Winter annual and perennial crop species grown in the northern boreal ecosystem must survive periods of protracted snow cover and low temperatures during the winter. In deep snow regions, plants are susceptible to winter stresses caused by both snow molds and low temperatures. Therefore, high levels of tolerance to freezing and snow molds are requisite for crops adapted to these regions. Accumulation of soluble carbohydrates in winter wheat during the autumn is linked to both hardening and resistance to attack by snow molds. Snow mold-resistant cultivars accumulate higher levels of carbohydrate and metabolize them at slower rates than susceptible cultivars. The quantity and quality of carbohydrates, particularly fructans, remaining in the spring after snow mold attack appear important for survival of winter wheat. However, the total accumulation of carbohydrates is dependent on the stage of development of the winter cereal plant at the beginning of the winter. Recent research findings have shown that sugars are pivotal metabolic activators of the sugar-sensing enzyme, hexokinase, which initiates signal transduction and activation of numerous metabolic genes including host defense genes. Thus, an understanding of the metabolism of soluble carbohydrates, particularly fructans, during plant growth, hardening, and snow mold infection, is essential to the elucidation of survival mechanisms in plants subjected to these winter stresses.