Winters are changing. Ruka Ski Resort and POW Finland are taking action to make it possible for the future generations to enjoy real snow on the ground.
A recent study published by the Finnish Meteorological Institute shows that the number of snowy days has declined and snow is melting earlier. This means that winters in Finland are getting shorter, and snow cover is decreasing.
The statistics come as no surprise to Niklas Kaskeala, the chair of POW Finland. Protect Our Winters is an international movement that mobilises winter sports enthusiasts to act against climate change, both in their everyday lives and in the society.
“In POW Finland, we have created various scenarios as to what we can expect as the climate changes. The FMI study looks back and shows that big changes have already taken place.”
Niklas Kaskeala has been active in various environmental and climate groups and he brought the Protect our Winters movement to Finland in 2014. Skiers and snowboarders soon rode to join in.
“We had not even established our association when I met Enni Rukajärvi and she joined immediately. Snowboarder Miikka Hast was among the first athletes to join. We also have cross-country skiers as members. Sports personalities help us gain visibility for our cause.”
Niklas Kaskeala has a very personal relationship with snow.
“I was not even two years old when my father first took me skiing. Now we do activities in snow with my children, so snow is something dear to me. A big part of my own climate awakening was realising that there was a real danger of winter and snow disappearing.”
POW Finland wants to sound the alarm, to mobilise everyone who enjoys winter sports.
“We advocate climate-friendly choices on an individual level, but also on the political level. We want to educate people”, Niklas Kaskeala explains.
The advocacy group is currently preparing a campaign for the upcoming elections with well-known sports figures encouraging people to consider the climate when voting.
“We have challenged ski resorts to use renewable electricity, to propose more plant-based meals. Climate change also affects tourism, so they need to be prepared”, Niklas Kaskeala notes.
“Even if the predictions and forecasts are grim, I believe that it is still possible to save the winters, but that requires all of us becoming more active. The winter sports community can be a pioneer. We need a more ambitious climate policy; we need to make climate-friendly choices. They may be more important than we now think.”
Ruka Ski Resort is one of the partners of POW Finland. The resort became carbon neutral in October 2018, two years ahead of schedule set in the environmental program launched in 2008.
The electricity used by the resort is produced by hydropower and wind power, buildings are heated mainly with biofuel heat, and some buildings are heated by ground source heating. The resort has reduced carbon emissions by 80% since 2008. The remaining CO₂ emissions from the use machines and vehicles are compensated for in accordance with the Gold Standard recommended by WWF for carbon offset projects.
“We are proud of our achievements. The next goal is to replace the existing fuels with renewable alternatives and further reduce our energy comsumption”, says Ville Aho, CEO of Rukakeskus Ltd.
“We launched our environmental program already in 2008. We are pioneers among the ski resorts in Finland. We want to make sure that our children also have snowy winters in Finland, and of course snow is also at the core of our business,” Ville Aho acknowledges.
Tourists have welcomed the environmental program.
“Customers pay much more attention to environmental friendliness than before. We also receive many development suggestions from our customers.”
“Personally, snow is something very special to me. I started skiing when I was 2 years old, and all my kids love skiing. They say that family who skis together, stays together. Skiing is really something the whole family can enjoy together”, Ville Aho says.
The idea of there no longer being snow is unbearable.
“Last week we had a family holiday in Ruka and we hiked up the Valtavaara fell. The snowy landscapes extended as far as the eye can see. The snowy winter wonderland is what people come to see in Lapland. It is not enough to have artificial snow on the ski runs; there must be snow in the nature as well. If the climate change advances so that we lose natural snow, we will also lose a huge part of the experience that brings people to Lapland.”
“Ever since Protect Our Winters Finland was launched, we have worked together with them. They have spurred us on, helped bring our environmental programme forward and given us invaluable feedback”, Ville Aho says.
“For us, cooperation with POW is a commitment. We want to do our best to preserve our winters”.
Ville Aho challenges other ski and tourism companies in Ruka and Pyhä regions to join the work for the environment.
“Our objective must be making whole resorts carbon neutral. The clients see the area as a whole, not as single companies. I hope all the companies will start developing green business as strongly as we have done”, Ville Aho pleads.