Protecting Our Winters – Are We Doing Enough?

Climate Change, POW -

Protecting Our Winters – Are We Doing Enough?

Protecting our winters, what we are as a snow community doing about it. Jeremy Jones has been a pioneer but is it enough?

The last decade has brought warmer temperatures and diminishing snowfall all around the world. There’s no denying the impact that climate change has had on us, as different examples rear their ugly head each season. Whether you look at the dry seasons Lake Tahoe suffered through a couple of years back, or the melting of several major glaciers across the world, the evidence is right in front of us. The ski industry isn’t what it used to be, and ski areas everywhere are feeling the effects of climate change.
Impacted ski areas are both big and small, affecting the ski industry on every level. Even companies like Vail Resorts and Powdr Corp are feeling the consequences, as they fight to provide snow for their resorts each season. As a resident of Park City, UT I’ve witnessed the fallout that comes from a poor season firsthand. The entire town of Park City takes a major hit during these off seasons – as we rely on tourism to fuel our economy. However, Vail Resorts and corporations alike have been able to salvage winters with snowmaking and other solutions. These corporations will continue to spend money in order to maintain regular operations, but it’s the smaller ski areas that are taking the fall as a result of climate change.
As I mentioned before, Lake Tahoe took a major hit between the years of 2012-2015 – with four bad winters in a row leaving a mark on Tahoe’s rich history. The larger resorts such as Squaw Valley, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood were able to survive through adverse conditions, but the smaller ski areas surrounding Lake Tahoe didn’t fare quite as well. Of the 14 ski areas (including Alpine Meadows) located in the Tahoe region, seven of them had to shut down early during the 2014-15 season. Smaller ski areas such as China Peak, Donner Ski Ranch, and Sugar Bowl all had to close early due to deteriorating snow conditions. Even Sierra-at-Tahoe had to call it quits well before their original closing date - as Lake Tahoe had just experienced its worst snow year on record.

Aside from Tahoe’s recent struggles, the impact of climate change has been felt throughout the ski industry. One of the key parts of the industry is glacier skiing, which has been threatened by climate change in recent years. The utilization of glaciers for summer skiing has long brought competitive athletes and die-hards alike from across the world to various glaciers. In North America, skiers and snowboarders make their way up to Whistler, BC and Mt. Hood, OR during the summer months. In Europe, you’ll find people making their way to places like Tignes, France and Zermatt, Switzerland. Glacier skiing represents a major part of the ski industry, but with climate change, it might not survive much longer.
The Horstman Glacier in Whistler is shrinking every year, making it difficult for Whistler Blackcomb to maintain. In 2017, Camp of Champions had to cancel its first camp since opening in 1989 and eventually filed for bankruptcy. The Palmer Glacier in Mt. Hood has also seen its fair share of melting and has become more of a snowfield than a glacier in the last decade. High Cascade Snowboard Camps decided to merge with Windells Ski Camp in 2014, and both camps face many challenges ahead of them. There’s evidence of climate change affecting the ski industry right in front of us, and we can no longer overlook it.

With climate change often being overlooked, we as a snow community must rally around organizations like Protect Our Winters – who are leading the charge towards positive climate action. Founded by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones in 2007, POW has taken the initiative in providing the snow community with a voice. The company’s focus is geared towards creating an active community that can actually make an impact on state and federal policymakers. Winter is a way of life for many people, and POW aims to give these people a voice and create a platform for change. The key to this platform is numbers, and with more people on board, the movement will continue to grow stronger.

Fortunately, there are countless outdoor sports enthusiasts willing to join the fight and help make a difference. In addition to this, POW has partnered with numerous companies that are willing to take a step towards positive climate action. With POW setting the agenda, many companies have followed in their path. Ski Butlers, a mobile ski rental business, has just announced their intentions to commit to an entirely electric fleet of vehicles by 2025. While this move will significantly reduce their carbon footprint, the goal is also to encourage other companies to take a step towards positive climate action. Actions like this will move climate change in the right direction, and hopefully, more companies will begin to follow suit.

Positive climate action usually starts small, with individuals and communities coming together to make a difference. However, if we can continue to grow the number of individuals and communities willing to fight then hopefully the movement will leave a lasting impact. The snow community needs to be heard, and POW is just one of the organizations out there to give us a platform for change. We have the resources to build a passionate community that’s willing to fight for positive climate action by state and federal policymakers – so don’t be afraid to get involved. After all, we all need winter.



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