Climate Change on the Slopes: Professional snowboarders weigh in

Skiers and snowboarders, here is what you should know: Most of what you love about skiing is going to change dramatically because of climate change. Scientists have been saying this for years, but now professional snowboarders and skiers like pro boarder Forrest Shearer, a supporter of The Wilderness Society, are coming together to spread the climate change message.

We recently interviewed some of these amazing snowboarders about their  observations on climate change and came away realizing what an incredibly unique position they’re in to help educate young people. 

“Snowboarding is my job. I see first-hand consequences of climate change. Shorter seasons, depleted snow pack, areas where last year there was snow and now it’s just rocks and dirt. Snowboarding might not be around for long,” Shearer told me.

Shearer’s extreme boarding has been featured in several Snowboarding films, including Deeper Unplugged and Further. He hopes to use his status to educate youth about climate change and inspire them to action.

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Read more on climate change hitting winter sports hard.

Snowboarders unite to fight climate change

Shearer is also a supporter of Protect Our Winters (POW), a non-profit partner of The Wilderness Society started by legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones. Protect Our Winters works towards unifying the winter sports world in the fight against climate change. Together with Alliance for Climate Change Education (ACE), they have teamed up to create “Hot Planet/Cool Athletes,” which brings elite athletes into public schools to talk to students about the negative effects of climate change.

These boarders understand they will be impacted as much by climate change as anyone.

Drastic effects from global warming have already been seen in Europe, where rapid melting and a decrease in snow precipitation are widespread.

World Cup snowboarder Alex Deibold recently competed in the Snowboard World Championships in La Molina, Spain. It was an event he said he had been looking forward to all year.

In the end “it was more like a beach vacation than a snowboard contest. There was one trail open other than where our boarder-cross course was, and it was dirt on both sides. It was in the upper 40's almost every day and it hadn't snowed there since November,” Deibold told us.

Climate change is a complicated concept to understand, especially when parts of the country have seen especially cold, snowy winters over the past couple of years. Winter 2011 has been a great powder year for resorts in the Rockies, so what’s the problem? 

While any given winter can be severe in some places, the long-term trends are not good for winter sports; Skiers and scientists agree that the general trend in snow conditions and temperatures is deeply concerning.

Click here to learn more about ski resorts battling climate change.

Snowboarders' influence offers powerful educational tool

Although only a small percentage of kids actually participate in skiing, it is a broadly accepted sport that has an inexplicable aura of awesomeness.

“They (kids) might not snowboard themselves, but they know about it. It’s something cool and counter-culture driven,” Shearer said.

“Through snowboarding I can be a role model for kids and hopefully influence their lives in a positive way,”  he said.

 This message seems to resonate with avid snowboarders, like Peter Fisco, of Jackson, Wyo.

“It is one thing to see (Pros) tearing it up down a run and then at the bottom talk about how much they love their…sponsors, but it would be even more powerful if they could drop a line or two about how the average snow-sport-loving bro could get out there and make a difference either locally at their own mountain or globally through (a non-profit),” Fisco said.

The Wilderness Society has been campaigning to pass policies and legislation in Congress that ramp down dangerous heat-trapping emissions and help keep our wildlands resilient in a warming world. Having these athletes join the cause is a great benefit to combating false beliefs about climate change, especially as many conservatives in Congress repeatedly try to deny the science behind climate change and reject federal efforts to protect the public health from the dangers of carbon pollution.

There is a lot that needs to be done. That’s why organizations like Protect our Winters (POW) and The Wilderness Society need your help in fighting to spread the word about climate change. Click here to join our Wild Alert community and receive action alerts on climate change and other issues the impact our magnificent wildlands.

Photo: Forrest Shearer. Courtesy Protect Our Winters.