Criticism of “perverse” ideas: Ski boss wants to decouple winter sports from winter

Criticism of “perverse” ideas
Ski boss wants to decouple winter sports from winter

A turbulent winter sports season is coming to an end. The weather is causing a lot of turbulence – but things could get a lot wilder in the future. There are some bizarre plans. Germany’s ski icon Felix Neureuther finds this “absurd and completely out of date.”

Ski jumpers fly through the sold-out Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, biathletes conquer the city centers, and alpine aces curve around slalom poles in Saudi Arabia – wild ideas that could very well become reality. Winter sports will change, not least because of climate change, and some people in charge are responding to this certainty with some bizarre ideas.

Sandro Pertile, race director of the World Ski Association FIS, no longer sees a compelling connection between winter sports and winter. “We will definitely be a winter sport by the 2026 Olympics,” said the Italian at the beginning of the year when, among other things, he brought up plans for ski jumping in Rio de Janeiro. But in the long term it doesn’t have to stay that way: “We offer emotions. And that’s why this sport can also be attractive in Brazil.”

“Polar bears” and ski freestylers in Riyadh

The goal is a mobile ski jump that enables jumps up to a distance of 150 meters. And this can be set up anywhere in the world – in the Maracana as well as in China or in indoor facilities in Dubai. They want to be ready “in ten years” and open up new markets. What seems absurd at the moment might no longer be so explosive by then: the first Asian Winter Games in the desert state of Saudi Arabia would already have been five years ago.

It should be ready in 2029. Former ski racer Felix Neureuther described such plans as “absolutely perverse, absurd and completely out of date” in an interview with “Zeit”. The first edition of the “SnowBlast KSA Cup” for ski freestylers recently provided a first glimpse of this possible future. In Riyadh there were 500 tons of snow carted in, dancing “polar bears” on the edge of the desert and big prize money for the stars.

Swap skis for roller skis?

The battle of winter sports for attention through unusual ideas is not just a thing of the future, it has already begun. Regardless of the ever-shrinking time window for good snow conditions in the ski areas, athletes’ calendars should continue to be filled. The FIS has already gained negative PR in the past because, among other things, the supposedly spectacular new downhill run on the Matterhorn was canceled due to weather conditions at both planned events in 2022 and 2023.

According to Pertile, ski jumpers should jump for up to eight months a year in the future, increasingly on mats without snow. The women will start their season in 2024 on the Olympic ski jump in Beijing, where no international competition has taken place since 2022. Hardly anyone would be interested in a men’s competition locally, but for the women it would probably be quite sad. In biathlon, skis could increasingly be swapped for roller skis in order to also offer competitions around winter. In addition, the show race held for the first time in the middle of the Swedish capital Stockholm at the end of February showed what future prospects could await. There seem to be no limits to your imagination.

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