The East Coast’s whipsaw shifts between freeze and thaw has complicated life for the Canada Winter Games, as athletes and organizers adapt to what climate scientists say is the brand new reality of less snow.
Jean-Philippe Le Guellec, the data officer for biathlon on the Games, says within the weeks leading as much as the competition, there have been questions whether a light January might force some skiing events to maneuver off Prince Edward Island.
Ultimately, the skiing venue at North Wiltshire, P.E.I., was helped by a temporary cold snap that began in early February and snow-making machinery that had stockpiled snow on cold days since late last yr.
Nevertheless, as events began on Monday, rain was coming down and a temperature of 4 C was forecast for Charlottetown, while speedskating practices on the Halifax oval were delayed by a gradual downpour and temperatures of 8 C.
In keeping with Environment Canada, the last time the Island held the winter games in 1991, the typical temperature was -11 C and 88 centimetres of snow had fallen during January. This yr, the typical temperature in January was -2 C — the warmest since 1953 — and 58 cm of snow fell throughout the month.
Le Guellec, a former Olympian and World Cup racer, said that the gradual fade of snowy winters in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere has his sport frightened each domestically and on the international scene.
“They (P.E.I.) didn’t have much snow until last week and there was an enormous concern about holding the event. That they had a fallback plan to go to Charlo, N.B., which is 4 hours away,” he said in an interview from Charlottetown the day before the biathlon — a sport combining cross-country skiing and goal shooting — was set to start.
In keeping with “Canada’s Changing Climate” — the 2019 summary of federal climate science — over the past three many years, global warming has led to a decrease within the proportion of Canadian land covered by snow. The document says there are “significant reductions in seasonal snow accumulation” projected across Southern Canada within the many years ahead, including the Atlantic region.
“Climate change could be very real,” Le Guellec said. “We see it winter after winter.”
For some skiers, it’s meant long hours in December and January training on asphalt surfaces, using carbon tipped poles and roller skis that substitute for cross-country skiing on snow.
It’s turn out to be common for Nova Scotia athletes and their families to drive round trips so long as 1,000 kilometres, in search of snow to coach and race on to organize for the Games, coaches and athletes say.
Ewan Miner, 15, a Nova Scotia biathlete who races this week, describes the long trips as an “inconvenient” but an increasingly normal a part of his sport. “(Climate change) may have an effect on the provision of venues for our sport. But there are still people willing to drive the six hours or seven hours to coach,” he said in an interview on Sunday.
Nevertheless, Peggy Falkenham-Boutilier, the team’s coach, said her association is starting to noticeably consider what biathlon looks like without snow in Nova Scotia.
“On this last two years we’ve re-evaluated and we’re asking ourselves the query, what should a shooting range appear to be … Should or not it’s a roller skiing facility that permits us to have our loops on asphalt?” she said.
Daniel Scott, a professor of geography and environmental management on the University of Waterloo, said the challenges on the Canada Games are reflecting wider trends. “That is something the present and future generations of snow sports athletes may have to get used to and adapt to as best as possible,” he wrote in an email on Monday.
He said interviews he conducts suggest the prime concern of the athletes and winter sports enthusiasts is that as local conditions decline, “we lose a crucial pipeline to the following generation of snow sports athletes.”
The researcher said that like most sectors of society, there’s a bias in sports circles towards excessive optimism about climate change, but he says predictions of doom aren’t helpful either, as each attitudes can turn out to be paralyzing.
“We do must be realistic about future climate outcomes and plan accordingly. I don’t see that on this planet of sport yet,” he wrote.
The general public relations team on the Canada Winter Games said a race site official for biathlon was unavailable for comment and sent written comments Monday to point the races were proceeding, and there are “no concerns with conditions” on the venue.
“The host society is currently using the alpine snow-making system to make and stockpile snow so it could be harvested and placed on the nordic venue, if required, to offer cross-country skiing an expanded trail network,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, the swings of the Maritime winter were expected to proceed this week, as Environment Canada forecast temperatures to shift from rain on Monday to a low of -11 C in Charlottetown by week’s end.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2023.
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