All 14 alpine ski resorts in Utah, united under the Ski Utah organization, are joining together with the nonprofit organization Protect Our Winters to, not only acknowledge the negative effects of climate change on snow packs, but to also proactively reverse those effects.
“I commend Ski Utah for coming together as a group of the biggest resorts in the world,” pro snowboarder and Protect Our Winters founder Jeremy Jones told GrindTV. “It’s really progressive by them in a state not always known for such liberal ideals. Unfortunately, I think climate change has become this political issue recently and I think we really need to depoliticize it. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you should care about the environment.”
The 39-year-old Jones founded Protect Our Winters in 2007 after years of personally seeing the negative effect global warming had on snow levels throughout the world. One of the foremost snowboard freeriders in the world, Jones spends his years chasing snow across the globe, riding everything from the glaciers of the European Alps to the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains.
“I’ve lived in Lake Tahoe for the past 20 years, and normally, even in the years where we didn’t have a ton of snow, the lower parts of the mountains would stay open,” Jones said. “Now, with how the climate is, every year it seems like the question is, ‘Can we open the lower parts?'”
Jones said that watching glaciers recede up the mountains every year made him determined to do something to stop it. So he started POW as a coalition of some of the athletes in snow sports from Danny Davis to Gretchen Bleiler as a way to unite the community with one simple message: enough is enough.
“I got involved with POW a few years ago when Jeremy and I were summiting Denali in Alaska together,” Brody Leven, a 27-year-old Utah-based snowboarding pro told GrindTV. “I remembered we were at 20,000 feet and it was hot. Like, if I could have been wearing a tank top and shorts that day, I would have. I know it’s only anecdotal evidence, but on that day I decided to join POW.”
So, along with Leven and a handful of other athletes, Jones and Protect Our Winters got Ski Utah, which represents a $1.2 billion yearly industry within the state, to commit to change.
“It’s a brave thing for the resorts to do. Because their industry is so key to Utah, they have a direct line to the elected officials who can make serious change,” said Jones of the partnership. “They’re joining with us, and one of the things we’re fighting against is coal. Obviously, there are some elected officials who have a long, close history with the coal industry, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”
At first, the partnership between the two organizations will be mostly through advocacy. But Protect Our Winters is confident that in time, it will do its part to help slow climate change.
“Throughout the year, we will be providing Ski Utah and all of their resorts with education, news and the opportunities to take meaningful action on climate with us,” Protect Our Winter’s Executive Director Chris Steinekamp said. “We’re working on issues with them where their economic reach will make a difference. For example, they just sent a letter to Governor Herbert to ask him to support the Clean Power Plan. We’re also working on carpool events with them to hopefully build awareness of regional climate impacts and change some habits along the way.”
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