How Climate Change Affects Your Winter Sports
Warmer air temperatures have led to less dependable snow and ice for winter sports enthusiasts. PBS NewsHour asked viewers what that has meant for their favorite winter pastimes.
Canceling the Maryland Games
Every year, Special Olympics Maryland hosts training and competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities, like this skier competing in the 2011 Winter Games. But because of higher temperatures and less snow, they canceled the 2012 Winter Games, the first time they have been canceled in 25 years.
“We had made several visits to the ski hill and there was more grass than snow,” Jason Schriml, VP of communications for the Maryland Special Olympics, said. “It was very disappointing for all the athletes, coaches, parents and people who had worked hard to plan this event." Photo: Steve Ruark
Less Snow in Minnesota
Jenny Bushmaker teaches children to love the outdoors at an environment education facility in Silver Bay, Minn. But with less and less snow each winter, her work is becoming more difficult.
“Without snow in the winter, [I] have a hard time teaching snowshoeing, Ojibwe winter history, cross country skiing, animal tracking, winter animal adaptations and much more,” Bushmaker said. “I spend more time indoors than I used to and I'm not nearly as active as I normally am.”
Photo: JENNY BUSHMAKER
Snowmaking in Vermont
Ben Plotzer, pictured here at the Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, has been snowboarding for more than 12 years. With less snow sticking to the trails, he believes that snowmaking will be the future for New England ski resorts.
Unfortunately, “if a ski area can't afford the technology or pay for the high energy costs, then chances are they will have to close,” Plotzer said.
Plotzer remains optimistic that conditions for winter sports will be maintained. Remembering winter in 2012, he said, "I was snowboarding in some fresh powder in February with sunny skies.” Photo: Ben Plotzker
Losing New Hampshire Winters
Jim Graham is a snow enthusiast, so much so that every year on his birthday, Nov. 1, he scales the 5,249-foot Mount Lafayette in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
“On good years, there's snow up there, and it reminds me of the old winters we used to enjoy here in New Hampshire,” Graham said.
Graham and his wife run a cross country ski program for youth in Concord, N.H. In 2012, participating kids were only able to work on snow once because of the less than optimal conditions. The rest of the time, the kids played games on bare grass fields. Photo: Jim Graham
Rough Kentucky Winter Cycling
As a competitive cyclist from Louisville, Ky., Samuel Hartman depends on winter weather for training in order to build up “low-end cardiovascular endurance.” He said the yo-yo effect of sporadic warm days during winter can be chaos for the body as it tries to adjust.
“Just as the body gets used to riding in 40-degree weather, it switches to 70-degree weather … it throws the body, and mind, out of whack.”
Hartman also said that the warm/cold weather is horrible for biking trails. “[It] creates a ‘freeze/thaw’ effect that allows the trails to get super muddy during the day. Winter riding should be on frozen trails, and this rarely happens anymore." Photo: Samuel Hartman
Rain in Backcountry Montana
According to Joe Grabowski, the winter recreation season in Montana is getting shorter, especially during early winter in November and December.
“Precipitation amounts have not varied. It just comes down as rain rather than snow,” Grabowski said. He is a backcountry skier and lives in West Glacier, Mo.
An early end to wintry weather has also affected ski conditions. “The past few springs have been wetter than normal. It is mostly rain with snow at the higher elevations. These weather conditions are not favorable for backcountry ski touring.” Photo: JOE GRABOWSKI