Skiers and snowboarders are the eternal optimists. No matter how bad the snow, how miserable the rain, how strong the winds, there is always hope that it will get better when the next storm arrives. We’re aided in sustaining our hopeful addiction by snow forecasting. But like any relationship based on co-addiction, this has its ups and downs.
Mountain Journal recently reported that the famous Colorado resort of Vail had announced its intention to ‘commit to zero net emissions (partly through use of renewable energy to run its operations), zero waste to landfill and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat by the year 2030’.
Vail is a town built around ski field development. While only about 5,500 people live there (supported by a large ‘down valley’ community in towns like Avon and Edwards who must commute to work) it hosts as many as 2.8 million visitors a year.
Aspen, located to the south west, is probably better known for its sustainability efforts, but Vail’s commitment is ambitious. The recent announcement on energy and waste came from Vail Resorts Inc, the company that runs the resort operations. There is also a commitment from the Town of Vail, based in the valley below the resort, to become North Americas first sustainable tourist destination certified through the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
If you enjoy the outdoors – riding, walking, climbing, paddling, skiing – then it makes sense to protect wild places. The most obvious way to do this is to join or support groups working to protect the areas you love. And if you love winter, then its logical to support initiatives to slow climate change.
As individuals we have some power. When we join our efforts with others through working in organisations we increase our influence. When it comes to protecting the environment, another potentially powerful force is business. The outdoor and snow industries in Australia generate billions of dollars of income and employ tens of thousands of people. Yet they are largely missing in action when it comes to protecting the environment.
In some other countries, these industries are stepping up and putting their shoulders to the wheel: with some interesting outcomes.
With more and more Australian skiers and riders getting into the backcountry, both here and overseas, there is an ever growing awareness about the need to have good skills to stay safe in unmanaged terrain. This includes the ability to assess and avoid avalanche risk, and to carry out rescues.
There are now a number of businesses running avalanche courses, including the Jindabyne-based Main Range Backcountry and a new operator at Mt Buller called Mountain Safe. (See below for details).
There are also international instructors coming out here to offer courses. This includes Whiteroom, who are a company that offers guided ski and snowboard tours, ski and snowboard holidays, mountain guiding, instructional tours, and group travel in Japan, New Zealand and North America.
This comes from Ronan Maguire, who is running the Whiteroom courses in Australia. Ronan has done eleven seasons at Mt Hutt as well several in America, Canada and Japan.
Unless we act decisively now, climate change poses an existential threat to life as we know it. For people who love the outdoors or whose livelihood relies on good snowfall or a healthy environment – the skiing and outdoor industries – there is an added incentive to be engaged and active.
No person, business or sector can solve the problem on their own, but that’s kind of the point: we need all hands of deck to deal decisively with this looming threat.
It’s good to remember that many in the community are taking action. Around the world there is a growing willingness to be actively involved in responding to climate change – through mitigation (reducing the production of greenhouse gases), supporting behaviour change, engaging in advocacy, and developing cleaner production methods.
Here are two good news stories from the USA.
The ongoing attempt to build a cable car up the face of Mt Wellington/ kunanyi in Tasmania is at a turning point. This project would cause major visual scarring to the mountain and many localised ecological impacts. It represents an old fashioned ‘Disneyland’ approach to tourism and is widely opposed by the community in Hobart.
Mathew Groom, member for Denison and also a close friend of the cable proponent, has now released legislation which would allow for land to be acquired on Mt Wellington. This would bring the project much closer to being realised. There is a short window of time to express your concerns about this legislation. Please see below for details.
The iconic ridge on an iconic mountain – Blade Ridge on Federation Peak in south west Tasmania. Any climber who has been in there will have marvelled at that incredible spine of rock. Normally the thought of just getting to the base of the ridge through relentless scrub is enough for you to put it in the ‘Yeah. No’ category of dream trips.
But one group of climbers have been in to the Blade to climb it, in winter. They are now making a film about the trip and have launched a crowdfund campaign. Check below for full details.
We all love outdoor films: skiing and riding, climbing, paddling, walking. It’s all good. Inspiring us to get off the couch and into the Big Wild.
But women are still radically under represented in this genre of film. While the situation is slowly changing, and there are ever more outdoor films that do feature women, we still have a long way to go.
That’s why this film festival sounds so great: The Women’s Adventure film tour ‘features some of the world’s most inspiring women in adventure’. It draws on the women specific entries from the Telluride Mountain Film Festival, and is showing nationwide in ten locations in September and October.