Marolt: The hypocrite oath: ‘Save our snow!’
January 5, 2016
Is it possible to be an avid skier and also be sincerely concerned about climate change? The answer is "yes," of course. I know people like this. Some proudly log a hundred days a year riding high-speed chairlifts up mountains intensively deforested for the cause, which is to schuss down slopes immaculately buffed via fossil fuels daily. What gets them going on the subject of global warming is basically that what they are doing with their spare time may lead to them not being able to do it for much longer.
There is an organization called Protect Our Winters (POW). It's a group of skiers and riders whose purpose is to do what they can to curb global warming so that their great-grandchildren will be able to ski and shred the same high-speed lift-served man-made snow that we do. Aspen Skiing Co. similarly promotes concern for the environment to preserve the viability of snow sports in the future, although, unlike POW, they curiously have a profit motive, which makes their sincerity rock solid.
In either case, I wonder what each organization would do if it turns out that the mountains of the skiing world will receive more annual snowfall due to climate change, thus making skiing and snowboarding possible in more places for longer periods of time every year. Would they then become supporters of greenhouse gas production? Advocates for nuclear winter?
It sounds ridiculous, but it is actually possible that some places like Aspen could benefit from larger snowstorms due to unprecedented climate-changed warmer weather patterns. Any local will tell you that balmy, Pineapple Express winter storms from the Southwest bring monstrous powder dumps to our mountains. The yin to this yang would likely be severe drought and flooding in other parts of the world, but neither POW's nor Skico's campaigns seem overly concerned with that. It's all in how you carve it.
So, can we save the world by attempting to preserve our own self-interests, especially when what we are interested in is really bad for the environmental phenomenon that we are trying to save the world from? It seems kind of doubtful to me, and even a little darkly comical; like we are sticking our heads deeper into the melting snowbank pretending that this actually creates more snow because we are in it up to our necks now.
It would be one thing if running a fraction of our local ski industry off renewable energy sources was a case of two steps forward for every one backward, but that's not it. The ski industry started 10 paces behind environmental friendliness and keeps moving further backward with every new lift installed and new run cut that needs also to be groomed every night. A switch to biodiesel fuel here and recyclable coffee cups there at the ski lodge adds barely any resistance to the rapid pace in the wrong direction.
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I know it's better that we skiers try to do something to make our sport less environmentally obnoxious, but, I'm sorry, what we are doing makes me feel stupid. We are not fooling the much larger world of non-skiers as to what is happening here. It's selfish, shallow and illogical. An idiot can easily see that skiing is horrible for the environment, no matter how prettily we package the destruction and tell each other how nice the bow looks.
Who, then, is the advertising about making skiing green intended to convince? It's us! We, the skiers who know better than anyone else how energy- and resource-intensive our sport is, are the target market for the campaigns telling us all we are doing to save the planet from people like ourselves. It would make me, a lifelong, avid skier, feel like an idiot for buying into it and not standing up and calling BS.
The really difficult thing about being a skier is knowing positively that what we are doing for purely recreational purposes is bad for us and everyone else long-term. Am I willing to quit doing this activity that I have loved for over 50 years and which I have elected to adopt as a lifestyle because I know that taking advantage of my premier season ski pass is far more damaging to the environment than driving a Hummer with bad spark plugs and low tire pressure?
The answer is "no," at least for now. I have to live with the guilt for this indulgence. What I refuse to do, however, is live with it as a hypocrite.
Roger Marolt doesn't believe you cool the planet by making more snow out of burning coal and then grooming it continually. firstname.lastname@example.org
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