Ski jumping in the face of climate change: “rethinking must take place”

When the Bergisel ski club wanted to prepare its ski jump for the four-hill tour, it was 17 degrees plus. Alfons Schranz, the head of the organizing committee, had already stopped preparations on these days before Christmas.

When the Bergisel ski club wanted to prepare its ski jump for the four-hill tour, it was 17 degrees plus. Alfons Schranz, the head of the organizing committee, had already stopped preparations on these days before Christmas. “We have a lot of snow reserves, but that wouldn’t have worked.” In ski jumping, says Schranz, “there may have to be a rethink.”

In the meantime the Bergisel ski jump is in top condition in time for the big climax. But Schranz did not experience the very high degrees of plus for December for the first time. It is not very specific when it comes to the future of ski jumping, but admits: “Doing something by force because it has always been like that cannot be.”

Schranz, who is also Vice President of the Austrian Ski Association (ÖSV), is concerned with the planning security of future competitions at Bergisel. The area around Innsbruck, if you measure the tour areas at their altitude, is something like the last bastion against climate change. “It will quickly become more difficult for everyone who is in low altitudes. We always say: If we can no longer snow at 1,300 m, there will be no more snow for ski jumping anyway.”

Not all World Cup locations are in this “happy position”, as Schranz says. In Oberstdorf, the first tour stop, snow had to be scraped from parking lots. Schranz: “They also asked us and would have brought snow if the amount had been reasonable.” But it wasn’t. As an organizer, Schranz naturally also deals with the question of costs. Transporting the snow hundreds of kilometers for the sake of the snow was no longer useful at some point. The 246 truckloads for Bergiselsjumping 2020 are already expensive. How expensive that remains a well-kept secret.

“It is said that ski jumping should take place in a winter landscape, but I think we can take off our make-up in 20 or 30 years,” said Alexander Stöckl, the Tyrolean head coach of the Norwegians recently to the “Tiroler Tageszeitung”. Stöckl sees his sport at a fork in the road. “The international ski association will have to consider switching to mat jumping at some point. That is a fundamental decision.”

Tests with such mats have been around for a long time. Ingo Hopfgartner and his team from “Alpina Sicherheitssysteme” in Carinthia have developed “TexSnow”, quasi technical snow. “The whole crazy idea started with Walter Hofer (FIS race director ski jumping, note) six years ago. We said: If we both retire, we will be in Vikersund on June 21st at eleven o’clock in the night Ski flying, “said Hopfgartner. He wants this to be understood as an assignment. “And I developed a mat where you can do snow sports 365 days a year.” Meanwhile, his team pulls up the wind nets for Bergisel jumping in the background.

The concept with the coated mats, consisting of polyamide (water absorbing) and polyethylene (sliding factor), has so far been tested on bakken with a width of up to 70 m. But it is approved by the FIS and absolutely suitable for the World Cup, says Hopfgartner. “It’s just a matter of courage from associations and entrepreneurs.”

Hopfgartner likes to experiment. Most recently, a cross-country mat track was developed, the Graz University of Technology has carried out sliding tests. “The athletes say it’s like snow.” There are talks with the ÖSV, said Hopfgartner. “About a cooperation.” For the time being, he has the youth sport in mind: “I want to encourage the youth to do sports again.” The concept – implemented in Villach and Velden, for example – was very well received by the children.

In the meantime, both Hopfgartner and Hofer are standing in front of the pension. Ski flying in Vikersund on June 21st will not happen. But cross-country skiing and ski jumping on colored mats – the future may look like this.

(APA /)

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