She was born in Ny-Ålesund (a research settlement), Svalbard, Norway to Alek and Bethany Collins, who were scientists working for the British Antarctic Survey. The couple actually met while working there, and eventually opted to become year round for a 10 year contract, during which Bethany became pregnant. At first the company wasn't sure about allowing them to have a kid there, but in the end they agreed. Things were great for quite awhile, Bethany and Alek took turns home-schooling Zenobia, and with very little distractions around, she started learning at a very young age. She wasn't exactly a certifiable genius, but she definitely excelled beyond her physical age. She also loved the cold, right from the start, her body temperature even ran a few degrees colder than normal. It was almost as if she didn't even feel the cold, and her parents would constantly have to run behind her to make sure she bundled up because they worried she'd get frost bite and not even know it. In fact, later on in life when she chose a nickname for herself, she went with Frostbyte because one of the few memories she had of her parents was them always telling her to bundle up or else she'd get frost bite.
When she was 9 they were due to have a really harsh winter, before one particularly bad storm in January they were supposed to all evacuate to Longyearbyen, a more populated town that was better equipped to deal with blizzards. Alek kept trying to get some of his work finished, and the animals secured that would need to weather the storm, in the end they were the last to leave. Things were fine when Alek first took off, but not long after they got in the air, the turbulence became horrible and Alek lost control of the plane and crash landed in some mountainy area.
With there having already been a fairly heavy winter, there was plenty of snow to somewhat cushion their landing, but Alek was hurt pretty bad and had internal bleeding. He had filed a flight plan fortunately, but unfortunately they were a few miles off their planned path because of the turbulence. Bethany did her best to see to Alek's injuries, her and Zenobia were lucky enough to have come through it with only minor cuts and bruising. The temperature was falling and Bethany knew it was imperative she set up the gear they had in the plane in such a way to keep in as much warmth as possible.
Hours seemed like an eternity, as time clicked forwards, all Bethany could do was helplessly watch her husband struggle to hold on. They had enough water and food to last at least a few days, possibly a week, but they needed fire. Finally after nearly two days the storm completely passed, but the rescuers still hadn't found them. Bethany decided she needed to try and go out on her own, at the very least find wood to make a fire with, at the most maybe find help. That was the last time that Zenobia would see her mother alive, she never made it back to the plane. After that Zenobia, poor little seven year old Zenobia, would sit and watch her father die before the rescuers would get to them.
Though Zenobia rarely felt the cold, this cold was extreme, and though she survived, she was never the same after. Professor X surmised that perhaps it was a combination of puberty setting in, mixed with the extreme weather conditions and the trauma of the situation, but whatever it was Zenobia's beautiful blonde hair turned white, along with her once cream coloured skin. Her eyes turned icy blue. It was almost like part of her heart and soul froze. Sometimes she wears face make up and dyes her hair so she can look normal, but the dye never seems to stay long, and the make up always washes off.
After that it was obvious that she was a mutant, some relatives in England reluctantly took her in, though they were disturbed by her appearance, and their children would spend the next 5 years making fun of Zenobia. She had no real friends in school and was often bullied. Finally at age 15 she decided to run away, she tried for a year to survive on her own on the streets, but was constantly in trouble. Finally she happened to run into Psylocke a member of X-Men who was actually sent by Professor X specifically to find the troubled Zenobia. She was offered a home at the school for Mutants and happily accepted when she found out there would be more kids like her there, she finally would no longer be the freaky outcast that everyone made fun of.
She's lived at the school ever since, for the last three years.