Even training in shorts and a T-shirt on New Year’s Eve, Roman Rees had a bad feeling. “I thought about whether a competition could be prepared and then take place,” said the biathlete. In January, which is far too hot, there will be a World Cup in Ruhpolding this week, but the efforts for this are increasing.
“It worries me because I notice something is changing,” Rees said. “Even if I look back four years, I realize that something is wrong with winter.”
This is also clearly seen in the Chiemgau. Despite the rain and heat, the assistants put a lot of effort into preparing the course so that the men’s singles could start on Wednesday (2:10 p.m. / ARD and Eurosport). There was only snow from the depots, stored from the previous year. In the otherwise green region, there is now a white strip on which skiers are supposed to race six races until Sunday. But whether it really works also depends on how the weather changes. It’s supposed to rain again and be up to eight degrees hot.
The Olympic champion bleeds the heart
“It’s really bad, my heart bleeds when I’m here and I see how nature wakes up, like it’s spring already,” said Olympic champion Denise Herrmann-Wick, adding: “We’re all shaking and look forward to the World Cup on home soil. We hope the conditions will be cool, but it looks really sad.”
In the past, Ruhpolding often looked like a winter paradise in January, covered in thick snow, sometimes even too much fallen from the sky. It’s different now, the snow is stored at the depot. “Areas with snow are becoming less and less safe,” climatologist Werner Aeschbach of the German Press Agency’s Heidelberg Institute for Environmental Physics said: “But there will still be a lot of snow at 2,000 meters. Below 1,000 meters, there is this certainty but not in the medium term.”
And it will also be difficult for professional winter sports in Central Europe. Herrmann-Wick and Co. would have liked to train in Ruhpolding during the holidays, but it was too hot and there were no trails. Like in Oberhof, where the biathlon world championships will take place in a month. The Thuringian Forest is also lacking in snow and the Rennsteig routes are also covered with reserves from the large depots and prepared for competitions. The organization of the World Championships should currently be as little threatened as the races in Ruhpolding, confirmed the world association IBU at the request of the dpa. The organizers of the Alpine Skiing World Cup in Garmisch-Partenkirchen must also have trembled for a long time, and in Oberstdorf, the Ski Tour or Tournament of the four hills promised to be more dreary than winter.
Within the IBU, the themes of sustainability and climate change play a major role, and the ecological footprint of the organizers has long been taken into account. The next few years will be difficult, as the climate crisis will mean less snow and shorter cold spells in many places. In December, the snow had to be delivered by truck to France to avoid the cancellation of the event.
talks about the future
So what to do? “We are aware of the subject and we are of course discussing what a biathlon calendar of the future might look like,” said IBU Media Director Christian Winkler: “There are a lot of set screws, this n is not an easy business.” The program will be fixed by the 2025/2026 season, and the first adjustments will probably only be made in the period up to 2030. Whether the length of the season is changed, new regions will have to be developed or the organizers will lose their World Cup status, it’s still completely open.
“It’s going so fast right now, and the temperatures are absurdly hot,” Rees says. In his hometown of Freiburg, the 29-year-old trained at the turn of the year in temperatures of up to 19 degrees, almost like in summer. Herrmann-Wick had to leave his adopted home in Ruhpolding. “I fled, looking for snow and better training conditions,” the 34-year-old said. She found what she was looking for in South Tyrol and in Switzerland, Germany’s top biathlete Benedikt Doll gave up ski training and was forced to switch to roller skis. “It’s really screaming, it’s really not funny at all,” said the Black Forester in view of the few winter conditions: “You have to think about winter sports because you just need snow.”
Nordic athletes are too often forced to roller ski, which they describe as an “alternative training tool”, but this alternative becomes problematic, especially for the youngest. The next generation will lack basic training, Rees suspects. He himself stood on the snow for many years, so he was able to learn the correct technique. But: “When I think of my colleagues in the training group, it’s difficult when all they have to do is jog or scooter in the winter.”
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