Ski mountaineering is the sustainable winter sport you should try this year

Skiers who want to be climate-friendly may want to try a different approach to nature as the temperatures keep rising. The global temperature in the first month of the year was above the 1981-2010 average, data from Copernicus Climate Change Service shows.

This is the hottest January on record in Europe, around 0.2 ° C warmer than the previous hottest January in 2007, and 3.1 ° C warmer than the January average during the period 1981-2010. Average temperatures were particularly high in large parts of northeastern Europe, from Norway to Russia.

According to the Swedish magazine Local, ski resorts have already been affected by an exceptional lack of snow in Sweden.

In Norway, which had its hottest day of the month on January 20, more and more people are interested in ski mountaineering. The sport, which is a combination of mountaineering and ski touring, involves climbing a mountain on skis (or wearing them) and then coming back down.

“In the event of a rapid and dramatic change in environmental conditions, we believe it will be more sustainable to offer ski touring compared to ski resorts,” says Asgeir Blindheim, marketing manager and ski touring expert in the region. of the fjord. “In Norway we have many small roads leading to cabins and spring farms in the mountains and the guides can choose the best area for the snow conditions.”

According to Blindheim, ski mountaineering is an important activity for many small destinations that struggle to stay open during the winter season. In fact, many hotels, restaurants, and lodges are fully booked from May through September, as they strive to keep the wheels spinning year round. “If you only offer your staff to work five months a year, you will easily lose skills and knowledge. “

Ski touring represents a small but important niche in Europe, with some of the best spots located in France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.

On the other hand, Blindheim explains to “You have to keep in mind that ski touring is in the hard adventure category and you have to be prepared.”

A visit can last from seven to eight hours and require a climb of 1,500 meters. You have to be efficient in your technique and move with confidence on steep and exposed terrain. You are expected to be adept at using ice axes and crampons, comfortable and safe in making turns on slopes greater than 35 degrees.

As the mountain guide Paolo Cavallo says, the advantages are numerous.

“Ski mountaineering, more than other winter disciplines, if it is understood beyond fashionable stereotypes (free ride, Easy alpine skiing, among others) teaches those who practice it the harmony of the mountain.

“The descent then gives the taste a little narcissistic to see your ephemeral trace which will disappear shortly after. It is certainly not very impacting on the environment.

However, there is no such thing as a sustainable way to ski per se. Global warming is putting all winter sports at risk, and Blindheim says professionals “fear that interest in winter sports will drop sharply” because of rising temperatures.

For Professor Ralf Roth of the University of Cologne, the main carbon footprint is travel and accommodation. So a ski mountaineer may not be the most enduring type of winter sport than the average skier.

“In general, it would be better to stay as long as possible, stay with as many people as possible in the same room and get around by public transport,” explains Andreas Erkens, journalist for the trade magazine. ALPINE. “Then if you don’t use ski lifts and play snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, you’re good.”

Erkens says the number of people ski mountaineering has increased in recent years, especially at the beginner level “because beginners are tired of queuing at ski resorts, skiing on full snow groomers. people and pay a lot of money for it “. For example, around 650 participants now join the tours organized by ALPINE against 450 for the same events the previous decade.

Climate change is pushing skiers towards change. “People regard their personal actions a lot more and this also applies to their free time activities.”

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