Looking cool is just the tip of the iceberg for Mikaela Shiffrin, Travis Ganong and the rest of the U.S. ski team when they debut new race suits at the world championships.
Even more, they want everyone thinking about climate change.
The team’s predominantly blue-and-white suits depict an image of ice chunks floating in the ocean. It's a concept based on a satellite photo of icebergs breaking due to high temperatures. The suit was designed in collaboration with Kappa, the team’s technical apparel sponsor, and the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters (POW).
The Americans will wear the suits throughout the world championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France, which start Monday with a women’s Alpine combined race and end February 19.
“Although a race suit is not solving climate change, it is a move to continue the conversation and show that U.S Ski & Snowboard and its athletes are committed to being a part of the future,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the president and CEO of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
Global warming has become a cold, hard reality in ski racing, with mild temperatures and a lack of snow leading to the postponement of several World Cup events this winter.
“I’m just worried about a future where there’s no more snow. And without snow, there’s no more skiing,” said Ganong, who grew up skiing at Lake Tahoe in California. “So this is very near and dear to me."
What alarms Ganong is seeing the stark year-to-year changes to some of the World Cup circuit's most storied venues.
“I mean, it’s just kind of scary, looking at how on the limit (these events) are even to being possible anymore,” said Ganong, who's been on the U.S. team since 2006. “Places like Kitzbuehel (Austria), there’s so much history and there’s so much money involved with that event that they do whatever they can to host the event.
“But that brings up a whole other question about sustainability as well: Is that what we should be doing? ... What kind of message do we need [to] show to the public, to the world about how our sport is adapting to this new world we live in?"
The suits feature a POW patch on the neck and the organization's snowflake logo on the leg.
“By coming together, we can educate and mobilize our snow-sports community to push for the clean energy technologies and policies that will most swiftly reduce emissions and protect the places we live and the lifestyles we love,” according to a statement from executive director Mario Molina, whose organization includes athletes, business leaders and scientists who are trying to protect places from climate change.
Ganong said a group of ski racers are releasing a letter to the International Ski Federation (FIS), with the hope the governing body will take a stronger stance on sustainability and climate change.
“They should be at the forefront of trying to adapt to this new world, and try to make it better, too," Ganong said.