Snow sports industry ‘unites for pow’ |

Snow sports industry ‘unites for pow’

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
John and Malpica Arce from Spain encounter a few bare spots at the base of Aspen Mountain while skiing in early April. The snow sports industry urged President Obama in September to be aggressive at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this week.
Jeremy Wallace / The Aspen Times file photo |

The letter

Dear President Obama,

As you prepare for the 2015 United NaJons Climate Change Conference in Paris, please know that the snowsports industry and professional athletes applaud your strong leadership on addressing climate change. Your work is critical in moving our country towards a clean energy economy, driving innovation and economic growth and helping us improve our resiliency over the long term.

The snowsports industry views climate change as an economic opportunity as well as an environmental issue. Our businesses support $62 billion in tourist-related revenue, 964,000 jobs and $4.6 billion in annual retail sales. We are united in our desire to reduce carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy future.

2014 was the warmest year in the temperature record, and 2015 is on track to surpass it. Failure to act now on climate is unacceptable, and will result in damage to the environment, tourism and the economy. This is the greatest opportunity of our time. We need meaningful action from all, and it is time to act.

The snowsports industry is doing our part as well to address climate change. We not only advocate for a stronger climate policy, but we’ve broadly implemented clean energy and energy efficiency measures throughout our businesses.

Thank you for your efforts in Paris to secure our future through reduced carbon emissions, strong incentives for clean and renewable power and continued support of research on climate solutions. We know the stakes are high and that the negotiations are difficult, but in this eleventh hour, know that the full force of winter is behind you. Sincerely,

Snowsports Industries America

The National Ski Areas Association

Protect Our Winters

Read the names of the resorts, athletes, corporations, trade groups and others who signed the letter at

Movers and shakers within the snow-sports industry sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressing their unified support for global action on climate change.

The three trade groups behind the letter — Snowsports Industries America, The National Ski Areas Association and the nonprofit Protect Our Winters — sent the message in order to urge action at November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

“Your work is critical in moving our country toward a clean-energy economy, driving innovation and economic growth and helping us improve our resiliency over the long term,” the letter says.

The letter is symbolic of an industry in peril, with the Paris conference as a sort of last hope for effective policy. Ski-industry trade groups rarely take radical positions, said Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability for Aspen Skiing Co., but this letter has all of the major groups saying fast action needs to be taken on climate change.

“Paris is seen as the absolute last chance to put in a meaningful fix on climate,” Schendler said. “If we fail in Paris, we will fail as a society on climate change.”

The five-paragraph letter applauds Obama for his leadership thus far and reminds him that action is needed now. Climate-change gatherings in the past haven’t resulted in much, if any, action, said Gretchen Bleiler, an Aspen professional snowboarder who also sits on the Protect Our Winters board of directors.

“I think it’s time for all of us to stop talking about what needs to happen, and we need to start implementing plans — not just coming up with plans, but implementing plans,” Bleiler said.

Protect Our Winters Executive Director Chris Steinkamp said the November meeting in Paris is arguably the most important climate-change meeting the world has ever seen.

“This is the one,” Steinkamp said. “The window on climate action is closing really fast. It’s kind of the last big chance we have to get a handle on climate change before things get really bad.”

The snow-sports industry generates more than $62 billion for the U.S. economy each year, supporting more than 964,000 tourist-related jobs, according to data Steinkamp cited.

In a statement issued to the press along with the letter, National Ski Areas Association President Michael Berry said the industry has worked to “implement our ‘reduce, educate, advocate’ approach to addressing climate” and that “across-the-board change won’t happen without strong leadership from Washington.”

Schendler said changing light bulbs and building green buildings is good business and that it’s stupid to do anything else; however, the reductions in carbon emissions from such measures are simply inadequate.

“My definition of the ski industry doing its part is being political activists,” Schendler said. “This is a broad call for action by Obama on climate, and it’s a call for policy.”

Schendler is hoping for a strong deal in Paris in which countries commit to reduce emissions and commit to contribute to a green-carbon fund that would help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change as well as reduce their emissions, among other efforts.

“This is a big problem that requires a big solution,” Schendler said.