During a recent conversation with a fellow skier, I mentioned my dire concern that climate change has derailed winter. Last year, my internal snow globe geared up as the temps dropped -- skis tuned, fluffed up the down and kept the backpack ready to go at the first dusting.
Same routine this year.
But in my neck of the woods, the Catskill Mountains saw ski conditions that were just horrible. The mountain terrain for much of the season was mostly man-made snow cover on a thin natural base. This equates to dangerous ski conditions. The mountains were dotted with ice chunks the size of small cars. Bare spots with exposed rocks were interspersed among grassy craters. In February, local ski areas started closing during the week.
My friend said, “What’s a few degrees here and there? I’m not retiring the skis yet. You'll see, winter will come back with a vengeance next year.”
Skiers, snowboarders and the ski industry depend on powdery frozen water, but snow sport enthusiasts all over the world can no longer expect a long “freestyle” winter's ride.
According to a survey taken by the National Ski Areas Association, last year’s warm weather and low snowfall dropped visitors to ski resorts by almost 16%, the sharpest decline in more than 30 years. At least 11 of the nation’s 486 resorts went out of business. The survey concluded that “long-term climate change” was a factor.
Protect Our Winter was formed to save winter:
"Protect Our Winters mission is “to engage and mobilize the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change. Our focus is on educational initiatives, activism and the support of community-based projects.”
I asked Protect Our Winter Executive Director, Chris Steinkamp what's up with the weather, and why it is so urgent to curb climate change now:
"I always say that what’s outside our window is weather, not climate. To accurately assess climate change, you need to look at the long term trends. The last decade was the warmest on record for example, and 2012 was the warmest on record in the US. Experts also say that with climate change will come some extreme weather in form of floods, tornados and snowstorms. As the weather warms though, that snow will be rain. Be glad that its snowing today, but take a long look at the problem."
Are winter sports headed for a chilly crash landing? Please read my interview with Chris HERE and find out what you can do to help protect winter.
Photo: Vintage ski poster