A snowless December in central Europe has already seen the cancellation of one cross-country World Cup weekend, slated for La Clusaz, France, but moved to a manmade snow loop in Davos, Switzerland, and now one of the sport’s flagship events, the Tour de Ski, is in danger.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) is currently searching for acceptable backup venues for several of the stages, including the opening races of the multi-day stage race, which was set to begin in Oberstdorf, Germany.
“Oberstdorf is the most critical,” FIS Nordic Director Jürg Capol said to Norwegian newspaper Adressa.no. “This is where we need to find solutions first, and it is hard to locate a backup venue. Its not just about snow, but also about hotels and accommodations.”
Sweden’s SR radio reports that FIS is currently in emergency meetings to determine a backup plan for different stages of the event, which is set to kick off on Jan. 3. Temperatures are not cold enough to blow snow at most of the venues.
“There is currently no snow in Oberstdorf. Additionally, it’s warm, and that’s not supposed to change the next days,” Capol said.
German organizers, nevertheless, have vowed that their races – the first two days of the Tour – will go off without a hitch. Last year’s edition of the event was famously gray, rainy, and dreary in Oberhof.
“Due to the high temperatures, not enough snow could yet be produced in order to prepare the trails,” the organizing committee noted on its website. “In the coming days, the prognosis remains unstable, which is why the FIS and the OC have agreed to make a final decision on 25 December.”
The third stage of Tour de Ski takes place in Dario Cologna’s hometown of Val Müstair, Switzerland. The Swiss organizers report decent conditions.
“They probably need one or two days of colder weather in order to be able to host the stage as planned,” Capol said.
Stage four and five take place in Toblach, Italy. The organizers have produced some manmade snow, but still don’t have enough.
Accordingly, the final stage up the monster hill in Val di Fiemme, Italy, may be moved due to lack of snow in the valley. Without more snow on the monster hill, that stage will be raced as a pursuit at the Passo Lavaze, which is the backup venue at 1800 meters above sea level.
One country isn’t entirely broken up about the developments: the monster hill has caused trouble for Norwegian stars Marit Bjørgen and Petter Northug in the past, if the stage is moved it might increase their shot at winning the overall Tour de Ski. Neither of them has managed to win the overall stage race.
—Inge Scheve and Chelsea Little contributed reporting.