News Climate, Forestry

The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) and the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) have released a new interactive mapping tool about climate change effects on cross-country skiing in web portal. Cross-country skiing is one of the most popular recreational activities in Finland, but it is now becoming clear that it will be severely affected by a warming climate.


 Natural cross-country skiing conditions will become increasingly unreliable in the coming decades, especially in southern Finland, though northern Finland, despite experiencing a shortening of the snow season, will still allow skiing for several months every year, explains hydrologist Noora Veijalainen from SYKE.

Helsinki, Pirkkola, ulkoilualue, hiihtäjät lumetetulla radalla. Vähäluminen talvi, taustan nurmikko vihertää.
Photo: Erkki Oksanen, Luke.

Artificial snow making and the storing of snow can compensate for some of these changes, but this involves investments and would only be viable at a few locations. It would also change the overall experience for many skiers, offering sometimes bleak and grey scenery alongside the artificial snow tracks.

The risk of giving up cross-country skiing increases in the south of Finland

So, how will Finnish cross-country skiers react as their local snow conditions deteriorate? Will they quit altogether or would they be willing to travel somewhere else to go skiing? Luke researcher Marjo Neuvonen posed these and many other questions in a survey of 769 skiers aged 15–74 years from different parts of Finland.

 The proportion of the population that skis is greater in the north than in the south of Finland, and that difference seems likely to widen based on our results, which indicate that more people in the south expect to give up skiing altogether if conditions deteriorate further, states Neuvonen.

The new map tool helps to visualise future changes and vulnerable areas

Results of the survey can now be visualised alongside future projections of snow conditions in an interactive mapping tool that is a new addition to the Finnish national portal on climate change: Users of the tool are able to map indicators that characterise municipal-scale snow conditions under projections of warming climate, together with indicators of people’s expected skiing behaviour taken from the national survey. The indicators can be combined to produce maps showing in which regions in Finland cross-country activities are most vulnerable to climate change.

 The mapping tool is designed to allow users to explore both the types of impacts expected from future climate change in different parts of Finland and some of the possible options for adapting to changed conditions, explains SYKE research professor Timothy Carter who led the research project in which the tool was developed.

The tool is designed to assist service providers in planning and developing skiing services as well as raising awareness in the public at large.

The mapping tool is available at is maintained by the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Finnish Environment Institute and also includes expert contributions from a number of other research institutions.