The article written by Louise Boyle in the Independent titled "The Winter Olympics and the true cost of fake snow dominating our slopes: ‘It’s more dangerous now" is a great article that accompanies what we have been discussing throughout both our coursework and ski travels. One of the major goals we are trying to achieve throughout this course is how elite cross country skiing, bodily health, and planetary health are all interconnected. We have explored this by reading and analyzing literature and articles that are pertinent to this discussion.
This article shows a major link between elite ski racing and planetary health through the lens of climate change and how it has changed elite venues such as the Olympic venue in China. Snow blowers will be needed in order to supply enough snow for the games to commence in less than a week. I was interested in the portion of the article that discusses the additional resource use that will be necessary to supply this snow.
Throughout my course work in geology we have discussions surrounding resource allocation frequently. The article reports that 49 million gallons of water will be needed in order to create enough snow for the duration of the games. It is noteworthy that there are also more inputs of fossil fuels that will power the snow blowers as well. I believe a goal that should be reached should be to mitigate the effects of climate change that the nordic ski community may contribute due to the use of fossil fuels in snow production.
However, it may be difficult to find alternative sources of energy that are efficient and will provide ample power supply. One option may be photovoltaics or other "green" energy sources. Until this point is reached, everyone in the ski community will need to address snow production and its potential effects on the environment. More open dialogue within members of the community will lead to change and finding alternative natural sources of snow may become harder, but ultimately may be a better alternative.
Louise Boyle’s article “The Winter Olympics and the true cost of fake snow dominating our slopes: ‘It’s more dangerous now’” raises some serious concerns on the future of skiing and man-made snow. A staggering “91 percent of US ski areas make artificial snow”. This statistic is indicative of climate change forcing ski resorts to find ways to supplement the lack of snowfall occurring each year. The solution for most ski areas seems to be snow-making, but this snow making is expensive and resource intensive, making it inaccessible to many small ski areas. The major problem of snow-making is that the power used is still mostly coming from fossil fuels, which in turn is changing the climate to produce less snow each year, making it quite the juxtaposition. However, some resorts have made the effort to make snow using renewable energy sources, which is great and headed in the right direction but not affordable for most.
Some research suggests “ ‘Within 50 years all ski resorts below 1,200m won’t have a chance and will go out of business,” Michel Revaz, of Liechtenstein-based Alpine conservation society Cipra, told The Independent back in 2006.” 1,200 meters is just shy of 4,000 feet. I am curious if this means ski areas above 1,200 meters with snow-making capabilities or if they think ski areas at that elevation will still have enough natural snow, although I assume it is the former. This will have a big impact on all ski towns as well as all towns in general. Many ski towns are already as big as they can get because they are enveloped in national forest and park land with nowhere to build. If these ski towns can no longer offer skiing, the ones that can will become even more exclusive and people will be required to travel further to access them. Skiing already has a high barrier to entry with the price of equipment, lift tickets, and lodging but the prices are only increasing as ski resorts have to make up the money lost when they open in the late season due to a lack of snowfall. Much needs to be done to remedy this situation, making snow may be an option but it needs to become more sustainable and environment friendly in order to be a viable long-term option.
- M.J. Williams
Between all of the traveling that we have done for elite ski racing throughout the last month and change, no place is more iconic, or rather more uncooperative than Soldier Hollow Nordic Center. Having grown up skiing in Wyoming I have had the pleasure of skiing here my fair share of times and I have found that every time I go to Soldier Hollow the weather never is ever exactly the same. Whether it is 0 degrees the first day at US Nationals this go-around and raining the last day, or anything in between.
The variability of the snow that we have in Laramie has forced us to look too other locations to ski. In previous years it seemed that the Snowies were able to hold snow that we could ski on. However, recently it seems that dry land may become the norm for nordic skiers wanting to stay close to home, but still looking to train.
With all of this talk of climate change and the future of snow sports and of particular interest nordic skiing I am curious how we will continue our training and racing patterns into the future. Of course we travel great distances to compete at enhanced levels, but are we going to see a worsening impact of no snow compounded by planetary health that may be diminishing. I am apprehensive to find out...
The article in the newspaper The Independent "The Winter Olympics and the true cost of fake snow dominating our slopes: ‘It’s more dangerous now’" relates quite a bit to our current classwork. Furthermore, it is all about the rather unwell future of nordic skiing given the current and future snow forecasts. Additionally, the article relates snow levels to ski dependent economies, another subject we have delved into in class. I particularly thought the article's perspective on man made snow was interesting. This is something relatable when skiing at Soldier Hollow in Utah, or even at early season Kincaid Park in Anchorage AK. The article notes how nearly indestructable compared to normal snow the manmade substance is, but how it is much icier, and requires much more time, money, and energy to create. Furthermore, the article notes how parts of the skiing industry are becoming almost solely reliant on manmade snow, and how it is not sustainable. Skiing on a ribbon of snow is unnatural, and marks a last ditch attempt to save the industry in certain areas. The future for skiing right now is a bit murky. While it should be able to survive in higher elevations and colder latitudes, places like the Rockies Western slope might be out of luck. The industry will be continually forced to rely on manmade snow, making the sport more expensive than it already is. It will be interesting to see how the sport adapts to its unwelcoming future.
The emergence of the Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) disease has obviously had the largest impact on skiing and our lives in general recently. The alarming rate of transmission between people initially stopped all social interactions in early 2020. For myself, I had online classes and had my high school track season cancelled. Luckily the use of masks and the availability of vaccines has allowed most activities to resume, especially ones I value like skiing.
The interaction between Nordic skiing and Covid-19 presents an interesting dynamic. Nordic skiing is an individual sport held outside while it also has a strong team element with close interactions. There is a really low chance of disease spread when I just go skiing on my own but a high chance when sitting in the van for hours or warming up by the heater. Both of these elements are necessary; I individually have to perform in a race but I also need a team for the overall team results, knowledge, and keeping sane.
We have done our best to embrace both of these sides while minimizing risk of transmission. Some exercises, especially morning runs, are done on our own while others are done as a team. We mask up indoors and in the van to keep healthy. We take Covid tests before trips. So far these measures have worked well enough for us to compete at events like Senior Nationals and the Montana State Invitational and have a generally normal season so far. I can’t say how Covid-19 will impact us the rest of this season but I know we will figure out a way.
As our environment changes, so do we. We must do our best to curb the negative effects but in some cases we must adapt. No example seems more fitting than the one our team experienced this Fall. We were all set to travel to Grand Targhee, however the day before we were to leave, we heard harrowing news. West Yellowstone had canceled their annual Thanksgiving race for the first time in forty years and forty years' worth of nights. Rachel and Christi were forced to pivot, something that has become old hat at this point. So, they switched one Grand for another, Grand Targhee to Grand Mesa. They say the gods laugh when we make plans, but I think Mother Nature is often the culprit, which more accurately is a human occurrence due to our refusal to acknowledge climate change as something we must fix.
Location was not the only change experienced on this trip. The team was split up amongst five different cabins, some of this was because of Covid, some of this was because the cabins were a mere five-minute drive from the ski trails. Either way, it is something the team has had to adapt to. At one point we had to rent three houses because our team had grown by ten skiers, a promising sign of prosperity but a touch melancholic that we could not all be under the same roof. Some real bonds were formed on this particular trip, living in such proximity to each other, in a cabin that you could hear someone sigh upstairs if you were downstairs. It was cozy, in the best way imaginable. With all these bonds formed between the cabin’s inhabitants it feels like there was a bit of a disconnect between members of different cabins. I think this was just a moment in time. At that particular moment there seemed to be inside jokes I was missing, oh well, that’s the game, we had our own as well.
- M.J. Williams
Covid-19 has now been a part of life for nearly two years. As one would expect, this has upended the world of Nordic skiing. Furthermore, this has greatly changed how we approach our racing season.
The 2020-2021 season was rough and variable. Due to the prevalence of covid in our school environment, we socially distanced, masked up, and limited social interactions to those within our teams. To start of the 2021-2022 season, it would not snow in Laramie. Due to the lack of snow in our environment, we had to continue dryland training, leading to a shared social anxiousness waiting for snow.
These are just two examples of how intertwined environment and social groups are. Highlighted is the cause and effect relationship between the problems effecting the two. These often can go either way. For example, a society could determine it needs more land for agriculture, so it drains a wetland. As an unforeseen consequence however, there is no longer any suitable barrier between the society and an unpredictable body of water, and so flooding becomes more common.
This is a very simplified case, but again connects social and environmental challenges through a cause and effect relationship. Now, scale this to a global population, and an ever changing environment, and this harmony becomes increasingly fascinating. When this harmony is altered, chaos ensues, and the cause and effect relationship compounds wildly. Attempting to understand the finer complexities of relationship between environment and society is the first step in taming the chaos. At least it will help in preventing brash decisions, further compounding the chaos.
Madison Tinker and others of the University of Wyoming Ski Team
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