Alpine skiing: Why the organizers are betting more on night slaloms despite the energy crisis

Status: 01/23/2023 09:42

For the first time this season, there was a night slalom on the Gudiberg. Garmisch follows the concept of Schladming. The nature protection association is skeptical about the events, and not only because of the energy crisis.

By Chiara Theis and Johannes Kirchmeier

Eight night competitions were planned this season in the Alpine Skiing World Cup – and especially in the midst of the energy crisis. As the season approached, the FIS called on organizers to conserve energy and public approval for sporting events declined. The World Cup still relies on night events – and there are reasons for that.

This year, for the first time, there was a night slalom on the Gudiberg. The Garmisch-Partenkirchen slaloms having been a success last year, an agreement has been reached with the FIS on a night slalom this year, explains Ralph Eder, DSV spokesman.

Skiing can come

For organizers and associations, nocturnal events such as those at Madonna di Campiglio, Flachau and the best known, Schladming, are very attractive: skiing can come during prime time on television in the evening – and The start of the evening also brings many spectators to the stadium. Nighttime events all take place during the week, so quotas and visitor numbers would likely be significantly lower during the day.

The atmosphere during night slaloms is also very special, says Ralph Eder: “Night slaloms are much more concentrated than races, both for the fans and for the riders. This concentration, which is on the track with the light, naturally has a special character.” At the beginning of January, 7,000 spectators were able to discover this special character on the Gudiberg.

It’s not just the Alpines that ride at night. Ski jumpers or ski and snowboard freestylers also have their night events – “eventing” is becoming more and more common in winter sports, which is not only evident from the number of slaloms nocturnal.

Environmentalists are very concerned about light

“The problem is that these events usually increase at night. There are 24 hours in the day and even in winter it’s still light on six to eight of them.”says Axel Doering, chairman of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district group in the Bund Naturschutz. “Light at night is not ideal for animals like deer or roe deer, but also for insects.”

It is above all a source of light to which animals in the mountains are suddenly exposed in a day, which has an impact on nature, explains Doering. He himself lives in the middle of Garmisch-Partenkirchen – and the early January night slalom in particular radiated into the house, he says on the phone. He would therefore prefer that these events be left alone.

Ski racer Linus Straßer missed out on a podium finish in Wednesday’s Garmisch-Partenkirchen night slalom after a blunder in the second run.

Schladming ski festival

The ski associations currently have a different opinion. In Schladming, Austria, there is a big ski festival for night slalom every year. Up to 50,000 spectators “The Night Race”, as the organizers call it, the most popular World Cup race with the public. Figures that encourage organizers to start competitions at a late hour.

After the criticisms of the start of the season, the organizers reply: “The projector costs 4,300 euros for the whole evening, it is doable and justifiable. The sport must remain alive.”said Georg Bliem, managing director of the Planai-Bergbahnen, to the “Kronen Zeitung”.

Light is not the most important energy factor

At the Gudiberg in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the energy crisis was also a problem before. An early cold spell produced snow well and efficiently. The floodlights, on the other hand, didn’t worry the organizers much, says Eder: “The light itself is much less important in terms of power consumption. It’s all LED lights now, that’s not the issue anymore.” The slope itself was also subsequently used for training and races for young people in order to act as sustainably as possible.

“If I take something that saves energy and use it a lot, it uses more energy again.”Doering finds: “None of these things will end the world, but it does harm the climate – and with it us.”

Skiing World Cup sticks to nighttime events

A representative survey carried out by the opinion research institute Yougov on behalf of the German press agency at the start of the energy crisis showed that 40% of respondents were in favor of canceling sporting events in order to ‘save energy. Furthermore, only 43% would continue to organize Bundesliga, ice hockey, basketball and winter sports events.

Due to the energy crisis, none of the scheduled night races had to be cancelled, but a slalom in Zagreb and the races in Lech/Zürs suffered from the weather. “Two things are important to me”says Doering: “We environmentalists are not happy when there is no snow. But we are also not happy when we are going in the wrong direction.”

And going the wrong way is, for example, the white ribbon of artificial snow that we increasingly admire, which winds along the green hills, but also, according to him, the new focus on the night.

Schladming expects up to 40,000 fans

Schladming expects around 40,000 fans this Tuesday evening (January 24, 2023) – the next day there will also be a nightly giant slalom on the Planai, as the organizers in Austria will intervene for the Kandahar from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Skiing benefits from this high number of television viewers and television ratings. That’s why he’s likely to continue to focus on night racing, especially under busy marketing federation chairman Johan Eliasch – despite warnings from conservationists.

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