Will our children still know what snow is?

snow covered mountain under the sky
Photo by Nikolina on Pexels.com

By Julia Luise Tiemens 

When I was young we always had white Christmas, Vin Brulé, and chased down the slopes in powder conditions. Now the reality looks very different. While we said “bye” to the white Christmas celebration a couple of years ago, we usually still had enough snow to enjoy the slopes. This year, photos of white snails between grass patches and rocks were circling the media. This combined with the huge lines at the lifts to use the little pistes that were still useable made skiing not very enjoyable. As someone that has been engaging in winter sports since childhood, I have always dreamt of showing my kids how to snowboard one day. These images make me question whether they will even have the opportunity to learn. Will they know what snow is?

The entirety of Europe has been subject to warm weather conditions this year, where many countries recorded their warmest January day ever on New Year’s Day. Countries, like Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic have been hit by a heatwave in the first days of the new year, which caused most of the snow in the Alps to melt. At the end of December Switzerland’s famous mountain range, Jura hit temperatures up to 18 degrees, resulting in giant struggles for ski resorts. These famous winter sports destinations have been subject to temperatures that we only witness in spring, like France which has been a victim of the highest temperatures in 25 years. Météo Suisse has published the average temperatures to be many degrees higher than they are supposed to be at this time of the year: a possible reason for the warm air coming in from South and South West Europe. This includes most big mountain ranges, like the Alps, the Jura, or the Vosges which have all noticed significantly less snow. Interestingly, this phenomenon is not limited to Europe. Looking at Japan which is considered a powder paradise, we witness that it has not even snowed this year yet. The Japanese population is accustomed to cold and humid air, coming from the Asian mainland over the sea and hitting the mountains, resulting in snow. For now, the snow is missing and the air is dry. Japan’s high necessity for snow, due to the lack of it, poses a problem for the country, especially since the government decided to make it a high-profile tourist attraction.. The winter is usually subject to powder guarantee, hot springs, and snow monkeys which attracts winter sports athletes and investors. 

The effects of this phenomenon can majorly be seen in the ski industry, where many ski resorts have been forced to close temporarily due to the lack of snow. Most high resorts relied on artificial snow and offered slopes that are embedded in the green and brown landscape. We had a common image of cannons being fired and snow thrown out of the helicopters and brought by huge trucks. Still, most slopes were mostly slush at the bottom where the skiing reminded more of water-ski or wakeboard. This climate change situation concerns Italy’s, Switzerland’s, France’s, and Austria’s mountains and their industries. In the Swiss village of “Adelboden”, organizers of Saturday’s Ski World Cup Race were struggling with finding a solution to let athletes compete, while the audience was in the sun without jackets. The only hope we have is for the season to pick up now in February and March.

For obvious reasons the economic effects of ski resorts being forced to close, due to rainfall and melting snow, are giant. For many, closing the slopes was a very hard decision, due to the piles of money that they were losing and the many tourists traveling only for this. Still, most were left with no choice. Many resorts switched ski rentals for mountain bike equipment to encourage bored travelers. However, even this became complicated as there was mostly too much snow for biking but too little for skiing. The many cancellations have forced some resorts to permanently retire, while others are terrified about the shrinking, uncertain seasons. The future will most probably be directed by people having to move higher to practice their sports, which will drive up the prices and make skiing a luxury good. This will exert enormous pressure on many places, especially considering that the income of many mountain towns relies on winter tourism.

Another problem is that the consequences of the crisis are not only economic but go way further. The most obvious impact is in the tourist industry, however, the mountains in Europe serve as natural water stores for parts of our continent that already suffer regular droughts. In Spain for example the missing snow today, implies a drought tomorrow. Today the water-collection lakes in Catalonia are only filled to 31 percent, due to this phenomenon, which makes the Spanish responsible institutions unsettled. 

At the base, we can certainly find climate change, which connects to today’s politics. It can almost be considered a dystopian phenomenon where we have no snow anymore in the mountains and at the same time Presidents like Georgia Meloni fighting the climate activists, instead of acting. In Italy, in the region Emilia-Romagna, the Gouverneur (Stefano Bonaccini) promises to fix the missing snow by simply shooting more artificial snow onto the mountains. It is because of politicians like this that put band-aids rather than curing the root, that we are in this situation. In the past, the challenge of climate change has been denied many times and politics have been made on the basis of a fictional future. What we are missing is concrete measures in today’s society. Climate change has become so central that many Europeans are already nostalgic about the past snow and preparing to live without it in the future. We can see the missing snow as a symbol of political failure, which has been noticed increasingly since for once, the high society carries the consequences and has to live without their favorite sports. 

This brings me to my question from the beginning: will our children still experience snow? A climate activist, Castellvi, says that she wishes to talk about a rosy future, but she cannot be positive. She believes in the perspective of climate change experts since we witness the evidence. Weather tracker, Wilkin, sums up the Alpine climate situation as increasingly “volatile” which according to him will only be strengthened as the climate crisis hits Europe. There’s currently still snow, and still the chance of snow but it is less and less guaranteed. Many ski operators fear global warming to bring warm winters with it. Europe is prepared for a rise of 1.2 degrees, however, with more we have no idea what will happen to our mountains’ white covers. As much as artificial snow can serve as a band-aid, the crisis calls for real change on many levels. The only way to preserve our earth is the rapid reduction of CO2- emissions. After all, if we do not act right now, our children not being able to build snowmen will be the least of our problems.


Street, F. (2023, January 4). European ski resorts close because there’s no snow. CNN. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/no-snow-european-ski-resorts-climate/index.html 

Hughes, R. A. (2023, January 4). Europe’s ski resorts forced to close amid record-breaking temperatures. euronews. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.euronews.com/green/2023/01/04/no-snow-europes-ski-resorts-forced-to-close-amid-record-breaking-temperatures 

Cunningham, E. (2023, January 9). Why is there so little snow in the Alps this year? Time Out Worldwide. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.timeout.com/news/why-is-there-so-little-snow-in-the-alps-this-year-010323 

Roelcke, T. (2023, January 20). European focus #15: Let it snow! Aktuelle News: Nachrichten aus Berlin und der Welt. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.tagesspiegel.de/internationales/european-focus-15-let-it-snow-9212991.html 

Associated Press. (2023, January 7). AP photos: Snow is a no-show as Europe feels the Winter Heat. AP NEWS. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://apnews.com/article/weather-climate-and-environment-droughts-europe-ac556a03360f361496aefb1c3a6569b6 

Hahn, T. (2020, February 10). Japan steckt in Einer Schneekrise. Tages. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/japan-steckt-in-einer-schneekrise-249924872836 

GmbH, F. A. Z. (n.d.). Europa: Winterwetter Sorgt für chaos. FAZ.NET. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/europa-winterwetter-sorgt-fuer-chaos-148461.html


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply