Aerial shots from the site of the Beijing Winter Olympics show a dire lack of snow at the Yanqing ski resort, where only the slopes skiers will use are artificially maintained and stick out uncomfortably from the surrounding green hillsides. The Beijing Olympics will be the first ones carried out on almost 100% artificial snow. Depending on the progress of climate change, the scenario could become the norm for future Winter Games, however.
A scientific paper published this year in the journal Current Issues in Tourism shows that two thirds of all Winter Olympic venues could become unreliable for the use in international competitions between 2071 and 2100 if the world continued on its current emissions trajectory. If instead it stuck to the Paris Agreement emission goals, the share of unreliable venues would rise to 29% by that time, up from 19% that were already unreliable between 1981 and 2010.
This chart shows the share of Olympic Winter Games locations by reliability to ensure safe and fair … [+] snow sport conditions in February.
The unreliability of venues will not just come from the use of artificial snow which decreases the quality of the surface skiers and snowboarders use. Climate change is also bound to negatively influence a slew of other conditions important for holding fair and safe competitions. These problems include increased fog and wind, occurrence of rain, the need to chemically treat snow and scheduling problems in competition and training as snow is not a commodity that’s easily come by.
To arrive at their results, the researchers behind the release questioned internationally competing skiers, snowboarders and their coaches and compared statements on what would make competitions unsafe or unfair against climate models.
Goodbye, Winter Games in Europe?
Taking a closer look at which venues are to deteriorate in reliability, mostly European venues are affected. French Grenoble, Austrian Innsbruck and Italian resorts in Cortina d’Ampezzo and Turin are bound to reach unreliability in this century independent of the climate change scenario. Competition venues in French Chamonix, German Garmisch-Patenkirchen and Russian Sochi were deemed unreliable from the start by the researchers.
North American venues, with the exception of California’s Squaw Valley, are only expected to become majorly unreliable if the current emissions trajectory continued until the end of the century. Japanese venues Sapporo and Nagano fare similarly, while Pyeongchang in South Korea is also bound for snowless conditions soon. Beijing received a mediocre rating from the researchers throughout the different scenarios.

Charted by Statista