Near Bend, Oregon, Olympic cross-country skier Andy Newell squints into the sun glinting off the snow ahead. Nearby, the limbs of pine trees droop, heavy with wet snow. As Andy’s skis push and glide, his poles sink into the snowpack.

Olympic skier Andy Newell
 

Newell: “As a professional skier, you get to know the snow very well.”

And Andy says it’s changing. Each year, he sees softer snow and later starts to the season.

Newell: “This year on the World Cup ski tour, I think we competed on man-made snow at least sixty or seventy percent of the time. That’s something that wasn’t happening twenty years ago.”

The Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2014 were also noticeably warmer. In Sochi, some spectators watched the events shirtless. In Vancouver, helicopters had to bring in emergency snow.

Daniel Scott, a researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada, says this trend is supported by climate data. He predicts that by the end of this century, half the cities that formerly hosted the Winter Olympics will be too warm to reliably host them again.

For Newell, this is a reason to speak out – and why he and one-hundred other Olympians are asking world leaders to take action on climate change.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Olympic skier Andy Newell.

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Bud Ward

Bud Ward is Editor of Yale Climate Connections. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as Assistant Director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission on Air Quality,...