Why Our Olympians Are Forced to Cross an Ocean to Train

Winter sports competitors traveling around the world to find glaciers suitable for training
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 19, 2017 10:25 AM CST
This photo shows a skier performing a jump in October during training on the glacier above Saas-Fee, Switzerland. The glacier attracted skiers and snowboard athletes from an array of nations, who came...   (AP Photo/John Leicester)
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(Newser) – US athletes prepping for the Pyeongchang Olympics are training in Finland and the Swiss Alps—because climate change is forcing athletes to hunt farther from home for wintry conditions, per the AP. "Without the snow and the cold in the places in the [US] where it's normally cold, we have to travel over here" says world champion skier Jon Lillis. "You see videos of people skiing on glaciers back in the '80s and '70s, and half of that glacier doesn't even exist anymore." Last year, the aerial skiing team stopped water training at its headquarters in Park City, Utah, in mid-October, then waited a month for snow that came late to the mountain that hosted the Winter Games 15 years ago. The World Cup season began in China, and the US was forced to go there not having set foot on snow in months. The results were dismal: not a single podium and only one finish in the top 5.

This season, they uprooted to Swiss and Finnish glaciers for training needed to be competitive at February's Olympics. The hunt for offseason training spots like these is increasingly a scramble, and not just for the US. Weather and subpar glacier conditions are also wreaking havoc on training in Italy, Argentina, Canada, France, and Austria. A researcher says winter sports training is "going to become harder and harder," putting pressure on coaches' time and budgets, and scientists warn that more warming will render proven Olympic venues unsuitable, even with greater use of artificial snow-making. Much has been said about the scarcity of snow in Beijing and surrounding areas, which will host the 2022 Winter Games, though officials have frequently brushed off the problem and promised to make enough artificial snow.


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