POW-er to the people | How to save snowboarding

Protect Our Winters take to UK streets

When you hear of records being broken, it usually conjures up images of super-human feats: 100-metre sprints in 9.58 seconds, or 74 hot dogs eaten in under 10 minutes. The kind of inspirational moments that redefine the limits of humankind.

Last month saw a new set of records being smashed. Ones of a far less uplifting nature. This was the hottest June ever recorded on earth. France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Andorra, Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic experienced all-time temperature highs for the month.

“This isn’t a blip. Most of these records have been repeatedly broken in recent, preceding years”

A record-breaking 150 paragliders ascended to the top of Mont Blanc, due to the alarmingly high summit temps. Val d’Isere reached an unprecedented high for the month of 31C at 1850m.

This isn’t a blip. Most of these records have been broken repeatedly in recent, preceding years. I’m roasting man, where’d winter go?

A couple of weeks back, we met up with Amiee, Dom, Becky and James, who recently became volunteers – or Winter Guardians – with the UK chapter of Protect Our Winters. They’d all spent winter seasons in the mountains across the Northern hemisphere and become aware of POW’s profile gaining support in the US. When they returned home, they saw the increasing number of climate activists within the UK’s snowsports industry and wanted to get involved. After reaching out to POW UK they were all signed up to the team pretty soon after.

Not much to smile about. (Pic: James Cottrill)

We were invited to come along and join them for ‘The Time Is Now’ march, organised by the Climate Coalition, outside the UK Houses of Parliament. People and organisations from across the country were lining the banks of the Thames, where’d they’d have the chance to meet their MPs and give them all a proverbial kick up the arse and tell them to stop destroying Mother Nature. The government had recently committed to reducing its net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050.

However, ‘committed’ means to the government what ‘shitting your pants’ means to a fart – full of intention, but disastrously executed. We were here to tell them that we weren’t cleaning up the mess this time. And that we wanted the target reached by 2045.

“‘Committed’ means to the government what ‘shitting your pants’ means to a fart – full of intention, but disastrously executed”

Like some bizarre fusion between The Flinstones and The Passion of the Christ, the actual arrival of the MPs was a wholly uncomfortable experience. They were brought out, along the riverbank, in tuk-tuks, trundling past the masses of protestors, until they arrived at their designated constituency zone. There, they’d have meet, greet and, in some cases, answer for their sins (read: voting record on climate issues) to joe public.

“Trust me, I’m a politician.”

I caught up with my local MP, Drew Hendry. As one of the lucky few in the UK to grow up with a snowsports resort on my doorstep, I’ve experienced the shortening winter seasons and snow conditions becoming less and less reliable first hand.  “I don’t think everyone would be so exercised if it was past the point of making a meaningful change”, he told me. “But we really need is to make sure that those people in power are pursuing those aims. It’s only by working collectively that we can start to make meaningful progress on climate change.” Enough pressure was put on local authorities back in 2012 to bring forward the Carbon Clever programme, which is working to make the Cairngorms and surrounding areas carbon neutral by 2025.

 “It’s only by working collectively that we can start to make meaningful progress on climate change”

Communities or industries that are reliant on the environment, tend to have a more meaningful connection to it. And those who are more connected to it, have a more tangible link to climate activism, too. This is where POW comes in. Its founder, Jeremy Jones, put it like he always does: “You’ve got to get in nature and fall in love with nature if you want to protect nature.”

Destructive Habitats

There’s a tricky irony in that, though. Riding in a gondola up on a glacier at 3,000m isn’t exactly helping the coral reefs regenerate, which is why POW isn’t taking a holier-than-thou approach to climate activism. “We fully appreciate that the outdoor industry isn’t perfect”, James told me. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t be part of the discussion or make changes in our lives that still have an impact.” 

POW’s mission is about sharing passions, and linking them into positive action to protect the environments we all live, work and play in. We’re not going to save the planet by banning plastic straws, or all quitting snowboarding tomorrow. However, researching who you bank with, who your energy suppliers are, how you travel to the mountains or the tour operators you book with all puts pressure on the much bigger companies and corporations – the ones who can generate significant change.

So, for anyone out there wondering how to join the path towards sustainable enlightenment, POW UK has got you covered. They’ve even broken it down into terms that us snowboarders will understand, too, like the green, blue, red and black runs down the POW Mountain. Switching your lightbulbs or reducing your meat consumption? Try the green line. Ready to start influencing the sustainable practices of your bank or employer? Go for the black.

“We’re all part of the problem, whether we think so or not.”

Even when two of the biggest players in the snowboard industry come forward to pledge big bucks for POW Europe, it’s this grassroots level of activism that we need now more than ever.

We’re all part of the problem, whether we think so or not.  It’s easy to feel that, by doing nothing, we’re not making things any worse. It’s a bit like that quote, “The single raindrop never feels responsible for the flood.” But choosing not to speak up on climate change is like choosing immobility as your mode of transport – you’re just screwing yourself over.

So be like Aimee, Dom, Becky, and James. Get signed up. Do what you can, make a difference, and let’s go shred. Because, if the riding community won’t get involved in protecting the future of our winters, who will?

POW UK Guardian - Aimee
POW UK Guardian - James
POW UK Guardian - Dom
POW UK Guardian - Becky


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