Global warming: a big challenge for winter athletes
< p class="sc-v64krj-0 dlqbmr">Paige Neklia at the Miramichi Cross Country Ski Club, New Brunswick.
Paige Neklia has been training since 2019 to represent Nova Scotia at the Canada Winter Games. This year, the high temperatures and low snowfall present unique challenges for the skier.
I haven't been able to ski here at all, she says.< /p>
She and her parents have traveled thousands of kilometers every weekend since the start of winter to go cross-country skiing in Fredericton, Charlo and Miramichi, New Brunswick.
These are the closest places to their Prospect Bay home where Paige Neklia can train on real snow.
It's a problem for her and for other Nova Scotia athletes, like snowboarder Phillip Doucet who travels with the entire provincial snowboard team very often to train in Quebec and the west of the country.
It's much more difficult, already our winter is much shorter here compared to other provinces, he says.
We travel a lot!
But the problems of lack of snow go far beyond the borders of Nova Scotia.
The start of the alpine ski season has been postponed due to lack of snow in Sölden.
Three of the first four events of the Alpine Skiing World Cup of the 2022-23 season have been canceled due to excessively hot conditions in resorts in Switzerland, x27;Italy and Austria.
Alex Ryan is the Provincial Freestyle Team Head Coach and Technical Director for Snowboard Nova Scotia. He has also skied and competed for Nova Scotia at the national level. He therefore witnessed the effects of climate change on board sports.
We would have started our season earlier. I remember having snow before Christmas for almost all of my competitive years, he said.
He explains that his team has had a pre-season training camp in Quebec for the past two years and Nova Scotian alpine ski athletes have always had to supplement their training with travel.
Nova Scotia's ski hills are doing what they can to support local athletes, Alex Ryan believes, but there are limits to their capacity.
Our ski centers have not been able to make enough snow and receive enough natural snow to build suitable courses, he says.
Natalie Knowles is a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo and a research director at Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization that studies and promotes climate action that will preserve winter sports.
It studies the ideal conditions for competitive cross-country and alpine skiing events.
Antoine Cyr during the individual sprint in Val di Fiemme, Italy .
We surveyed approximately 400 athletes who compete internationally to find out what are the ideal conditions that create the best surface and the environment that is the safest and fairest, explains Natalie Knowles.
Based on the conditions set by these athletes, the range of possible destinations for the Winter Games narrows.
She says the lower temperatures that provide consistent, safe surfaces for top skiers are harder to find than they were when the Games began in 1924.
It's clear that seasons are getting shorter and event cancellations due to poor conditions can prevent some athletes from progressing to the next level.
For athletes who are just starting out or are about to stand out, missed events could mean they don't qualify for other events, she says.
One of the Olympic Villages for the 2022 Beijing Games, Zhangjiakou, located near the skiing and snowboarding competition venues.
Natalie Knowles points out that most of the alpine skiing at the 2022 Beijing Olympics took place on artificial snow. She believes that at the elite level, organizers should still be able to organize events.
On the other hand, all travel in pursuit of snow is a economic obstacle for teams, athletes and recreational skiers and another contributor to climate change.
It makes skiing an even less accessible sport, says the researcher.
What I really see is the loss at the local level, the loss of small ski hills that children grow up on and the shortening of seasons.
With information from Jeremy Hull and Rebecca Martel