October Cool Drinks: Climate Change, Snow and Winter Sports
How is climate change impacting the snow on our local mountains? How does this impact our winter sports?
October Cool Drinks set out to answer these questions. Our keynote speaker was Leanne Pelosi, professional snowboarder and member of the Protect Our Winters (POW) Rider’s Alliance. A panel of mountain sustainability experts followed, including Dr. Stewart Cohen from Environment Canada, Hilary Kilgour from Grouse Mountain and Arthur DeJong from Whistler/Blackcomb. After short presentations a lively Q&A session ensued. Three avid listeners in the audience each received the book “Deep – The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow” by Porter Fox. The evening was closed with encouraging comments and call to action from CapU’s School of Outdoor Recreation.
Keynote Speaker: Leanne Pelosi, Professional Athlete – Snow Boarder
Leanne spoke about her snowboarding experience, how she became aware of climate change issues, showed us her recent film and encouraged advocacy work with POW.
One of the most chilling slides in Leanne’s presentation was of our local Horstman Glacier. The photo was taken in the summer of 2014 and clearly shows the glacial melt and low snow cover. She spoke of the blanket of smog from Santiago seen from the mountains in Chile and the need to wear masks while boarding in China. She is inspired to “make the environment the economy” and told of positive and encouraging climate change actions of the boarding community and beyond.
Highlighted were the works of POW. Leanne spoke about the formation of POW by Jeremy Jones, widely respected as one of the best big mountain snow boarders in the world.She encouraged everyone in the room to join the POW community and take the pledge.
“Protect Our Winters is the environmental center point of the global winter sports community, united towards a common goal of reducing climate change’s effects on our sports and local economies.” from About Us protectourwinters.org
Vision Airs is a video series based on Leanne’s backcountry snowboarding with people who inspire her. Leanne showed the first installment of her Runway film series featuring herself and Marie France Roy in the Whistler Backcountry “riding pillows”.
Here is a quote from Leanne’s presentation:
“The message that we are all guilty because we put gas in our cars, makes us feel like we don’t have a right to support the climate change movement. And I don’t agree with that.
Our carbon footprint will skyrocket if we build the proposed coal mines, LNG terminals and pipelines. It’s ultimately up to us as individuals to support the path with a better future and liveable climate for generations to come. I don’t want to have to choose between the environment and the economy. I want the environment to BE our economy. Imagine if a large portion of the money spent on starting fossil fuel projects was put into renewable energy?”
Dr. Stewart J. Cohen, Climate Research Division, Environment Canada
Dr. Stewart Cohen provided insight to a recent climate change study called “Downscaling and visioning of mountain snow packs and other climate change implications in North Vancouver, British Columbia.” Dr. Stephen Sheppard of UBC CALP led the research team which included collaborative work of Dr. Cohen and others. In the report several scenarios were developed exploring warmer, wetter winters, less snow fall, reduced spring snow pack, shorter snow season and earlier snow melt. Visual models showing progressive yearly projections into the year 2100 were reviewed. These eye-opening visualizations were couched with scientific advisory and insight, noting that these models are scenarios and not forecasts.
Stewart emphasized that adaptation at the local level is required and important, however global scale solutions are needed for effective climate change mitigation. An important consideration is the emergence of climate change standards and guidelines for global professional associations (i.e. the professional engineering associations and others). He stressed the opportunity for collaborative work and bringing in multi-dimensional teams to address global climate change.
Hilary Kilgour, Manager of Sustainability, Education and Adventure at Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain’s commitment to sustainability is ingrained across all aspects of its business, and this commitment could be seen in Hilary’s passion and professionalism. She spoke of the “Levers for Impact” – resource scarcity, decreased health, wellbeing and happiness, Nature Deficit Disorder, and connecting their community of stakeholders with greater purpose. Hilary gave an overview of Grouse’s sustainability beliefs, mission, objectives and core values. These form the basis for company programs and drive the company roadmap. She spoke of Grouse Mountain’s animal conservation programs and the need to put a price on our natural capital.
“Our promise is that every decision we make as a company will pass through the filter of environmental, social, economic and purposeful leadership.”
Grouse recognizes that one of the industry’s biggest climate impacts is the travel carbon footprint of incoming international tourists and transportation to and from the resort. Although this issue could be considered outside of Grouse’s scope or control there is a clearly felt responsibility for including sustainable solutions and dialogue in transportation both internal and external to the company. To that end Grouse supports and encourages transportation solutions. Public transit on site, Car2Go and electric vehicle charging stations are part of the local solutions.
Arthur DeJong, Planning and Environmental Management, Whistler/Blackcomb
Whistler Blackcomb’s sustainability guru rounded out the panel with an enthusiastic discussion of climate change work he has been doing at Whistler/Blackcomb over the last 30 years, and an important call to action. Whistler’s sustainability journey has always been balanced by the needs of the business. Arthur reviewed Whistler Blackcomb’s Seven-Step Climate Change Strategy, which includes an Assessment Phase, an Action Phase, and an Advocacy Phase.
Innovation is the hallmark of Whistler’s sustainability program. Is it possible to create a zero carbon footprint business at Whistler / Blackcomb going forward? Arthur’s innovative and practical vision says it is. An example of Whistler Blackcomb innovation is the use of the snow-making equipment’s water pipe flow generating electricity. The electricity generated exceeds the electricity needed to run the snow-makers, actually producing a net gain. Arthur believes that finding the solution to climate change is not something we need to think about for the future – we are living with climate change now. Most important will be the political will and action of people under 30 years old – you are the next large demographic group with the power to make policy change.
With many thanks to Cheryl Schreader and Warren McKay for being the Emcees and backbone of the event, and to our co-host Capilano University’s Earthworks and School of Outdoor Recreation for generous hosting and facilities.