The Star-Herald

Film screening to probe climate change and winter economy

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Maine is one of the few states in the Northeast with winters long and snowy enough to support a thriving snow sports industry that spans skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing and other related pursuits.

But some fear that climate change is threatening the future viability of those activities and the businesses that earn a livelihood from them.

A screening of a new documentary, “Saving Snow,” at Northern Maine Community College on April 16 will explore that dilemma and possible solutions.

“It really focuses on nature and climate change and how important it is for locations like ours where we rely on income from snowmobiling, skiing and winter recreation,” said Julie French of Presque Isle, who helped organize the screening with the Maine chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

“If those winters were to disappear, what would happen?” French asked.

Skiing the Rotary Loop trail at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle during a snowy day December 15, 2016. (Anthony Brino)

More than 4,500 Mainers work in the winter sports economy, according to the group, Protect Our Winters.

While this winter has brought above-average snowfall to many parts of Maine, rising surface temperatures mean that overall snow accumulation may decline in coming decades, according to a 2015 report by the University of Maine Climate Change Institute.

Northern Maine could see a 20 percent decline in overall snowfall between 2035 and 2054, and central Maine could see 40 percent less, according to the Institute.

Across the state over the past century, the duration of winter snowpack has shortened by about two weeks, according to the report. Meanwhile, winters in Presque Isle are also 4.5 degrees warmer on average today than they were in 1970, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compiled by Climate Central.

“There’s a big picture to climate change,” said French, a year-round outdoors enthusiast who bikes and skis. “The documentary is looking at a global impact and how it affects people in different ways.”

“Here, we’ve lucked out a little bit this year being in a different pattern,” French said of this year’s snowy winter. “If you don’t see it directly in our backyard, you may not think it’s a big issue. I’m concerned with turning a blind eye to things. It’s been a big, big issue out west. My sister lives in Salt lake City and because of the weather patterns out there, they’re seeing a big reduction in snow every year.”

“Saving Snow,” produced by Diogo Freire of the group Adaptation Now, chronicles climate change impacts so far on the U.S. skiing industry and its future implications. The film also highlights how communities in top winter recreation areas are working to mitigate environmental impacts.

French said that she wanted to bring the screening to Aroostook County and that the Maine chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby also will be showing the film in locations in central and southern Maine.

French encouraged even people who are doubtful of human-caused climate change to come see the film and participate in a discussion afterward.

“I would like skeptics to come see it. It will give a different point of view,” French said.

“Saving Snow” will be shown at 6 p.m. Monday, April 16, at NMCC’s Edmunds Conference Center.

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