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      Winter sports ‘nailing the lid on his own coffin’, says British athlete

      ByMonelo Gabriel

      Feb 26, 2023

      Two prominent British winter athletes condemned a Swedish ski competition for accepting sponsorship from high-carbon companies.

      Vasaloppet is the world’s largest cross-country ski race, with nearly 100,000 entrants each year, with more than 50 British citizens taking part by 2023.

      Volvo and Preem, Sweden’s largest oil company, have been two of the main sponsors since 2015 and 2009, respectively.

      The presence of high-carbon companies in snowsports has been criticized by Lizzy Yarnold, Britain’s most successful winter Olympian, who said: “Winter sports are at their best a celebration of of people enjoying some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth.

      “But the impact of climate pollution is now melting the snow and ice that these sports depend on.

      “Having high-carbon sponsors is like a winter sport closing the lid on its own coffin, and it has to stop.”

      Investiture at Buckingham Palace
      Lizzy Yarnold is a double Olympic champion and earned an OBE after becoming Britain’s most successful winter sports athlete (Yui Mok/PA)

      His comments come as a new report, The Snow Thieves, identified 107 sponsors of high-carbon winter sports, including British Airways, sponsor of Britain’s alpine team.

      Published in conjunction with the New Weather Institute, Possible and the Rapid Transition Alliance, the report says fossil fuel companies should be banned from sponsoring snow sports.

      Andrew Simms, one of the authors, said that having fossil fuel companies sponsor winter sports is “like being sponsored by a burglar who keeps burglarizing your house.”

      Vasaloppet Sponsor Manager Eva Horwing said: “From Vasaloppet’s perspective, we choose partners who can help us produce our events in the most sustainable way possible.

      “These two partners have helped us over the last 10 years to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. For example, through the use of biofuels in machines, as well as the introduction of electric cars, buses and trucks.

      “We know we have a long way to go. But we are continually working to reduce our carbon footprint and produce more sustainable events.”

      Anna Turney, British alpine skier and Paralympian, said: “The cold feeling of fear and uncertainty while I was in hospital and told I would never walk again, was something I thought I had left behind. But that fear is back, as I grapple with climate change at a terrifying rate.

      “I want to feel proud of my sport, of winter sports. I want others to experience the joys and challenges of snow sports. I also want a healthy planet for everyone.

      “So it’s time for the sport’s governing bodies to broaden their perspectives and find the courage to behave more like the athletes they are supposed to support.”

      A Preem spokesperson said the company is phasing out fossil fuels and aims to complete its sustainable transition by 2035.

      They added: “From a climate standpoint, we know that Preem is part of the problem, but also part of the solution.

      “Preem has taken a stand and has embraced the industry’s most ambitious climate goal in line with the Paris Agreement.”

      Volvo declined to comment.

      Dr Madeleine Orr, from Loughborough University, who last year published a study on how climate change is affecting the Winter Olympics in Beijing, said the Volvo and Preem sponsorship was “absolutely greenwashing” and “deeply disappointing”.

      She said many resorts around the world now rely on artificial snow, which uses energy and water, as well as chemicals to harden it, and some athletes believe this makes it more dangerous to compete.

      Data from the Met Office has shown a general decline in the number of snow days in Scotland since the 1960s, although Andy Meldrum, managing director of Glencoe Mountain Resort, said he was “not concerned about the future of the industry in Scotland.” .

      Met Office graphic on snowfall in Scotland
      The number of snowy days in Scotland has gradually decreased since the 1960s (Met Office)

      He said more wind, improved fencing and more plant track machines mean his season is longer than ever.

      In early January, some ski resorts in the Alps ran out of snow completely after recording temperatures more associated with a cool summer.

      Dr Orr said: “There have been several studies that have shown a steady and accelerating decline in snowpack across the UK, more pronounced in some areas than others.

      “Usually that depends on things like altitude, how close to the coast you are, etc.

      “In Scotland, all the resorts are already dependent on snowmaking. That is why they will say that they are not experiencing problems.

      “The UK is lucky in that it has access to water in a way that the Alps and Rocky Mountains don’t. And so Scotland should be able to produce relatively consistent snow seasons.

      “That is true, but it is not true to say that climate change is not affecting it and it is not true to say that they are not going to experience a difference in snowfall. They’re just going to fix it by making snow.”


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