"Weaponize the outdoor community as a political movement."
January 9, 2020 10:33 AM   Subscribe

With rising global temperatures threatening to limit the skiing season and even warm some resorts out of existence, major ski companies are turning to their customers for help in the fight against climate change. Their goal: turn millions of snow-lovers into climate voters (Powder Magazine, 2018). "The industry's much bigger, much more rabid, maybe more powerful and wealthy than the gun lobby, and yet we have no power," said Aspen Ski Co.'s Auden Schendler, pointing out that 10 million skiers logged about 59 million visits to U.S. resorts last winter. "How do you mobilize that?" he asked. "Weaponize the outdoor community as a political movement." Turning Skiers Into Climate Voters with the Advocacy Potential of the NRA (Inside Climate News, 2019)

Aspen Snowmass: Give a Flake, with different ways to show support and contact representatives.

No one charges harder against climate change than Aspen Snowmass. We've spent more time in Washington lobbying for climate than any other ski resort because being a snowsports enthusiast now means being part of the fight against climate change.

Protect Our Winters (POW) Action Fund
In a year where taking action on climate is of paramount importance, we’ve chosen to embrace action over apathy. We are turning our passion into purpose and jumping into the political fray.
The Ski Industry Unites Behind Climate Action -- Several state ski trade associations join forces to advocate for climate change solutions. (Cara Redalen for Ski Magazine, Feb 11, 2019)
After the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), SnowSports Industries America (SIA), and National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced the creation of the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership, leaders of several ski area trade associations are joining the cause and uniting on climate action.

“As three associations representing outdoor retailers, brands, suppliers, and resorts across the country, we share a common desire to see progress on climate and are joining hands to amplify our impact," SIA President Nick Sargeant said in a press statement. "This kind of bold collaboration and commitment is what’s needed now if we’re going to effectively tackle this urgent issue.”
Winter Is Going: How Climate Change Is Imperiling Outdoor Sporting Heritage -- When you think of climate change, you might think of wildfires, mudslide, hurricanes. But all across Canada and the northern U.S., shorter, warmer winters are quietly threatening a sporting way of life. (Stanley Kay for Sports Illustrated, April 22, 2019)
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I think the idea that this could turn into a lobby for climate change as powerful as the NRA is basically wrong and would lead to dissonance between the various factions who ski but also hate the environment (NRA, corporate partners, etc) would limit the groups' reach.

I actually think skiing could have been the forefront of the climate change debate, but instead of confronting a shortened season/stamping out nostalgia, instead they got really good at making fake snow.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:07 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]

That seems to be changing within the last few years, per the linked articles and sites.

Perhaps it's the realization, or the reality, that even while people have been making snow for decades (Wikipedia), they can't make it colder, so they have limited options to locally extend the shrinking ski season.
Ski season is shortening at both ends. As worrisome as earlier spring melt may be for resorts serving Spring Break skiers, the worst economic losses likely strike during the holiday season. “The Christmas-New-Year’s week is the biggest week of ski season,” McEvoy says, “A lot of workers rely almost solely on the holiday period to make most of their money, and it’s not just people directly involved in the ski industry. Restaurants, bars, and other businesses rely on that busy season, too.”
Climate & skiing (Michon Scott for Climate.gov, November 19, 2018).

Helping Ski Resort Communities Face the Reality of Climate Change (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies)
Over the last decade, the winter tourism industry has lost an estimated $1 billion and as many as 27,000 jobs as a result of diminished snowfall patterns, according to a 2012 study by the nonprofit groups Protect Our Winters (POW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The implications of these trends are not lost on western resort communities, Madson says. During visits to several ski towns last year, she found that resort operators and regional leaders in most resort towns are very much aware of the problem.

But she also found that most aren’t really doing much about it. And even if they wanted to, there’s not much information on what they could do.

“What information exists on climate change adaptation is largely focused on coastal communities, where they are experiencing sea-level rise and hurricanes and other issues,” she said. “But, of course, there is also significant economic loss happening in these mountain communities.”

In her work with Tahoe, Vail, Jackson Hole, and Park City, she discovered an overwhelming interest in building adaptation into the fabric of community planning — and how implementation on this scale might eventually be funded.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), a bi-state agency that oversees environmental protection and development of the region, liked Madson’s coalition idea so much that they agreed to partner with her on the venture. In fact, they strongly encouraged a component that assists communities in pursuing federal and state funding.
Snow-reliant communities are changing, but slowly. And their attention appears to be on adaptation, not climate change reduction.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:43 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Weaponize the outdoor community as a political movement

They might be careful about their language. Left-wing "eco-terrorists" are a target of the FBI, so much so that right-wing domestic terrorism — even terrorism which is provoked by the NRA and its spokespeople — is at best a side concern for the agency: as AOC uncovered, the people running the agency won't even acknowledge it exists, because statutes aren't written into law, but other groups are fair game. Extinction Rebellion is an option for nonviolent protest, but even they are favored targets of the police in various countries.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:48 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]

I really wanted to ski this year, but Vancouver having a zero amount of snow this December made me not even bother to check out the snow reports at the local ski places.
posted by polymodus at 11:57 AM on January 9

One day we will look back at the constant kowtowing to the coal and gas industries by politicians as one of the greatest crimes to happen in human history.
posted by benzenedream at 12:28 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


(well, not my actual hands, but I am sort of enjoying envisioning a future of mass-hysteria-oriented fundraising events led by wild-eyed ski-industry hucksters in the throes of dementia)
posted by mwhybark at 12:50 PM on January 9

I'm stunned the ski industry would even think of drawing a parallel to the NRA. This doesn't work on so many levels.
posted by storybored at 1:00 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

The very concept of an "NRA for the left" is fascinating to me, but I just don't see it centering on alpine sports. If we haven't produced an "NRA but healthcare" yet, I don't see much hope. I want to be wrong.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:12 PM on January 9

The alpine sports industry is facing an existential crisis with climate change. The bad news is that anything positive they accomplish will happen too late to save them (hysteresis). In the last 30 years or so they've pivoted from being a fairly affordable family weekender to more of a luxe spa experience. I expect they'll double down on the spa aspect and hope that everybody forgets that snowsports was the original idea. From a strictly-business point of view that's their only option.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:21 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Skiing seems very carbon intensive for a anti-climate change PAC. I’ll take help from anybody, and there are lots of ways it could be made more efficient. But still... mixed messages.

On the other hand, I really like the symbolic emergy and sunk cost discussion it sets up. Looking at the ski closet and seeing the personal sunk cost that will be lost could help people pony up. It’s a lot more than the $200/year discussed in the Australia thread. But small enough to be less overwhelming than house floodplain/fire discussions.
posted by unknown knowns at 1:26 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

The NRA is a bad example. The organization's name should reflect that they give a fuck. Lots of fucks, uncountably many fucks. How about "Fucks Unlimited"
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:24 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]

On the other hand, I really like the symbolic emergy and sunk cost discussion it sets up. Looking at the ski closet and seeing the personal sunk cost that will be lost could help people pony up. It’s a lot more than the $200/year discussed in the Australia thread. But small enough to be less overwhelming than house floodplain/fire discussions.

huh, I hadn't drawn the Australian parallel, but it's a good one. People are literally very invested in their winter sports. If they see their pursuits as being truly in peril, they should be willing to invest significant time and money into protecting them.

That said, tough to tackle an international issue in just a country or two. They need the Chinese and Indian skiers to join POW.
posted by Phreesh at 2:26 PM on January 9

People are very invested in their winter sports. I very much have a perception here that people who do a lot of winter sports are likely to be rather well-off. Is that much less the case where snow is somewhat more accessible?

Isn't that going to cause problems even if this was to become an effective movement? We need climate justice, not just climate action.
posted by Acid Communist at 3:54 PM on January 9

People are very invested in their winter sports

The gun industry is about 10x the winter sports industry in the US. Wtf are these people even talking about?

There are some nice things about skiing for sure. But largely it's about upper income people driving their SUVs into the countryside or flying to Utah. These things aren't precisely anathema to environmentalism, but this seems on the wishful side.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:39 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

I mean, we've used different points, but aren't we making the same argument Reasonably Everything Happens? I'm confused.

To dance around it less: the only people I know who ski and snowboard are bougie as, and while they're not going to be happy about the deterioration of their resorts, they're not where I would be looking for any sort of progressive base either.
posted by Acid Communist at 6:38 PM on January 9

Not to derail but.....I thought that the ski business was in reality the real estate business. Those ski areas built on public land were just a way to sell lux condos and chalet nature be damned. Not sure that it matters but as somebody said the pursuit of le ski is not exactly a carbon-less endeavor so there is a little of the old "here we go again with the hypocrisy" but then again the enemy of your enemy, no atheists in foxholes etc. etc.
posted by Pembquist at 10:19 PM on January 9

I feel like the ski industry is headed in the wrong direction. I see more and more indoor ski slopes opening around the world, in malls in hot climates, and oh my, do I hate them. I could just be hyper aware of them because I hate them so; I have now idea the % of skiers who ski on them, and how many actually exist, but they seem SO BAD, both carbon footprint wise, and NOT IN THE SPIRIT OF THINGS.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:21 PM on January 9

From a puff PR piece on indoor ski slopes: The snow can even be recycled, making the resort more energy efficient.
posted by benzenedream at 2:53 AM on January 10

I think this is really weird, every part of it. Climate change is a threat to everyone in a zillion ways so I'm glad to have allies in that fight I guess, even if they're super fucking weird ones, but this is so strange. Like this, from above:
No one charges harder against climate change than Aspen Snowmass. We've spent more time in Washington lobbying for climate than any other ski resort because being a snowsports enthusiast now means being part of the fight against climate change.
So strange! Lots of people charge harder against climate change than Aspen Snowmass! There are activists who get arrested routinely, there are people marching in the streets and chaining themselves to bridges, but Aspen Snowmass seems to be assuming that lobbying is the only avenue to change. This seems to be an incredibly wealthy industry that caters to a lot of people including a ton of very very rich people sending expensive lobbyists to Washington to try to push what is likely to be at best moderate climate policy. It is practically the definition of "business as usual" and climate change calls for something very different from business as usual and I don't think these people even see that. They see that there's a crisis and it's framed entirely in terms of how it affects them and the only solution they can envision is sending lobbyists to DC. Idk man, capitalism is fucking wild.
posted by an octopus IRL at 6:29 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

I'm certainly not a climate expert but I'm guessing to actually make a significant impact in reversing climate warming ski resorts should be one of the things that should no longer even exist. Along with many other things.
posted by Justin Case at 8:54 AM on January 10

Can we get a shoutout from Ducks Unlimited about how well recruiting recreational hunters into the habitat preservation movement is working out?
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:06 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]

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