Although there has been speculation that ‘frost' might be present on massive peaks on Mars and that super-frozen surfaces on some of Saturn's moons this is the first time that NASA has been able to confirm that a planet may have both decent powder and a breathable atmosphere.
Kepler 22b, 600 light years from the Alps and first recorded in 2009, is the first planet that NASA has confirmed exists in a ‘habitable zone' which are the correct distance from their local star to potentially support water and thus snow - along with a suitable temperature and atmosphere to support life. It's more than double the size of the earth and orbits its sun every 290 days - which may mean shorter gaps between ski seasons than here on earth.
"We have now got good planet confirmation with Kepler 22b," said Bill Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Center, told reporters. "We are certain that it is in the habitable zone and if it has a surface it ought to have a nice temperature," he said, although he failed to mention the likely snow conditions or probable max skiable verticals.
NASA launched its Kepler spacecraft in March 2009 on a mission to locate Earth-like planets orbiting stars similar to our sun. Kepler has uncovered 1,000 more potentially skier-friendly planets but 22b is the first to be confirmed.
In addition to French astronomers' confirmed finding of Gliese 581d in May, Swiss astronomers reported in August that another planet, HD 85512 b, about 36 light-years away seemed to be in the habitable zone of its star.
"So we are just thrilled about this. We need all telescopes observing these candidates so we can confirm as many as possible." said Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead at San Jose State University.