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Report: As Snow Decreases, Could 2022 Be Final Winter Olympics?


Thursday, February 3, 2022   

Viewers of the Winter Olympics that start this week should enjoy them while they can. A new study says the winter games will become much harder to stage if significant efforts aren't made to mitigate climate change.

Places around the world that host winter-sports venues, including Montana, no longer have reliable snowfall, the Sports Ecology Group report finds. The Beijing games starting on Friday are the first to use 100% artificial snow.

Whitefish resident Kaitlyn Farrington won a gold medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Olympics. She said when she was training, there were half-pipes around the country, but now there are only three.

"People from the East Coast have to come to the West Coast to train in the pipes," said Farrington. "And so I think it definitely does make it harder for the athletes just to like have more snow days under their belt or like be able to be in a half pipe consistently."

Farrington is part of the organization Protect Our Winters, a group of athletes and outdoor recreationists pushing for action on climate change.

Madeline Orr is founder of the Sports Ecology Group. She said snowpack is vanishing around the globe, presenting a major obstacle for winter Olympians.

"On both sides of the Atlantic," said Orr. "In the Rockies, in the Northeast of the U.S. and over in the Alps - we've seen a decline in snow days since the '70s, pretty consistent, about a day a year. More or less, 35 days in total."

Orr said while manmade snow is a stopgap solution for the time being, in the long run it isn't sustainable because it takes massive amounts of energy and water to produce.

"If you don't have enough snow, you can produce it using artificial snow guns," said Orr. "But if you blow that snow out of the gun, and it hits the ground and it's too hot for it to stay on the ground, there's nothing really you can do about that."

Milan and Cortina, Italy, are scheduled to host the next Winter Olympics in 2026.

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