How Sweden’s skiers are coping with a warm winter and lack of snow

How Sweden's skiers are coping with a warm winter and lack of snow
Organizers of the Vasaloppet race have had to put out snow on some of the more vulnerable parts of the track. Photo: Ulf Palm/TT
After an unusually mild winter, most of Sweden is without its usual January blanket of snow, which has caused problems both at ski resorts and in forests and other areas popular for cross-country skiing.

In Stockholm, Jonny Costmar works for the municipality's sports department and is responsible for the ski tracks at Gärdet and Stadion in the northern part of the capital.

“This is really bad. There are no ski tracks in Stockholm, it's too warm. I have never known a winter like this in the ten years I've worked in skiing,” he said.

Along with other winter sports fans, Costmar is waiting for cooler weather, but the current three-week forecast doesn't offer anything more promising than a few nights of minus degrees. South-westerly winds present another challenge.

“We are completely ready to start, and have staff ready to 'push the button'. If it gets to the right temperature and conditions, we'll get going straight away because we want to get started,” he explained.

Over in Ulricehamn, staff were forced to close cross-country ski tracks record early due to the warmth, while in Karlstad there are no prepared tracks because of the mild winter.

At the ski resort Vik in Arvika, not far from Norway, organizers took advantage of a short cold spell in November to open the resort, which since then has remained open thanks to artificial snow. Currently, only some parts of the training tracks are open.

But even artificial snow requires a certain level of cold, and the trend is towards fewer days which provide the right conditions.

In Torsby, Värmland, cross-country skiers can take advantage of the world's longest ski tunnel and train indoors. 

“Fortunately, we have an indoor arena for cross-country skiing. The sports center has invested in a new artificial snow system, but due to the mild weather we cannot produce snow at present,” commented Anna Lindqvist, site manager at Torsby Ski Tunnel and Sports Centre.

Organizers of the Vasaloppet, a 90-kilometre cross-country ski race held each March, have concerns about the survival of the sport.

Johan Eriksson, Head of Development for Vasaloppet, described the situation as “very stressful” but was pleased that there was natural snow on a large part of the course.

“We have a good foundation and we feel secure with what we have now,” he said.

For a few years, the race has had a plan for dealing with a lack of snow which requires the team to prepare some of the most vulnerable parts of the track with artificial snow at an early stage, regardless of the weather.

“It's roughly from Oxberg to Mora. There, we don't rely on nature giving us enough help to have 100,000 skiers. But we have a stretch of 15 kilometres which isn't usable, so now we are waiting for a cool period to produce more artificial snow,” he said.

Vocabulary

training (sport) — träning

cross-country skiing — längdskidåkning

artificial snow — konstsnö

cold snap — (en) köldknäpp

skier — (en) skidåkare


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