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  • Writer's pictureSarah Lewis

Lake Placid 2023 and "Save Winter" Conference

After four years since the last FIS World University Games were staged in 2019, finally the best student athletes reconvened in Lake Placid for the 31st edition of the Winter Games. Outstanding venues, thanks to significant investment of #NYState, staged the competitions and cultural events for 12 days.

  • The FISU World University Games 2023 have been the catalyst to completely revitalise Lake Placid’s aged sports facilities and they have rekindled the community’s ambition, confidence, and enthusiasm to organise major sport events.

  • Everyone in Lake Placid and across the venues in the Adirondacks, the citizens and notably the Volunteers (from 20 countries and 40 US States) have been the heart and soul of the FISU World University Games, very friendly, helpful and genuinely excited to welcome the world.

  • The true winners are the local communities who now have exceptional facilities they can be proud of with state-of-the-art competition sport facilities, providing an exceptional legacy for the community both for future competitions, recreational sport, youth development and club/community activities, etc.

  • Similarly, the professional Organising Committee Team are now ready to deliver major events in Lake Placid and localities as well as across the US with a whole series of major sports events in the country over the next decade.

And it looks like the local community appreciated the Games too: "Spectacular, amazing, exceptional, stupendous! I don’t have enough superlatives to describe, and give thanks for, the FISU games and the organizing committee that brought them to us...."

Alongside the FISU World University competitions "The Future of Snow" at the FISU World Conference #SaveWinter at #LakePlacid2023 addressed a highly relevant topic. Towns like Lake Placid and communities in the Adirondack Region rely heavily on snow sports and recreation tourism for the livelihood of the community. Thanks to the lake, there are also have many summer activities too and here too the snow plays an important role refilling the lake.

Talking about the future of snow on a bluebird day in Lake Placid (fisu.net) “Why do we love snow so much? What’s the attraction of it?” Sarah Lewis, OBE OLY, asked her audience on the last day of the Save Winter Conference taking place as part of the 2023 Lake Placid FISU World University Games.

“On a bluebird day like Sunday, all bright and sunny with snow crystals reflecting in the light, there is no question why we love snow,” Lewis said. “You can feel the uplifting effect on our well-being as soon as you step out the door and take a deep breath of that fresh and cold air.”

The conditions for all events happening on the third competition day of this winter’s FISU Games were excellent and attracted countless spectators to the venues to watch university students compete at the highest level. A small group of people, however, opted not to watch the action on the field of play but rather take a seat in the Lake Placid Center of the Arts to follow a discussion about an outlook on the future.

“The future of snow” in particular, as the topic of one session was called. The focus was to address the implemented adjustments of major North American and international ski resorts to ensure the existence of snow in the future, in a sustainable and responsible way.

Lewis shared the panel discussion with three experts in the field. One of them was Meta Bergwall, Sustainability Manager at the Eastern Region Vail Resorts, who wanted to get across the message that “Vail Resorts is committed to protecting these incredible places we live, work, and play at for the future generations.”

Bergwall explained Vail Resorts’ ambitious and perhaps hard-to-reach zero-emission goal for 2027, saying “we always said, if you are not setting goals so big that you’re initially unsure how to meet them, then they are not big enough to solve climate change.”

Also on the panel were Nat Knowles, Canadian conservationist and PhD Researcher at the University of Waterloo, and Lake Placid’s own Mike Pratt, President and CEO of the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

While weather conditions are getting more extreme, dramatic and turbulent around the globe, Lewis, whose involvement in sports spans over forty years, pointed out that Lake Placid and towns alike in the Adirondack region rely heavily on snow for the livelihood of the community. Lake Placid unlikely to hold Olympics again unless Paris Agreement goals met

Lake Placid staged the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics but may never do so again unless carbon emissions are reduced ©Getty Images While the panel focused on the future of snow, Lewis also dared looking back in history and highlighted that right before the 1980 Olympics, Lake Placid actually was lacking natural snow, causing organizers for the first time in history to implement artificial snow production and also to be pioneers in the use of grooming machines.

“Lake Placid has always been a leader in adapting to changing situations and hosting big scale events,” Lewis said in a post-panel interview.

The former alpine skiing Olympian from Great Britain has no doubt that events like the Winter Olympics and FISU Winter Games will remain in the future.

“I think what we have to show, and we are doing this with the FISU World University Games, is that we have to be ready to adapt. The climate has changed and will remain changing. So, we always have to make sure that what we are doing is appropriate to the current circumstances.”

Check out this recording https://youtu.be/lj6_L5EmkVo and report from our insightful panel with University of Waterloo PhD Researcher Natalie Knowles, Mike Pratt, CEO of Olympic Regional Development Authority and Meta Bergwall, PE of Vail Resorts: https://lnkd.in/egVZwThn

Following the conclusion of the successful FISU World University Games 2023, in Lake Placid (USA) by common consent, FISU and I have decided to end our partnership and wish each other well in the future. I have seen at first hand that student sport plays an important role in the sport eco-system, both for the athletes and promoting dual careers, along with the opportunity for organisers to improve facilities for the local community.

So now I take nearly three decades of experience working in the Olympic Movement forwards working with other projects, along with contributing to improve society through the power of sport. Watch this space!

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