How to Help Protect Our Winters

by Wagner Skis / Oct 02, 2017

Each fall, we patiently wait for those big white flakes to start falling from the sky and stack up enough for the lifts to start turning. It’s a livelihood we’ve embraced for decades and a very important piece of the ski puzzle. But there’s a threat to this thing called skiing that we love and honor so much, and it’s called climate change.

According to the Protect Our Winters (POW) website, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are far above historical levels which means temperatures are on the rise too. They note that the northern hemisphere has lost a million square miles of spring snowpack since 1970 and that some of your favorite mountains are on track to lose most (or all) of their snowpack by the end of this century (read their full roundup of climate science and solutions here). It’s time to step up and fight for the activities we love, before they are lost forever. Luckily, POW makes it easy for people to get involved with the fight against climate change. We recently caught up with the incredibly knowledgeable Lindsay Bourgoine, POW’s Advocacy and Campaigns Manager, to get the lowdown on taking action.

POW’s initial response to the outdoor community’s desire to get involved was the POW Seven Pledge, which outlines easy steps to start taking effective actions. They then created the Climate Activist’s Roadmap which dives deeper into the seven ways to start making a difference. When we asked Lindsey what the single most powerful thing individuals can do is, she told us, “Get political.”

It might sound a little intimidating, but Lindsay assured me that the most effective thing you personally can do is to call your legislators (letters aren’t nearly as effective as phone calls). Her advice: bite the bullet and challenge yourself. She reminded me that people around the nation are calling their elected officials every day on other issues (think gun control, education, healthcare, etc.) so there is no reason to be scared. Your legislators’ job is to listen to you, not debate you. Calling your representatives is more like leaving a message; a staff member will pick up and you can give them your thoughts (i.e. “I’m concerned about X & Y, will you please pass this along to the Congressman?”). It’s really that easy.

Here are some tips to get you started with your first round of phone calls:

  • Representatives and staffers want to hear first-hand, individual impacts. So, while scripts you find on the internet are helpful, they don’t tell your story. Make your call as personal as possible. Ask questions and make your representatives accountable.
  • Start local. Representatives in Congress may not respond to all phone calls and sometimes it’s hard to get through if there is a high volume of calls. You may have better luck reaching local and state officials. Plus, it can offer good practice for the big dogs.
  • More is better. Challenge yourself to call once a week, or at least every month. You can always ask elected officials to vote in favor of protecting the things and activities you love.
  • Get started. Our current carbon dioxide levels are no longer safe. We are in a place where recycling and carpooling is no longer enough. We need policies in place at the local, state, and national levels so that people are forced to make a bigger change. It’s time to speak up on why you want these policies in place.
  • Make the call. POW makes it easy to find your elected officials with this link. Just plug in your phone number and they will connect you. If that’s not your style, here are more tools to find your government representatives:

Next on POW’s list is an obvious one: educate yourself. It’s true, knowledge is power and the more you read up on the subject, the better prepared you will be for phone calls with politicians, Thanksgiving dinners (more on that below), and casual conversations on the chairlift this winter. POW has various sources to stay in the know which can be found in category number three here. We especially like the skeptical science website because it covers topics that skeptics to climate change often bring up. An important source for the politics of climate is Climate Progress. Once you have a good understanding of the facts, it’s easier to plug in your personal reasons to fight climate change and make articulate arguments that people will understand, and hopefully respect.

Once you have some background information and are comfortable making calls to your elected officials, it’s time to tackle the climate change conversation with your friends, co-workers, family and so on. Lindsay notes that having the climate change conversation is important. We need to have conversations with all different types of people with different interest levels on the subject because climate change affects all of us. Everyone is impacted: it doesn’t matter your political affiliation, where you live, or what your favorite extracurricular activity is.

Here are some takeaways from our conversation with Lindsay on how to bridge the gap around the Thanksgiving table this fall, or on the chairlift this winter:

  • You don’t have to be an expert on climate change and you can even use that to your advantage in conversations. Say something like, “You know, that’s not my area of expertise, but what I personally notice is X, Y, and Z and I’m really concerned about that.”
  • You don’t need to get caught up in numbers and statistics. You should talk about what you care about and how you are being impacted by climate change or where you see it affecting others. First-hand knowledge is hard to beat.
  • Remind people that there are changes going on. One of Lindsay’s favorite questions to ask people is, “Doesn’t winter look different than when you were a kid?” She says that it gives people an ability to reflect on their own experiences and helps them internalize climate change. Even if they aren’t sold on the subject, chances are that yes, winter does look a little different.
  • It’s not worth fighting climate deniers. There are pretty much three types of people when it comes to the subject of climate change: deniers, skeptics, and believers. There are a lot of skeptics out there and helping them understand how you see climate change first hand can make a big impact. Deniers, on the other hand, are not likely to budge – and they’re vociferous. You’ve probably seen them trolling on social media.

Last, we suggest holding your favorite gear companies, ski resorts, and go-to brands accountable. Ask these companies what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint, or better, how they are speaking up about climate change. Lindsey says that businesses swing a lot of weight when it comes to policy, and they wield economic clout in their communities. Businesses who speak out on climate change and hold governments accountable are arguably doing more than those who are just offsetting their carbon footprint. Both are important. But it takes courage for a company to take a public stance because that risks offending customers who happen to be climate deniers. When you see a company make a positive public statement, let them know you appreciate it.

It’s time for the outdoor industry to band together and have a collective voice. Climate affects all of us in one way or another, not just on the mountain or downstream in the rivers, but in unusual weather events around the nation, air quality in cities, and so on. Climate change doesn’t care if you are a skier, if you love to fish, if you are a mountain bike enthusiast, if you are a farmer, if you love to hunt, if you are a Republican or a Democrat, if you live in a mountain town or elsewhere, or if you are a non-believer. The reality is that we need to have the climate change conversation with all different types of people from different backgrounds because it affects everyone.

If you are reading this article you are probably a skier (or at least an outdoor enthusiast). Therefore you ride chairlifts, travel for adventure, or drive to the mountains. We all have a carbon footprint and we are all part of the problem. Now it’s time for us to band together and all be part of the solution.