I used to fall into the “hate-winter” camp. It meant gray days, long nights, shoveling and having to slow down and put things on hold when the roads were impassable. It was a forced timeout between the more fun and busy seasons.

All that changed during the pandemic shutdown. For my own sanity, I forced myself to go outside in all types of weather. Winter took on new meaning: It was an evening bundled up and gathered around a bonfire on New Year’s Eve in 2020 with friends. It was a sledding party for my daughter’s seventh birthday in February. It was ice skating on a pond and walking in the woods when all was quiet. And it became a reassurance, every time it snowed, that it was not too late for the planet. We still had snow!

For those in the “love-winter” camp (my husband, a skier, celebrates snowfall), there is growing awareness that the cold and snow is time-sensitive, that it may not be here for much longer. Over Christmas break into early January, European ski resorts were forced to close. Much of Europe, but especially France, Italy and Switzerland, has been experiencing record-high temperatures and rain.

Green Christmases are increasingly common in the Alps. I can’t remember the last white Christmas I had in Garrison. Was it 2015?

This year, the Victor Constant Ski Area at West Point still hasn’t opened; when I called to ask if they had a date in mind, they said the end of January, maybe.

The 2030 host city for the Winter Olympics hasn’t been named yet because it may be cold enough in only a handful of places.

My family and I recently moved from Garrison to Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks. Here, winter is not just a season, it’s an identity. When I talk to people, everyone has a winter sport. Lake Placid was the location of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics and recently hosted the FISU World University Winter Games with athletes in 12 sports from 600 universities and 48 countries. Part of the preparations was a serious upgrade in snowmaking capabilities, because we can no longer count on getting snow consistently. Or when we do, it may not stay.

We also experience the drastic swing of very cold to very warm in December, from a 4-degree Christmas Eve to 47 degrees four days later. The ice on Mirror Lake went from 8 inches to 4 inches in a week.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised. Scientists have been telling us for decades that this would happen because we continue to burn fossil fuels and haven’t slowed deforestation, industrial agriculture or unfettered consumerism nearly enough. (OK, scientists haven’t addressed unfettered consumerism, that’s me.)

To its credit, the World University Games put together a Lake Placid Save Winter Team that created a sustainability plan for its event. It included hosting a three-day conference on the intersection of climate change and winter sports; using an electric bus to move athletes; planting 1,500 tree seedlings; using electric batteries instead of diesel generators and using the first combustion-free torch and cauldron.

It also included composting food waste; setting up a food-recovery system; discouraging single-use plastic water bottles; sourcing uniforms from sustainable vendors; and recycling banners.

Talking about climate change and incorporating solutions should become second nature to every business and organization, because global warming is touching everything we love in this world. If you hate change, you’re really going to hate climate change.

You may not love winter, but you will miss the snow.

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

Ford, who lives in Garrison, is The Current's Living Green columnist and coordinator for the Town of Philipstown's Climate Smart Communities program.