No Snow Is the Least of Our Problems

March 6th, 2007 by Doug Schnitzspahn

Here is a reprint of an editorial on global warming and the snowsports industry I wrote for the SIA SnowPress Show Daily.

No Snow Is the Least of Our Problems

Global warming is a fact. According to James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, we have 10 years to solve this problem. According to many scientists, if we don’t eliminate 90 percent of the globe’s CO2 emission by 2100, our descendants will live on a barren planet. Even the Bush Administration, which once sought to discredit Hansen, has recognized the problem, proposing to list polar bears as a threatened species last month because of melting Arctic sea ice.

The snowsports industry, however, has little to combat global warming. Why should we? Skiing and snowboarding are apolitical acts, an escape. And it’s still snowing. We have had big years recently, especially in the West. Colorado has been pummeled by storms this year. The legendary winter of ’98–’99 shellacked a world record 1,124 inches on Mount Baker. What global warming?

But there have also been frightening signs. The winter has been a complete wash this year on the East Coast. Europe is bone dry. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report claiming, “the years 1994, 2000, 2002, and 2003 were the warmest on record in the Alps in the last 500 years.” Yet climate change is apt to cause unpredictable fluxations in weather and Europe could get pounded next year the way Colorado is now. But this is no reason to get optimistic. Predictable winters are what snowsports resorts, manufacturers, and retailers need to thrive, not intermittent dumps.

“Global weirding,” is what extreme ski diva Alison Gannett says we should call the frightening phenomenon. Gannett is one of the few people in the snowsports industry who has made a concerted effort to do something about the changes we have wreaked on our climate. And she walks the walk. Gannett lives in an energy-efficient, straw-bale house in Crested Butte, Colorado. And she talks the talk. She has been traveling the country—and she will be touring this winter in her Save Our Snow Tour with Clif Bar in a vegie-powered RV—giving slideshows about climate change and teaching businesses how they can save money by purchasing wind credits, calculating their carbon footprints, and conducting blower door tests, which can cut energy bills by a minimum of 25. Businesses are listening.

“Everybody always thinks doing the green thing is expensive. That’s a myth I have been trying to disprove for the last 15 years,” says Gannett. “All of a sudden people are realizing ‘hey, I can do what’s right for the planet and save money—and make more money.”

The Aspen Skiing Company is also saving money while it saves the world. It purchases wind credits, fuels cats with biodiesel, and finds ways for the resort to be more energy efficient, saving the company $50,000–$60,000 per year. But it also has a mission to get the rest of the industry, and the world, to do something.

It’s working. In 1997, Aspen was the only major ski resort to buy wind power. Today, 51 resorts in North America are offsetting their carbon emissions with wind power, according to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to reducing the impacts of climate change. And Auden Schendler, Aspen’s environmental affairs director, believes that even if Aspen can’t singlehandedly change the world, it can use its influence to act as a political motivator, what he calls “a lever for change.” To that end, in September, Aspen Skiing Company filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in support of twelve states and three environmental organizations suing the environmental Protection Agency for not recognizing CO2 as a pollutant.

“This might be the most important action Aspen Skiing Company has ever undertaken,” said Schendler.

And although we have heard it a million times before, and it has registered abstractly somewhere, we all should act too. Because we love snow and the wildness and freedom it brings to mountains in winter, sure. Because it is good for our business, definitely. But we should also act because, as Aspen and Alison Gannett have at least realized, it is about far more than snow.

“It’s embarrassing to worry about skiing,” says Schendler. “By the time skiing goes away, we will be far more concerned with devastation to our food supply, with mass movements of populations, by war, by massive outbreaks of malaria and other diseases.”

So the day definitely is coming when we will not be able to shut ourselves up in our privileged mountain towns.

But for now, Alison Gannett is riding her bike to go ski powder. She’ll use the wind-powered lifts at Crested Butte. Out on the road, she’ll show slides of what’s happening to the planet, how places once covered in snow are melting. She’ll convince big-box companies to try something as mundane—and effective—as a blower door test. And for now, the snow is still falling. Who is going to join her?

53 Responses to “No Snow Is the Least of Our Problems”

  1. Charlie wrote on 02/11/15 at 3:27 pm :


    tnx for info!…

  2. russell wrote on 02/11/15 at 8:45 pm :


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  3. Roland wrote on 02/12/15 at 5:44 am :



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