Is it possible for a group of ski bums and mountain sports enthusiasts to have a voice for climate change? One that is actually loud enough to hear? You better believe it!
The winter sports industry is full of snow lovers who desperately don’t want to lose their playgrounds. This is why major ski corporations are turning to their customers for help in the fight against climate change. Their main goal: turn millions of snow-lovers into climate voters.
Now I know what you’re thinking, here’s another article about how we need to act now to fight global warming and climate change and blah blah blah. But just hear me out. Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, we all live on this earth – together. We all see and feel the effects of warmer temperatures and rising sea levels, and we hear about the climate debates on the news.
Aspen Ski Co.’s Auden Schendler made an eye-opening statement saying, “the [ski] industry is much bigger, much more rabid, maybe more powerful and wealthy than the gun lobby, and yet we have no power.” So he asks a poignant question, “How do we mobilize that? How do we weaponize the outdoor community as a political movement?”
A simple way to do this is by doing what I am right now, writing to you, encouraging you to contact policy makers, vote for climate-friendly candidates and spread the word about climate change. With the 2020 elections fast approaching, it could become a proving ground for a new strategy where politics mixes with play.
Millions of skiers and snowboarders, and other outdoor sport enthusiasts need to come together now and become this passionate political force for action on climate change. We need to recognize our privilege to be able to live this outdoor lifestyle and do what we can to protect our playground.
Time to Face the Facts
For those of us who work in the outdoor and snow sports industry, climate change has a direct impact on our livelihood. There have been a number of studies that examine how climate change could influence snowpack in the Western United States, and focus in on understanding the impacts on water resources. Without reliable access to snow, the areas in which winter recreation is central to the economy, could see some serious repercussions.
In a recent study, published in 2017, scientists found that climate change will shorten the winter recreation season across the U.S., with half as many downhill ski days in some places by 2050 and up to 80 percent fewer by 2090.
This might not seem like a big deal to you now, but think about our younger generations. Your kids and your kid’s kids, this earth is theirs too and these winter playgrounds will someday be theirs as well.
But it’s not only snow sports at risk here. These changes directly impact the lives of mountain communities all over the world who don’t just play in the mountains, they live in them. At the recent climate-focused Mountain Towns Summit 2030 in Park City, Utah this past fall, more than 40 summit attendees, including government agencies, cities, counties, nonprofits and businesses signed a pledge. Their pledge is to be net-zero carbon emitters by 2030 and it describes the steps they’re taking to educate visitors about climate change and turn them into advocates for climate-friendly policies.
“The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation and must be addressed at all levels. As leaders in mountain communities, it is our obligation to address this issue in a bold, timely, and meaningful way.” – Mountain Towns Summit Leaders
Ski Industry Ramps-Up Activism
So back to our main question – can we have a voice loud enough to be heard? Nonprofit organizations like POW “Protect Our Winters” believe we can. POW is an athlete-led climate-action nonprofit that has been a huge part of the winter sports community’s public engagement efforts for over a decade.
In the past they have used more traditional approaches to raising awareness about climate change. This year they are using a more strategic plan and focusing on the more than 34 million Americans who identify themselves as climbers, skiers/snowboarders, trail runners or mountain bikers. If you identify as any of those then you make up roughly 25 percent of the 2016 election voters.
“With the right tools, these Americans – this passionate outdoor community of ours – can be the difference in addressing the climate crisis,” POW Executive Director Mario Molina, who previously served as international director for The Climate Reality Project, wrote in the strategic plan. “Connected by our shared loved of the outdoors, we can turn our passion into purpose and then into results.”
We need to shift the way we think so personal climate action takes on new meaning beyond simple recycling or driving a hybrid. Molina says he wants outdoor enthusiasts to see voting as a powerful tool for fighting climate change.
Passion Turns to Purpose
We all remember when Utah Republicans called on the Trump administration to strip national monument protections from 2 million acres of public land three years ago, right? Well this obviously caused uproar in the outdoor community. So much so that the Boulder, Colorado-based Outdoor Industry Association decided to relocate its huge Outdoor Retailer (OR) trade show from Salt Lake City, Utah to Denver, Colorado. And it was a move that will ultimately cost Utah’s convention business $1 billion over ten years.
But it gave outdoor brands the ability to see that they can use their voice to encourage and push for action on a much larger scale. One such brand is Patagonia. They were the first to boycott the trade show if it was to be in Utah, and openly oppose President Trump’s move to downsize the Bears Ears National Monument. Despite some negativity on social media, it didn’t stop them, and countless others have since taken their lead.
But it’s not only outdoor retail brands speaking up. Some of our beloved mountain resorts are also using their voice to engage their customers in this topic. Take Aspen’s brilliant “Give A Flake” marketing campaign which aims to turn skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts into climate policy advocates. They ran a few ads in Outdoor Magazine that singled out three swing-state Republicans on their climate views. The campaign ruffled some feathers but also opened up the discussion of Climate Action and what our local politician’s views on the subject truly are.
The Year of Advocacy
The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and the Snowsports Industries America (SIA) will be opening their doors at the Denver Convention Center this week for their combined Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show (Jan 29-31). And this year’s topic of discussion is Climate Change Advocacy.
If you’re in the Denver area or are one of the many industry employees who plan to attend the show, be sure to check out some of the educational and inspiring presentations/discussions from leaders – both inside and outside of the industry – over the four day event. For all information regarding the event visit https://snowsports.org/.
There will also be a Climate Rally (#ClimateRally2020, #ActOnClimate) happening on the last day of the show, January 31, at the Colorado Capital in Denver from 2-4pm MST. So if you’re in the mood to take a stand with thousands of other ski bums and outdoor junkies then head on down to Denver and join the fight. For those of us who can’t attend the show or the rally, I urge you to contact your policy makers, vote for climate-friendly candidates and spread the word about climate change.
We’re all living together on this beautiful planet and she’s the only one we’ve got. So let’s put our political differences aside and come together to fight for this place we all call home.
Want to learn how you can turn your passion into action? Visit https://protectourwinters.org/take-action/learn/ to read the facts and take the steps to becoming a climate advocate.