Nearly two years ago, I was wondering whether we’ll lose ski jumping to climate change, largely focusing on the lack of snow and the rain that sometimes started falling during the competition, but this year it’s obvious that I need to focus on an issue that I just mentioned in passing in that previous post, namely the wind and how the way the sport is changing is making it increasingly vulnerable to it. As our commentator put it, people like ski jumping when it actually involves skiers who are jumping, but the way this season started is unfortunately likely to give many the wrong impression and not only put future fans off but even drive away some existing ones as well.
The season’s first two weekends were supposed to include one men’s team event and three men’s individual events, a qualifying round obviously being associated with each individual event as well. However, what we actually got was a single complete individual event, yesterday in Kuusamo, though that was plagued by some wind problems as well and it featured a qualifying round that took place on the same day, since the wind had made jumps impossible the day before. Today’s competition, on the other hand, which was announced as having a single round from the beginning and followed a canceled qualifying round, was completely canceled after barely about a third of the jumpers had managed to jump by the time it was supposed to end according to a typical schedule and the wind was only getting worse.
Otherwise, there was also a complete qualifying round that took place on schedule in Klingenthal, with the wind only causing some delays towards the end, but both the team event and individual event that took place there over the next two days had to end after a single round, again due to the wind. Worse, the individual event was particularly plagued by the wind conditions, only starting after hours of delays, and after the trial round was canceled as well, and ending after the last two jumpers, who obviously were last year’s champion and runner-up, elected not to jump due to the dangerous conditions, and perhaps to some extent also in order not to force the organizers to cancel the competition when they had already gotten that far.
Under these circumstances, and considering the issues I mentioned in the other post as well and which were also already noticeable this season in Klingenthal, where the newly built snow storage facility had to be used to cover the landing area with a reasonable layer since otherwise there was no trace of snow nearby, somebody should seriously think about where this sport is heading. On top of the problems caused by climate change, there’s also the fact that larger hill sizes make jumpers more vulnerable to wind conditions, stricter equipment regulations likely make it more difficult for them to control the jumps, and choosing venues according to the rules used for particularly popular sports, namely according to the potential attendance and the organizers’ ability to build and maintain high-level facilities, instead of according to whether or not the local weather patterns are suitable for such a competition, greatly increases the risk of such problems being faced with increasing frequency.
I want to see longer jumps as much as any fan of the sport, and perhaps even more than some, and would obviously also like the venue to offer good conditions for the jumpers and the television crews, but if I have to choose between aiming for that and ending up with no competition at all, or with such troubled events that produce unfair results when they produce any at all, and competitions that will actually run more or less on schedule in areas that can only offer smaller hills and facilities that are somewhat behind the times, I’d definitely pick the latter and I highly doubt I’m the only one. I seriously think that some important decisions need to be made next year if this sport is to be sustainable, because at the moment I unfortunately have to say that, in its current form and under the current and predicted future circumstances, it no longer seems to be.