Painting of skiers

Cold and snow … they’re both essential for a successful ski season. But in some areas, they’re becoming less common as our climate changes.

In Wisconsin, winters are getting shorter and warmer. The state has seen some of the country’s fastest warming, with average winter temperatures up four degrees Fahrenheit since 1970.

Schlitz: “Having grown up in the postcard winter kind of era here in Wisconsin, it’s strange, it’s unusual, it’s unnatural.”

That’s Greg Schlitz, a ski coach and ski shop owner in Madison.

He’s noticed that snow often arrives later in the season. And when it does come, it tends to melt quickly. This hurts the industry. Although many ski areas can make their own snow, nothing brings people out like the real thing.

Schlitz: “If they’re fair weather skiers and they don’t see the snow in their backyards, they’re just not going to go.”

In recent low-snowfall years, ski visits in Wisconsin have dropped by more than a third. Such a big decline in visitors hurts local economies, and has caused some ski areas and services to struggle to stay open.

Schlitz: “There’s a fine line between being successful and losing it all in this industry.”

Staying on the right side of that line is especially hard when the climate is shifting.

Reporting credit: Justyna Bicz/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo credit: Andrew Macara.

Samantha Harrington, director of audience experience for Yale Climate Connections, is a journalist and graphic designer with a background in digital media and entrepreneurship. Sam is especially interested...