The effects of climate change are plain to see

If you live in the UK, you will no doubt be familiar with the long running TV programme Ski Sunday, which has appeared on our TV screens every winter since 1978.

It only runs for a handful of episodes from the beginning of January before disappearing just like spring snow in the middle of February, not to be seen again until the following year.

You don’t necessarily have to be a winter sports enthusiast to be inspired by the show’s catchy theme music ‘Pop Looks Bach’ by Sam Fonteyn or appreciate the fantastic alpine scenery and of course the speed, skill, and bravery of the competitors.

As a former downhill ski-racer, it never fails to get my heart pumping in anticipation of the next trip to the Alps when I hear the first notes of that iconic theme tune.

Ski Sunday’s 2023 season kicked off in the Swiss resort of Adelboden for the skiing World Cup men’s slalom. But what made this year’s opening episode quite different from previous shows, was the clear shortage of snow on the mountains – even over 2000m the temperature was above freezing.

Ski Sunday is often known for its breath-taking landscapes of snow-peaked mountains and white valleys, but this time, our TV screens were filled with images of green meadows, lush conifers, and boulder-fields. This is not what we have come to expect from Ski Sunday! More like Scree Sunday!

During the week before, it was touch and go if the Adelboden event would go ahead as even the reliable snow canons, dependant on cold weather conditions to produce artificial snow were struggling to operate due to much higher-than-average temperatures.

Snow no longer guaranteed even at higher altitudes

In fact, on New Year’s Eve, just a few days before the race, the thermometer reached 20 degrees in Adelboden – the highest temperature ever recorded north of the Alps in January.

With so little snow, not only in the Swiss Alps but in other Alpine resorts, it really does bring into sharp focus the rate of climate change, which often goes unnoticed by the general population. But to see the effects in such stark clarity in Adelboden was disquieting.

Also let’s spare a thought for the local communities who depend on winter sports as their livelihoods. How must they be feeling when faced with such a bleak future thanks to climate change?

I had originally wanted to write a more upbeat article about how skiing can often be used as a metaphor for business, such as when we commit to a ski-turn in the same way we commit to making bold business decisions. But I thought this story was a continuance of the recent articles I published around COP27, sustainable aviation and the circular economy.

We can often lose sight of the bigger picture when getting into the metrics surrounding climate change. But Adelboden is very much part of that big picture of what is already happening within our natural environment.

Despite the great theme music, the distinct clang of alpine cow bells and the thousands of spectators at the base of the famous Chuenisbärgli piste, the latest episode of Ski Sunday left me feeling a bit flat, which is unusual as the show is usually so uplifting.

The impacts of climate change are alarming

If the lack of snow had been a one off, then that would be fine, but according to Swiss reports, 50% of the country’s ski slopes were covered in artificial snow for the 2020-21 season, following a much longer negative trend over many years.

This is further evidence, (as if we need it) that climate change is real and happening now, literally before our eyes. And despite the pledges from COP26 /27, there are still too few policymakers and business leaders implementing climate friendly solutions at the required rate.

On a brighter note, the Alpine snow-forecast has improved since Adelboden, and (at the time of writing) this week’s meeting on the hair-raising Hahnenkamm in Kitzbühel will provide the snowy spectacle to which we are more accustomed in helping beat the mid-winter blues!

If you have been, or are heading out on the slopes this season, then do drop us a line and let us know how you got on!