As winters warm, Vt. recreation bears the brunt

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 5:01 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s not just your imagination. Vermont winters are getting warmer, according to the National Weather Service. And this year, there’s a lack of snow too.

This has not been the winter cross-country skiers imagined.

Miles Lamberson of Richmond says, “It’s been tough. It comes in fits and starts.”

Vermont is lacking in snow so far this winter, falling below average for snowfall and above average for temperature.

Lamberson adds, “We had a great few weeks in December. These melting periods are pretty brutal.”

Skiers like those at Sleepy Hollow in Huntington take advantage of man-made snow, something the ski center is grateful for.

Eli Enman of the Sleepy Hollow Ski Center says, “No denying that it has been a rough start to the season, and with the warm temperatures for making snow.”

Enman says their ski center has been able to keep about a one-kilometer loop open for skiers to use, but with a warmer winter, that’s a challenge. He adds, “So now we have to go back and make snow over what we already made.”

If temperatures stayed cold, they could be expanding their man-made loop, but instead, this year has meant maintaining a consistent one-kilometer.

Snowmaking at Sleepy Hollow is nothing new. They invested in the technology about a decade ago, in the face of a warming Vermont.

Enman says, “It was a really good thing that we di, because since then we have had several poor years.”

Since the snowmaking investment, six of Vermont’s warmest winters ever have been recorded. December 2022 was about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average, and so far January is over by 10 degrees.

Pete Banacos, the Science and Operations officer for the National Weather Service in Burlington says, “The trend in Vermont’s winters is warmer and wetter, that’s what we have been identifying in our data for Burlington and across the state.”

Snowfall this winter has been below normal, and with warmer weather, even when we do get snow it doesn’t stick.

Banacos adds, “We have seen those melting periods, especially at lower elevations where we have not been able to maintain the snowpack for long stretches of time like you might think of for a typical Vermont winter.”

He says winters will always be dynamic, offering everything from noreasters to arctic blasts to warm-ups. But trends with climate change point upwards.

Banacos says, “In the aggregate, when you average all the numbers together, that’s where we are identifying the warming in the climate data across Vermont.”

Burlington has the fastest warming winter in the United States, jumping just over 7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970. That means more frequent snow-making for places like sleepy hollow.

But even they see fighting warming trends as an uphill battle. Enman says, “Try to make more snow in hopefully an environmentally friendly way, and hope the world can come together in fighting global warming.”