The entire snow sports industry is dependent upon reliable snowfall each season. Lately there has been a shift in that, and Executive Director of Protect our Winter, Chris Steinkamp, is here to illustrate why we need to be educated on this matter.
Yoon: I’m surprised not more people know about this.
Chris: It’s amazing no one did this before us – it quickly changed the dialogue between winter sports and economic impact of climate change – but a lot of people overlook the fact that there’s a lot of money being generated by resorts and tourists.
Yoon: Why do you think people don’t know about it?
Chris: I think a lot of people haven’t connected the dots – they’re finally getting it last year or so – but the third dot we connect is snow = money. The Protect Our Winters report did that – you have to walk people down the road – global warming = less snow, less snow = less money.
Yoon: Where is this ignorance about the issue coming from?
Chris: It’s an issue a lot of people don’t want to deal with. In some ways, climate change means spending money. If you’re a small resort being ask to switch from coal to renewable energy, that’s a lot of money for them to spend.
The NSAA are doing a good thing with greening resorts and looking for ways to improve efficiency on site and a firm stand on policy change.
Yoon: What are they doing?
Chris: SIA is our partner and they’re helping us – but they didn’t appreciate this report (what report??). They had a press release after we launched the report but seemed to minimize policy work they do, which is none.
They’re working on sustainability for resorts and innovative business models for sustainability and clean tech. It’s just unfortunate with such a massive issue looming so fast that we’re not on the same page trying to decrease climate change.
NSAA is just focused on All Things Green and have 18 resorts. Figuring out who has the greenest resort is fun, but it’s not solving climate change.
Yoon: Why doesn’t any of these organizations have lobbying on the ground?
Chris: SIA does – but stuff we don’t touch are tariffs with materials. Their senior leadership is doing what they can with us. They’re open to discussing it, which is cool. The NSAA starts with the leadership. I think it’s a member based organization and you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Until they say we want more lobbying they don’t feel compelled to do it.
You remember JAWS. It’s fourth of July, let’s not say there’s a shark out there but there is and there needs to be some bold leadership. It might not be a fun thing we’re dealing with, but it’ll impact our business now. But 20-30 years from now, it’ll change the face of skiing.
Yoon: How many more bad winters can we have?
Chris: One. We want to join protect our winters and we want to find out how to help. A lot of small (snow sport related) businesses went under last year. Hurricane Sandy changed people’s perspective on extreme weather. Not sure how many winters it’s going to take, but 10 of the past 12 years have been hottest on record. The silver lining is we get more people that are engaged in climate change.
Yoon: What are some things resorts are doing to combat it?
Chris: A lot of resorts are looking into what they can be doing off the hill to create an entertainment environment. Making snow is like taking an aspirin; it’ll last a few years – but if climate change continues at this pace – it’s not going to matter.
We’re trying to find ways not to deal with it – but the fact of the matter is if we got together to limit carbon that’s what we need to be doing, not buying snow making machines or turning into four season resorts. We owe it to the sport, and it’s too bad we can’t.
Yoon: What do we do now?
Chris: If you’re a ski resort, and you’re committed to climate change, pressure the NSAA. If you’re a shop, work with Protect Our Winters. That’s why we’re here.
Jeremy Jones who was my business partner said, “Climate change is changing these places I go to year after year,” so we started this and began receiving donations from you, me, and regular people because they din’t know how to direct their efforts. We now find ourselves in Washington a lot. It wasn’t the original intent, but that seems to be the way this whole thing is moving.
Yoon: How do you sign up?
Chris: Go to our Facebook page to join up.
You can find the report by clicking here for a summary page, and you can download the full report on the left of the page.