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NE Takes the Heat: Save the Snow

December 3, 2012

Although one could argue climate is not changing as much as it is varying, actions we take as individuals surmount to whether or not warming will be halted, hindered or hastened. Praying for snow just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

If we want to continue reveling in winter recreation, we have to recognize the realities of the situation and adapt to change. This doesn’t only apply those praying to Ullr, the snow god, for powder days, solid bases, long seasons and prime conditions, but also for the significant population working within snow-based industries and the US economy, which rakes in upwards of $65 billion annually.

Last year the ski industry suffered across the nation from record low snowfall and high temperatures. Within the last decade we’ve seen some of the warmest winters ever recorded. The trend of erratic change is on course to continue.

The Northeast takes the heat, quite literally when it comes to climate threats, where mountains peaks are thousands of feet lower than the base of their counterparts in the West.

In a recent Boston Globe article, Katie Johnston addressed the Northeast’s bleak future in the ski industry. Professionals in the business commented that weak winters of both snow and business have continually been followed with strong business as people ambitiously hope for a better season. With high expectations for snowfall this winter, there is no exception.

The pattern shines light, or should I say, drops snow, on both entrenched trust in winter months to bring adequate snowfall–believing two consecutive years will not prove disastrous–and that thousands are dedicated to winter recreation–buying passes and booking trips before any snow falls.

Ski areas can’t rely on good fortune alone though, blowing as much snow as possible and incentivizing sales, as Johnston notes, by offering exceptional pre-season deals, which is also an effort to overcome the “backyard effect,” where people aren’t as inclined to motivate for mountains when there’s no snow at home.

Referring to a study being published next year by the University of Waterloo, Johnston reveals the Northeast will particularly suffer effects of warming climate. Within the next 30 years, if fossil fuel consumption patterns continue, the study notes Massachusetts ski areas would become obsolete, and although nobody would miss the hills of MA, Maine and New Hampshire offer substantial Northeastern operations that would reduce to approximately half.

If we reach this point, one can only imagine how unappealing conditions in the entire Northeast would be–in the West, even.

If predictions hold, snowfall across North America would jeopardize winter recreation entirely.

by kreego
                                                         by kreego

As a prolific figure in the snowboard community, Jeremy Jones has experienced the effects of warming climate both at resorts and in areas many lack means to access. Recognizing the role snow-based recreation plays in employment, economy and the lives of passionate participators, along with the gap between those involved in the winter sports and action towards climate threats, he founded an organization focused on just that–engaging and mobilizing the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change.

It’s called POW–a clever acronym for Protect Our Winters. If you aren’t privy, they merit attention. Science, studies and speculation are essential, but can be abundant, turning potential time and resources into forms of procrastination and planning instead of action.

We tend to spend more time planning for future ambitions in general, but in order to reverse a trend diminishing winters, we must start acting to protect them. POW continues to spread the message to younger generations and to those out of touch with current scientific reports on climate change.

It’s becoming difficult to motivate the public without prompt results as the age of information provides instantaneous stimulus, making the endeavor to benefit winter and life for posterity a complex issue as efforts don’t grant foreseeable results.

Nevertheless, reducing use of fossil fuels and living more environmentally conscious in general will indeed create change. Another heavy hitting actionable item is decreasing meat consumption or eating traditionally raised meat. Factory farming releases more significant levels of greenhouse gases than transportation all together.

The important thing to recognize is that sole action is not in vain–everyone and every effort counts. Collective action is required, and it only surfaces from individual initiative. Be bold.

Become savvy and disseminate awareness; education is key toward sustained snow-filled winters.

Climate change is more than just snowfall and recreation–it poses a threat to civilization, and while snow lovers don’t see flakes, those in warmer climates may experience tides rising to their doorsteps. I won’t play out that tune, but it’s true, so even if you never make it to the slopes or even care to, take action for a life and snow-sustaining climate.

How was your experience skiing/snowboarding last season? Are you expecting more fruitful snowfall this year? Do you think taking actions individually to reach an influential collective will affect our future? If not, do you think that continuing our current lifestyle and consumption patters will not adversely affect our winters?

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