Wow. What a winter. Some forecasters were predicting a ‘slightly better than average’ season, and opening weekend saw skiable snow in the resorts, but then things slowed down for several weeks until we started to get serious snowfalls in July. We had four epic storm fronts during the season, variously called The Blizard of Oz, Snowaggedon 2.0, etc, with the best snowpack in September for 17 years. Most resorts extended their season a week until October 8, and there is still many weeks’ worth of skiing in many parts of the backcountry.
As the season winds down, like most snow addicts I’m already thinking about next year. Personally I had an awesome winter, with a highlight being a road trip from the Snowies to Mt Hotham. But I did a lot of ‘weekend warrior’ drives and now that the snow frenzy is dissipating, I feel like I’ve woken up after a big bender with a hangover and a slight sense of guilt…
The fact is that the alpine places that we love are under threat from climate change. This is an existential threat and without immediate, strategic and sustained global action, we will see all mountain environments transformed in our lifetime. We all contribute to climate change. Some of us a lot more than others. Personal consumption is obviously a driving cause of climate change, especially when amplified by large populations. On a crowded, hungry and often desperate planet, spending our time skiing and riding is, in many ways, the ultimate indulgence.
Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have recently reached a record level, with the annual emissions on track to surpass the previous peak in 2009, according to the latest National Energy Emissions Audit published by The Australia Institute.
The report attributes the rise in emissions to growth in petrol and diesel consumption, with diesel in particular increasing. The report notes there are no policies to limit or reduce vehicle emissions and Australia lacks strong vehicle fuel efficiency standards.
All those weekend trips to the mountains add up. I split my time between resort and side and backcountry, so I also use my fair share of energy in riding the lift lines.
So in spring I always make some donations to groups who are contributing to action on climate or high country conservation. Here’s a few ideas if you feel inspired to do the same.
Individual species: Mountain Critter Cause. MCC raises funds for the Endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum – a species on the brink of extinction and endemic to the Australian alpine ecosystem. You can find out more here.
The Alps as landscape. Support a group like the Victorian National Parks Association, who are working to keep our parks safe from development and feral species and adequately resourced.
Climate change. Support a group like Friends of the Earth (FoE) who have recently gained a permanent ban on fracking and onshore gas drilling in Victoria. (Disclosure: I work for FoE).
Protect Our Winters. POW is ‘is a passionate crew of diehards, professional athletes and industry brands mobilizing the outdoor sports community to lead the charge towards positive climate action. We focus on educational initiatives, political advocacy and community-based activism’.
Other logical things to do:
- Pay a reputable company to offset your emissions from driving to the slopes
- Plan at least a couple of trips to the snow next year using bus services
- If you ski in resort, ask the management of your local hill what they are doing to act on climate change
- If you’re a member of a lodge, do you have solar panels on your roof yet? If not, spring is the perfect time to get the process happening
I hope you had as good a winter as I did!