How many dreams are still left to come true? How many competitions to take part in and medals to receive?
Thousands of triumphs and celebrations are waiting to happen for countless athletes who work every day to have those opportunities. Their efforts are enormous, their motivation incredible.
Climate change is an issue that constantly threatens winter sporting events such as the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games, and directly the athletes. This makes it very unfair that their objectives and greatest desires are cut short from one morning to the next by external conditions that cannot be reversed in the short term.
The increase in temperature, the melting of glaciers and the lack of snow are already a reality. Athletes live a constant sensation of concern when they experience first-hand the reduction of locations where they can train as well as the decrease of the periods during which they can use mountains and glaciers in winter.
Dahria Beatty is a Canadian cross-country skier from Whitehorse, Yukon and is part of the Canadian national cross-country team. When she talks about the lifestyle of a cross-country skier, she says that she is looking for snow all year round.
“The first time I skied on the Haig Glacier in Kananaskis was in 2010. Since then, I’ve seen large changes and how early the snowpack melts and how long we’re able to use the glacier each year for training”, she laments.
Athletes are very worried about how the climate is shifting and they don’t know where this situation is going. There’s been a temperature increase of over one and a half degrees in the last 50 years that’s really concerning for the future of winter sports.
Beatty explains, however, that the impacts of climate change are a lot more diverse than just warming temperatures, such as increased rain and its impact on snow, as well as strong winds. Also with more precipitation and warmer weather, there is greater chance for fog and low visibility, which can make a competition very dangerous.
Despite this dire scenario, thousands of athletes like her are convinced that we can make a difference.
“[The] future is really exciting about the viability of the winter sports in low emissions. There [are] a lot of locations we’re going to be able to continue to host winter sports. People and countries working together can make big differences that can lead us towards that low emissions future,” she said.
The Save Winter Conference kicked off Friday 13 January as part of the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games and continues on Saturday and Sunday.
Written by Julieta Boschiazzo, FISU Young Reporter