Olympic Athletes Warn Against Snowmaking

A British skier crashed into a wooden fence and broke his leg. Americans have the same injuries after reaching the surface of the ice at the foot of the hillside and hitting a fence.

Another American, who was training before joining Biathlon, slips on a frozen corner and jumps into a tree. In addition to suffering from his pneumothorax, he broke his ribs and scapula.

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None of these accidents occurred at downhill or freestyle skiing events. They appeared in later tests, cross-country or biathlon, but in artificial snow.

Many prominent athletes say that such accidents are becoming more common as climate change reduces the availability of natural snow and forces skiers to compete on artificial versions of the slopes.

Olympic and world championship race organizers could no longer rely on natural snowfall, forcing them to rely on artificial snowmaking machines to place slippery white ribbons on the hills.

Estonian biathlon player Johann Nataliham said there is a risk in competing in snowmaking.

“It’s like ice that creates more speed and danger,” he said. “Also, in snowless but rocky, hard, or muddy terrain, off course will do more damage.”

Artificial snow has a high water content. This speeds up crystallization and alerts skiers and professionals.

“It can harden like a stone. It’s a bit more dangerous in natural conditions than snow because it’s like falling on concrete,” said Chris Glover, a cross-country ski coach on the US team. I am.

At some venues, it builds under a layer of sawdust during the summer and produces snow that spreads on the tracks when it gets cold. It provides valuable help, but snowmaking does not improve with age.

Race organizers need to take that into account when designing the course and match skiers with professionals.

Gus Schumacher, a member of the US cross-country ski team, said:

Former Olympic skier John Aalberg, who designs the Nordic skiing courses for the Olympics, including the Beijing Olympics, said he always considers frigid conditions when designing the courses.

He commented that one of the major safety challenges was the change in race format from individual to collective start.

“Skiing one at a time, as we did in the 90’s, happened one at a time, so we were able to run more winding on slopes and corners,” he said.

Unlike alpine skis, Nordic skis do not have metal edges. Designed to be slim and lightweight for climbing hills and gliding on flat terrain.

The boots are flexible and connect to the ski via a single metal rod under the big toe. Nordic skiers do not use the edges of the ski to control the corners. Instead, they take small, fast steps around the curve.

And it’s all more difficult with snowmaking.

Olympic champion and member of the Nordic skiing team in the United States, Jesse Diggins, said artificial snow had reached 47 mph downhill.

“And that’s scary, because most of our slopes are made for natural snow,” he explained. “I think this is a bit more dangerous. I’ve noticed that in the world, artificial snow makes me scared because it slides on ice instead of on snow.”

Diggins, the overall winner of the 2020-21 campaign, thought “the rate of falls is high.”

The International Ski Federation has been tracking injuries since 2006. A system has been created that provides data to “monitor injuries and trends” and incorporate into “detailed investigation of causes”.

The report tracks downhill skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and jumping. However, there is no injury data for Nordic events such as cross-country skiing, biathlon, and Nordic combined.

The Associated Press asked if the organization would track accidents in cross-country and biathlon competitions.

A federation spokesman responded, “Yes, we are tracking injuries during the race, but we have not published an investigation at this time.”

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