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Olympic Skiers Issue Stark Warning About America's Disappearing Ski Trails

The members of the US cross-country ski team are hoping to leave the Winter Olympics in South Korea as world champions, but their mission in Pyeongchang goes beyond medaling in this one winter sport. The team is not just  a collection of world-class athletes, but also world-class climate activists, as well.

“Cross-country skiers didn’t get to where we are today by taking no for an answer,” members of Team USA said in a video statement. “Just like we work together on snow, it’s time for us to work together to fight climate change.”

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Leading the charge is Jessie Diggins, a 26-year-old Minnesota native who has spent her entire life watching how climate change is affecting the snowy landscapes she competes on. In an interview with the New York Times, Diggins talked about her concern that climate change could mean future generations will miss out on the joys of skiing.

“Growing up, I didn’t play video games. I didn’t watch TV. I went and played in the snow,” she said. “I don’t want my kids to grow up in a world where they’ve never experienced snow because we weren’t responsible enough.”

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For athletes who spend most of their days on snow, the effects of a warming globe is hard to ignore.

Rising global temperatures will mean poor-conditions for skiers who rely on cold air and abundant snow to compete. Skiers and snowboarders have been scrambling to find new training spots as more and more locations must rely on man-made snow to make up for decreasing natural snowfall and worse retention among traditionally frosty areas in the US and abroad.

“One reason I feel that I can say how much climate change is affecting us is because I’ve seen it all over the world,” Diggins told the Times. “Most venues over the last three years have been exclusively on man-made snow. The same World Cup courses that we race get more and more dangerous with man-made snow because it gets icy.”

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A stark report from the University of Waterloo suggested that this trend will continue if immediate and dramatic action isn’t take to curb the effects of climate change. The study analyzed past venues for the Winter Olympics, and analyzed climate change prediction data to ascertain whether those locations could support winter events in the years 2041 and beyond.

Almost half of the venues were estimated to be too warm to support the games by that time frame.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals. Taking action on climate change is goal number 13. You can take action on this issue here.  

The US cross-country skiers urged their viewers to join Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-profit group focused on lobbying for legislation to combat climate change in the US.

Diggins expressed frustration at the lack of action on the issue, saying that the losses suffered from failing to protect the planet would far outweigh the perceived economic costs to do so.

“You can look at different solutions for the economy,”  she said. “But you only get one earth to live on.”