Winter sports athletes create alliance to support Protect Our Winters.
After eight days of short-of-breath climbing, snowboarder Jeremy Jones and I reached the windswept, icy summit of Denali at 20,320 feet. Our 6,000-foot descent required us to navigate steep ice, snow, and glaciers on snowboards and skis, but it was strangely relaxing. I felt relief to summit only eight days into a 21-day trip, with a two-week high altitude ski vacation ahead. But the next day, long-standing ice formations began melting in the unseasonably warm temperatures. Rocks, typically frozen in place by relentless cold, fell. The hazard forced me to change my ski objectives.
That day, Jones told me about Protect Our Winters, a non-profit he started in 2007 to mobilize the winter sports community in the fight against climate change. I supported POW immediately. How could I not? I have dedicated my life to skiing in every mountain range I can reach and created a career from sharing these adventures. Now, I am one of 53 winter athletes that belong to POW’s Riders Alliance. We act to lead and educate the climate change resistance.
Since 2011, we have met with over 20,000 students in 44 schools around the United States as part of POW’s “Hot Planet, Cool Athletes” program. These hour-long assemblies allow us to plug into our communities and impact the lives of 200-plus students at a time. This fall, I spoke at Salt Lake’s Rowland Hall middle and high schools. The students are skiers, snowboarders, and mountain people. When I asked which of them had climbed a mountain this year, almost every hand shot upward. I was astounded by the meaningful, sincere reaction to the issue of climate change. After the presentation, I received numerous emails from students wanting to do more. The next generation isn’t passive in the face of relentless fossil fuel consumption and environmental pollution. They are eager to take action. They just need the information and tools that the Riders Alliance offers.
Chris Davenport, Gretchen Bleiler, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, Eric Larsen, and 49 of our colleagues have joined the Riders Alliance. We want to stand up and speak out about the negative effects of climate change on our careers and lives, and what we can do about it by working together. Not everyone in the Riders Alliance has experienced rockfall in Alaska, but we all want a future that includes snow. —Brody Leven
Brody Leven is a full-time mountain storyteller from Ohio who resides in Salt Lake City, Utah. He shares his skiing, running, and climbing mountain experiences at brodyleven.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. He has never eaten meat.