Unseasonably Warm Temperatures Put First-Ever FIS World Cup Cross-Border Race in Switzerland and Italy At Risk

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Zermatt Cervinia
Training gates below the famous Matterhorn on the Zermatt Glacier, picture: Fis-ski.com

The world’s first-ever cross-border FIS World Cup is currently at risk as Europe has been having an unseasonably warm fall, making snowmaking at lower altitudes impossible. During the first ‘snow control’ last weekend, the green light for the race start could not yet be given by the International Ski Federation ‘FIS’.

Snow control for FIS World Cup races is conducted two weeks prior to an event. FIS typically sends its relevant race director and assistant director to inspect the conditions on a World Cup race course run to ensure the course is prepared according to FIS standards and is safe for World Cup athletes to compete on.

Last weekend, former Austrian race skier and FIS Men’s Speed Race Director Hannes Trinkl and Assistant Race Director Raimund Plancker were on the ‘Gran Becca’ course in Zermatt, Switzerland, and Cervinia, Italy, together with the Chief of Race Rainer Senoner and Franz Julen, President of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for initial snow control. While work on the spectacular downhill course is well advanced, the last 984ft (300m) of the course was not finished as snow-making had not been possible for several days, due to unseasonably warm temperatures.

Gran Becca
Sectional breakdown of the ‘Gran Becca’ downhill course, picture: speedopening.com

Thankfully, the International Ski Federation has decided to hold a ‘final inspection’ in six days on October 22, 2022, to allow the team in Zermatt and Cervinia to finish course preparations. The men’s speed races are scheduled to take place from October 29-30 on the ‘Gran Becca’. The course should be able to be completed in two to three cold nights. Franz Julen assured, “Our team will continue to work consistently and with great commitment so that the first cross-border World Cup downhill run can take place.”

The Zermatt-Cervinia Downhill race is not only the first FIS World Cup that crosses a border but also the first World Cup for Zermatt, which has not been part of the annual FIS World Cup series in the past. “The Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening is taking place for the first time and is a unique project. Large investments were made for this premiere. We want to leave no stone unturned so that the Matterhorn Speed Opening can start as planned on October 29th and 30th and we believe these extra six days will make the difference for the organizers to be able to host successful races,” Michel Vion, FIS General Secretary, stated on Sunday.

The Plateau Rosa at 11,417ft (3,480m) has roughly 3ft (110cm) of snow at the moment, while Cime Bianche Laghi at 9,783ft (2,982m), where the finish line is located, currently has no snow at all. The weather forecast for the next few days is remaining fairly warm but will see the freezing line falling to 2,895m on Friday, so hopefully, snowmaking will be possible overnight. Snowmaking can occur above freezing with modern snow cannons but the surrounding air needs to be dry enough for it to be possible. So at this point, it is touch-and-go as to whether the speed race from Switzerland to Italy can premier.

Matterhorn Paradise
Trail Map for Matterhorn Paradise ski area, which is comprised of Zermatt and Cervino ski resorts

Meanwhile in Austria, the FIS World Cup season opener in Sölden this coming weekend had a successful snow control last week and the event got the go-ahead for the Women’s Giant-Slalom on Saturday, October 22, and Men’s Giant-Slalom on Sunday, October 23. The races will be on during the early morning hours US time with the first run scheduled for 10 a.m. CET and the second run for 1 p.m. CET. In the US, the Austrian races can be watched through NBC and Peacock.

FIS Giant-Slalom Course in Sölden, Austria, picture: soelden.com

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