The pictures about the gigantic construction work on the Theodul glacier in Zermatt have shocked the outdoor community.
In view of the suspicion of illegal work, WWF, Pro Natura and Mountain Wilderness Switzerland, supported by Avocat.e.s pour le Climat, submitted an urgent request for suspension to the Construction Commission of Canton Valais on Tuesday October 17, and a renewed request on October 20, aiming at an immediate halt to construction of the race course. GPS measurements taken by the Swiss daily 20 minutes clearly showed the race track exceeded the area intended for skiers.
The Valais Construction Commission decided on October 24, that the race track for the World Cup downhill race on the Theodul glacier is illegal.
Despite the organising committee of the Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening claiming that construction work on the Swiss part of the race course had been completed and that the authority’s decision was therefore without effect, snow groomers were spotted again outside the ski area on Theodul glacier on Wednesday, notwithstanding the ban imposed by the Valais Construction Commission the day before.
Justice has set in motion also in Italy, where the Public Prosecutor in Aosta (Aosta Valley) has opened a file on the construction of the Italian “Gran Becca” race course of the cross-border World Cup ski races taking place between Zermatt, Switzerland, and Cervinia, Italy.
The news on the Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening has caused an uproar in many countries. Mountain Wilderness France, that had launched a campaign to prevent the extension of La Grave cable car on the Girose glacier, has made a national plea for the preservation of glaciers, Mountain Wilderness Italy wonders how “the sponsors of a race with such a devastating impact on the environment deal with their ESG (environmental, social and governance) goals?”. Several other national and international NGOs have taken a stance. Protect Our Winters (POW) has started a petition “Try harder FIS” calling on the International Ski Federation (FIS) to “become a leader in securing the future not only for winter sports but more importantly, for a liveable planet”, after earlier this year it had launched an open letter signed by hundreds of athletes – demanding greater action on climate change from FIS. Legambiente has launched a petition Firma per i ghiacciai (Sign for the Glaciers) to save the glaciers and a manifesto.
Now, FIS claims it “considers the protection and preservation of the environment of great importance”. Hard to believe after what happened.
Swiss glaciers lost 10% of their volume in the past 2 years and by 2050 all glaciers below 3500 metres will have disappeared according to the Italian Glaciological Committee. Winters will shrink at a rate of 4.7 days per decade. Temperature anomalies are becoming the new normal. How about rethinking the whole White Circus?