We Need More Snow Days

Candice Gaukel Andrews December 10, 2013 6
Setting sun in Yellowstone

Part of the reason that I love snow and ice now is because I think winter is an endangered species. ©Henry H. Holdsworth

I didn’t always love winter as much as I do now. As a kid, I remember trudging up to the bus stop through deep snowbanks and then having to wait on a busy traffic corner for the bus to come. The cold air was numbing, freezing my fingertips — no matter how thick my mittens were — and reddening my knees, because girls like me wore miniskirts to school back then. I didn’t like winter very much.

But somewhere along the span of years since then, I developed an intense taste for winter. Perhaps it was because later in life I took up cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Or maybe it was because I spent twenty-one weekends of one particular winter season in Wisconsin outside in order to write my first published book. It’s more likely, though, that I learned to love winter because I think we’re close to losing it.

While it’s normal and easy to pine for what we think may soon be gone, convincing people to do something about saving what’s quickly disappearing is difficult. So when I recently discovered the following short film about the economic benefits of winter under the hashtag “MoreSnowDays,” I saw pure genius. Because money is a great motivator.

The economics of winter   

Winter buffalo in Yellowstone

I choose cold-weather trips, such as Yellowstone in January. ©Henry H. Holdsworth

In my home state of Wisconsin, the average number of days of ice cover on Madison lakes has decreased by about twenty-nine to thirty-five days over the past 150 years. Significantly, the longest ice seasons on record are all clustered in the first few years of the record, while most of the shortest seasons fall towards the end of the record. Across the United States, winter temperatures have warmed 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1895, and the rate of warming has more than tripled to 0.55 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1970. The strongest winter warming trends have occurred in the northern half of the United States, where snow plays an important role in the winter season.

If we do nothing to try to stem this tide, winter temperatures are projected to warm an additional 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, with subsequent decreases in snow cover area, snowfall, and shorter snow seasons. Snow depths could decline in the American West by 25 to 100 percent. The length of the snow season in the Northeast will be cut in half.

In addition to the information at #MoreSnowDays, it is hoped that the results of a new study commissioned by Protect Our Winters and the Natural Resources Defense Council will help policy makers understand the economic scale and potential impacts that climate change may have for all businesses dependent on winter weather — from snowmobiling, snowboarding, and ice fishing to snowshoeing and skiing — as well as on the other related sectors that count on winter sports tourists, such as restaurants, lodging facilities, gas stations, grocery stores, and bars.

The results of the study show that more than three-quarters of states benefit economically from winter sports. More than 140 million Americans make outdoor recreation a priority in their daily lives. They generate $646 billion in consumer spending every year. The outdoor industry creates 6.1 million direct jobs — 211,900 either directly or indirectly supported by the ski and snowmobile industry. That’s more than education, construction, or oil and gas. Last year, more than 23 million people participated in winter sport activities. They added $12.2 billion to the U.S. economy.

Watch the video at the end of this article. It’s obvious that in order to safeguard the hundreds and thousands of livelihoods that depend on a snow-filled season, we must protect winter and tackle climate change. We need to have more snow days for the strength of our economy — and the good of our planet.

Winter travels 2014

I think part of the reason that I do love snow and ice now is because I think winter is an endangered species. In some ways, I’m a “doomsday tourist.” When I travel, I tend to seek out the cold because I think it will soon be gone. In fact, this winter, I’m choosing to go to Yellowstone in January. I can’t wait for a big snowstorm.

But I won’t be wearing a miniskirt.

If we do lose our winters, will our economy irrevocably suffer? Have you ever chosen to travel to a particular destination because you miss the colder winters of the past?

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy

Join the outdoor industry and sign the climate declaration. Help protect one of our nation’s most valuable natural resources.

6 Comments »

  1. Rafael E Garcia December 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Candice! Thanks for the tips. Remembering importances of winter season.

  2. Ella Jeans December 12, 2013 at 4:58 am - Reply

    i love winter!
    great read Candice

  3. Marc Edwards December 12, 2013 at 5:00 am - Reply

    The ski and winter outdoor recreation industry in New England is a huge economic driver. Even though some ski resorts are beginning to offer year-round activities, theirs, and the surrounding communities economy is largely dependent on long snowy winters. Making snow is costly and becoming more and more relied upon to open on time at the beginning of the season.

    Snow sports enthusiasts are migrating further north to find good snow.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article and film.

  4. Bob Johnston December 12, 2013 at 9:29 am - Reply

    While I love winter for photography, snow shoeing and tossing snowballs, I think the economy will morph with the climate rather suffer eternally. …in the meantime I have plans for moving north. ;-)

  5. Glynn Goulding December 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Not sure what I think about Doomsday tourist it sounds well a bit final although it maybe right. As for the economics it may well affect parts of the USA and Canada Here in the UK the winter weather has never been as extreme as North America. Due to the Gulf stream or North Atlantic draft which keeps the surrounding sea reasonably warm,so reasonably mild in most of the UK. The exception being the north of Scotland which is subarctic and more prone to economic loss through lack of snow.. Snow dose fall across the rest of the UK but this is more likely to harm the economy due to disruption.

    I myself have noticed that we have less snowy days now then when I was growing up in the 50′s and 60′s. In the last 3 years we have had more snow than normal, whatever is normal now. In previous years snow has been little and far between even Scotland had some years without snow, which affected the local economy through lack of winter sports. However on the whole the UK dose not suffer economically through the lack of snow.

  6. Tony Powell January 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    I agree, without some snow and ice things just wouldn’t seem normal. I’m personally hoping that January and possibly February can deliver the goods in my neck of the woods. Whilst snow lying days are relatively rare in my part of central southern England, days of snow falling are not. December just gone however saw only a few slight frosts and only one day of sleety snowflakes and that was on Christmas Day and was a blink and you miss it affair. It seems that Winter has departed over here in the UK and has been replaced by Autumn.

Leave A Response »