Levi ready for FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup - but where is the snow?
Unseasonal weather could pose a threat to competitions
Organisers of the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup event at the Levi ski resort in Finnish Lapland are waiting intently, yet so far without panic, for the winter’s first proper frosts.
It is clear that the temperature will eventually drop below 0° Celsius. But whether this will happen in time is an entirely different matter.
The lack of cold weather is threatening the opening of the international Alpine skiing season. The first FIS World Cup slalom events have been scheduled in Levi for November 10th and 11th, but so far the Levi slopes are decidedly void of any snow, and are showing off a bright shade of green amidst the fall colours.
For the production of artificial snow, a temperature clearly below freezing is required. Events at this level have not relied on natural snow alone for years.
The Levi organisers are optimistic, however, for the weather forecast for the end of the week looks promising.
A minimum of 5°C below freezing is needed in order for the extensive arsenal of snow cannons to be able to turn the Levi Black slope into a FIS World Cup slalom arena for the fourth time.
The colder the weather is, the quicker the manufacturing of artificial snow can progress.
According to Levi competition director Tapio Kokko, the organisers have nearly a hundred snow cannons at their disposal.
"If the temperature is five degrees below, it takes five days to provide the slope with a sufficient amount of snow. In temperatures of -10°C the work can be completed in just three days", Kokko estimates, and he points out that the prevailing air humidity also affects the outcome.
"Since the weather can be predicted accurately enough for three days on, we should know by Wednesday what the situation is going to be", Kokko contemplates.
The fate of the event will the decided on Sunday, when the snow situation is assessed together with the International Ski Federation, FIS.
The organisers have insurance policies that cover weather-related cancellations.
But of course this will not help the local entrepreneurs, who would benefit greatly from a high profile event of this size.
Levi resort’s accommodation capacity is in excess of 20,000 beds, and all of the establishments in the area would be more or less fully booked.
The situation right now is somewhat quixotic: last year at this time Levi was under a thick blanket of snow, while Sölden in Austria - which traditionally hosts the first event of the season at altitude on a glacier - was forced to cancel its traditional giant slalom races because it was too warm.
As a result, Levi proudly kicked off the entire FIS season last year. Now things are reversed - Sölden went off well enough last weekend, but Levi is biting its nails and crossing its fingers that the weather-gods will turn cold.
In 2006, the snow cannons were switched on already on October 17th, and the white stuff was there in abundance until deep into the Lapland spring. Levi's bombproof reliability of getting snow was a major factor in the resort's securing the FIS events at a time in the calendar when few other ski centres can offer much more than mulled wine.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Finns play host to FIS World Cup slalom in Levi (13.11.2006)