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Mid-Michigan winter sports enthusiasts adapt to unusually warm weather

Posted at 2:17 PM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 23:13:27-05

LANSING, Mich. — Climate change is causing temperatures globally to increase and mid-Michigan is no exception. This month, temperatures reached up to the low 60s at some points making for quite a warm December.

The higher temps and less snow have forced winter sports enthusiasts to adapt.

“I would love to have better snow," Jeff Potter, an avid cross-country skier, said. "I mean, that would be great. We would have all kinds of more fun. But we make do.”

Potter has been cross-country skiing in the Lansing area for over 40 years now, and said conditions are not the same as they once were.

"We used to have a lot of skiing," Potter said. "There was a ski hill, a ski club with chairlifts—maybe more than one chairlift—and there was a lot of people cross-country skiing. And there would be ski rentals in the city, as well as on the edges of the city. But then climate change came and it really did put a damper on a lot of that.”

Now, the ski clubs have been replaced with only a few dedicated skiers making their way through a thin layer of December flurries.

“Skiers are adaptable, and a lot of us have adapted to climate change," Potter said. "You don't have to quit skiing when climate change happens. You just have to learn how to ski when there's less snow.”

The Eaton County parks department has not even begun ski rentals yet this year due to a lack of snow.

Declining snowfalls over the years inspired Potter to write "New Wave Nordic Skiing," a book that addresses skiing and climate change.

In the book. Potter advises skiers to learn to ski on less snow, travel north to find snow, utilize artificial snowmaking and ski earlier and later in the year.

The warmer temperatures also affect other winter sports, such as snowmobiling.

Scot Townsend, owner of Trail Systems Snowmobile Dealer, said their sales have been affected this year.

“We have good snow, we have higher sales," Townsend said.

Townsend said he and his customers are still hopeful for more snow as the season goes on.

“Yeah, it's definitely been a kind of warm December," Townsend said. "And we have had lower sales I think because of that.”

But Potter said he believes it is possible to adapt winter sports to the changing climate.

“By losing what we had, we had to definitely be more resourceful and think about how to keep skiing," Potter said.

Potter also said Lansing does get a lot of snow a few times a season, and when that happens hundreds of people turn out to enjoy the glide at local parks.

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