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Professional skiers call for competition changes in response to climate crisis | 'This is our most important race'

In an open letter signed by almost 200 professional athletes, the International Ski and Snowboard Federation is coming under increased pressure to make winter sports more sustainable

United States' Mikaela Shiffrin speeds down the course during an alpine ski, women's World Cup giant slalom, in Kronplatz, Italy, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. American skier Mikaela Shiffrin won a record 83rd World Cup race Tuesday. Shiffrin...s giant slalom victory broke a tie on the all-time women...s list with former American teammate Lindsey Vonn. Vonn retired four years ago when injuries cut her career short. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
Image: Mikaela Shiffrin is among the professional winter sports athletes to co-sign the letter

Ski chiefs have come under pressure from professional athletes to improve the sustainability of winter sports.

Nearly 200 professionals, including US slalom star Mikaela Shiffrin and Norwegian racer Aleksander Aamodt Kilde have penned a letter to the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS), calling the current environmental policies "insufficient".

The letter comes after unseasonal warm weather and show shortages wiped nearly a month of racing from the start of the season, with pre-season training on shrinking European glaciers melting away.

The letter was written by Austrian downhiller Julian Schütter, an ambassador for the non-profit organisation Protect Our Winters, known as POW.

Olympic cross-country skiing champion Jessie Diggins and Freeride World Tour champions Arianna Tricomi and Xavier de le Rue have also signed the letter.

"A heatwave in January brings the next lack of snow to Europe. Soon we won't be able to produce artificial snow at some classic World Cup slopes anymore as winter temperatures rise above zero in low altitude ski resorts more frequently," the athletes said.

"The public opinion about skiing is shifting towards unjustifiability. This will also bring the industry into trouble. This is our most important race, let's win it together."

The professionals suggested "geographically reasonable" schedules to reduce carbon emissions from air travel, citing how the men's circuit will have to travel from Europe to North America and back twice by the end of the season.

"The races of Beaver Creek in November and those in Aspen in February are 50km (30 miles) away from each other," the skiers said, referring to the two Colorado resorts.

"Planning those two races one after the other would reduce approximately 1,500 tons of (carbon emissions)."

Kilde was at the skiing world championships on Sunday spoke of the issue after winning silver medal in the downhill.

"It's about time to address a really important topic. We see also the impact of our sport," he said. "I want the future generations to experience winter and to be able to do what I do," she said.

In a statement sent to Sky Sports News, the FIS said it is "encouraged to see that many athletes are addressing the urgent issue of climate change".

"FIS does not agree with the suggestion - made in the athletes' letter - that its sustainability efforts are insufficient.

"As we are a global sport, central to the sustainability strategy is a focus on optimizing the calendar, and on working with FIS partners to create increasingly sustainable events. The effectiveness of this approach has been demonstrated here in Courchevel-Meribel, where the organisers have just announced that they were successful in achieving ISO 20121 certification.

"Is there more that FIS can do? Absolutely. Like everyone sharing this planet, we are at a critical point where we need consider sustainability as a top priority across all of our actions. Our passion for snow sports and climate protection means we are always seeking to explore new ways to cut emissions and cut waste."

Climate change is threatening sport. This summer, Sky Zero and Sky Sports are helping fans take action against the climate crisis so there is always a place to play. Find out more here.

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