Climate change and the ski industry – are we doing it wrong?

Well shit, now I’ve done it. I’ve gone ahead and brought up the one topic that could ultimately obliterate the industry we love…or did I?

First let me say “It’s real”! If there is anyone out there that is still on the fence about the effects of climate change…. well I guess they they’d be too busy basking in their own ignorance to read this, so we’ll just move on.

Yep, it’s happening. It’s going on every day and we’re all witness. Melting ice caps, horrendous and seemingly never-ending wildland fires, exhausting spells of extreme heat, and mother natures mood swings like we’ve never seen! Today we are going to reach 46°F in Madison when just 4 days ago we survived an active blast that brought us -50° windchills.

The long-term outlook for the ski industry is not great. I suspect that yes, some ski areas will not survive. Certainly the ski areas that evolve to be more sustainable and include summer activities will have the best odds for survival. However many smaller mom & pop ski areas that don’t diversify will likely perish.

So what is the ski industry doing about it? Plenty, and not much. Yes, there is an advocacy group out of Boulder called Protect our Winters (POW) that has taken the cause to Washington, which is admirable, but I suspect Washington most likely equates the ski industry to that flea on the elephants ass. A big white elitist flea. Skiing, like sailing, is a lifestyle activity that can truly only be appreciated by the enthusiast. You need to have it in your blood. When non-mountain folk think about skiing they see a sport where you have to buy expensive gear, drive a big expensive SUV several hours to pay for an expensive lift ticket, while staying in an expensive lodge room, in order to fulfill a vision of deep powder and lavish Après ski activities. Which includes what? Maybe 20% of the ski areas in this country?

So what’s my point? Grass roots. We need to focus more within. Yes, we should all join the fight for climate change, but there are already exists plenty of international groups where support would be appreciated. Checkout 350.org. Creating a climate change group just for the ski industry takes man-hours away from efforts within. I hate to say it, but skiing has always been viewed as a sport for the wealthy, so asking for support from the outside, when were viewed as having soooo much money on the inside, just makes us sound whiny and entitled. And let’s face it, we’re an exclusive club. A club of passionate and free spirited snow riders that are really concerned about the longevity of their playground. A club that enjoys copious amounts of snow. A club that needs to focus more on the industry as a whole and less on (you fill in the blank). An exclusive club that quite frankly needs more members!

We need to lead the way. We need the world to see us adopting universal strategies to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious. We need to implement tools that help all ski areas, big and small, to become more accessible to all.

Don’t get me wrong, I get it. Climate change advocacy is super important, but first-things-first. Our parking lots are too full. Our energy it too dirty. Our processes are too antiquated. Our footprint is too big! How is battling climate change gonna help that?

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!”

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