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This Finnish city just launched the world’s first urban ski-sharing program

When it snows in the city of Lahti, you can borrow some skis for a a quick cross-country ski trip to the store.

This Finnish city just launched the world’s first urban ski-sharing program
[Photo: Toivo Heinimäki/courtesy City of Lahti]
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Later this year, the Finnish city of Lahti plans to roll out a new bike-sharing program. But before that happens, the city is experimenting with something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world: a public ski-sharing program.

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[Photo: Toivo Heinimäki/courtesy City of Lahti]
The city, about an hour and a half drive north of Helsinki in southern Finland, has laid out urban ski trails on some sidewalks in the city center. Residents can pick up a pair of skis from a ski-sharing station, run errands or get some exercise, and then return the skis. “We wanted to try something new,” says Anna Huttenen, the project manager for sustainable mobility for the city.

[Photo: Toivo Heinimäki/courtesy City of Lahti]
The ski-sharing program is temporary and partly being used to promote the fact that the city was chosen as the European Green Capital of the year. But it points to the city’s broader goals to slash emissions. By 2025, Lahti plans to be carbon neutral, and sustainable transportation is an important part of the shift.

The city has been expanding bike lanes and pedestrian paths and testing new ways to nudge more people to walk and bike—such as a personal carbon-trading app that tracks how people move around the city, rewarding commuters with virtual coins when they choose to walk or bike instead of driving. (The coins, in turn, can be used to buy tickets on the city’s fleet of low-emissions buses, among other things.) Electric vehicle adoption is growing. An alternative-fuel pilot uses local brewery and bakery waste to make biofuel.

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This winter has been snowy, and even though the city clears snow from bike paths, skiing might be an easier way to get around at times. If the program proves to be popular, Huttenen says that the city may bring it back in future winters. But it may not always work. “Climate change is affecting the winters in the south of Finland,” she says. As it warms up, the area—known for its cross-country skiing—is getting more rain than snow.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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