actions in the face of the fragility of nature.
This situation is leading to several crucial discussions and highlighting the vulnerability of winter sliding sports World Cup seasons. The International Ski Federation (FIS) must act to find solutions and demonstrate humility in the face of an environment that is on the verge of definitively rejecting it.
The question remains: why persist in starting the seasons so hastily? Yes, I know, it’s always the same reasons that we are given. On the one hand, resorts want to show tourists that they are operational for the season and, thus, attract vacationers. On the other hand, OEMs want to show off their innovations for the season in time for Christmas shopping.
However, given the obvious fragility of glaciers, it seems that a resort like Sölden, Austria, which traditionally opens the World Cup season in October, is more likely to arouse tourist apprehension.
We will experience a similar situation at the race in Killington, Vermont, in a few days, and then at home, in Tremblant, the following week. Unless there is an extraordinary surprise, these races will take place on a thin white line surrounded by dirt and turf.
The other reason we are given for holding these races early in the season comes from sponsors and equipment manufacturers, who seek to influence your purchases for the season. Really? I am a ski enthusiast who buys his equipment in stores like everyone else and I have never waited for the first races of the season to make my purchases. I therefore strongly doubt that Parisian vacationers will wait to see the Ski World Cups before making their choice of equipment.
In short, we are told anything to avoid the subject that hits us all in the face. The World Cup seasons are no longer expected to start until December and are expected to extend into April, as there is still plenty of snow on the slopes.
And while we’re at it, a little suggestion from a skier friend who has always lived at the top of the French Alps. If the FIS really wants to commit to the environment, it would also be wise to eliminate the constant travel from one continent to another in all disciplines. With a block of races in North America, one in Europe and one in Scandinavia, it would reduce the effects on the environment. Additionally, this change would result in extraordinary savings for everyone.
If I was there FISI would listen to my friend… and Mother Nature.
Gn world Fr