Pro skiers demand competition changes, fearing winter sports becoming ‘unjustifiable’ to public

Professional athletes are pressuring ski chiefs to dramatically improve winter sports’ sustainability, fearing skiing is becoming unjustifiable to a public increasingly concerned about climate change.

US slalom star Mikaela Shiffrin and Norwegian racer Aleksander Aamodt Kilde are among nearly 200 signatories to a letter to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS), saying current environmental policies are “insufficient”.

The letter arrives after warm weather and snow shortages wiped nearly a month of racing from the start of the season, with pre-season training on shrinking European glaciers melting away.

“It’s about time to address a really important topic,” Kilde said after earning a silver medal in downhill during the skiing world championship on Sunday.

“We see also the impact of our sport,” he said. “I want the future generations to experience winter and to be able to do what I do.”

The letter was written by Austrian downhiller Julian Schütter, an ambassador for the nonprofit organisation Protect Our Winters, known as POW.

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Olympic cross-country skiing champion Jessie Diggins and Freeride World Tour champions Arianna Tricomi and Xavier de le Rue also signed the letter.

“This is our most important race, let’s win it together,” the athletes said.

Competitors suggested a more “geographically reasonable” race schedule to reduce carbon emissions from flights, citing how the men’s circuit will have travelled from Europe to North America and back twice by the end of this season.

“The races of Beaver Creek in November and those in Aspen in February are 50 kilometres (30 miles) away from each other,” the skiers said, referring to the two Colorado resorts.

“Planning those two races one after the other would reduce approximately 1,500 tons of (carbon emissions).”

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Skiers were left to drift down a single slope at an Austrian resort after record temperatures melted the rest of the snow

“The public opinion about skiing is shifting towards unjustifiability,” the athletes wrote. “We need progressive organisational action. We are aware of the current sustainability efforts of FIS and rate them as insufficient.”

The athletes asked the federation to shift the start of the alpine skiing season from late October to late November and the end of the season from mid-March to late April.

“The seasons have shifted and in the interest of us all we need to adapt to those new circumstances,” they said.

Sky News has requested a comment from FIS.

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