We give the Mountain pulpit toFounder/CEO Jeremy Jones.
In 2001, I was waiting out a February storm in northern British Columbia, and went for a hike up a closed ski area. It was nothing but grass, but I didn't think much about it until I ran into a local skier and he started telling me stories of his childhood on the mountain.
"Why did it close?" I asked. "It stopped snowing," he said. The ski area relied largely on manmade snow, he explained. As temperatures got warmer, the rain/snow line moved up and they couldn't make snow anymore. By 2001, maybe one storm a year dropped enough natural snow to ride the mountain. The story wouldn't have hit me in the gut if the local had been 80 years old, but he was only 30. If he saw this much change in his youth, what would we see in the next 30 years? Would my home mountain be next?
I decided to get involved. I called a friend at the Surfrider Foundation to direct me to the right organization. He told me the last thing I wanted to hear: "You need to start a foundation."
This was not the answer I was looking for. I barely graduated high school. I am not a lifelong environmental activist. I knew nothing about nonprofits or how to solve climate change. For two years I did nothing. Then I spent a year making phone calls and asking questions. It was clear that it couldn't be the Jeremy Jones foundation. However, skiers and snowboarders are on the front lines of climate change, and we should be leaders in fixing the problem. Glaciers are disappearing. Winters are getting shorter. The past decade was the warmest on record. Everyone has to own a piece of this.
Protect Our Winters launched in 2007 to engage snowboarders and skiers against climate change. Since then, we've gained support from thousands of committed individuals around the world and some of the largest companies in the industry. We've raised awareness, made grants to community-based organizations fighting climate change locally, developed programs that fight dirty coal, and inspired high school students to become the next generation of climate leaders. Our board is made up of some of the smartest minds from winter sports, nonprofits, and science, including Auden Schendler from Aspen Skiing Company, Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, and Matt McClain from the Surfrider Foundation. It's truly a collaborative effort and we're making an impact. If we can mobilize a significant percentage of skiers and snowboarders, we can use our leverage to demand a transition from fossil fuel and become leaders in a clean energy economy. Our congressmen and senators need to hear from a community that has so much to lose.
Yet in a time where we need solutions, we're still fighting skeptics who argue manmade climate change is some sort of hoax. But if we listened to skeptics instead of scientists, we'd still think the Earth was flat. Climate change is happening. It's right before our eyes, in places we visit each year and in the mountain communities we love. Just ask that BC skier hiking on grassy runs with only fading memories of his snowy youth.
Please visit protectourwinters.org for more information. From the Early Winter 2011 issue. Subscribe today, get the magazine at the iTunes store, or find Mountain at Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Gander Mountain, and other natural foods and outdoor stores.