It may seem obvious: Winter sports require snow. But with climate change destroying delicate ecosystems, it’s more important than ever for organizations like the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) to encourage sustainability so that snow sticks around. Whether it’s reducing carbon emissions, cutting back on members’ consumption of various products, or partnering with resorts and suppliers to be more sustainable, the USSA—as well as other winter sports enthusiasts—are making a stand for greener and more environmentally-friendly practices.
The USSA is no stranger to strong leadership implementing changes like the environmental adjustments that are just now going into effect. Longtime board member Thom Weisel, for instance, helped make the USSA the leading organization it is today by merging the United States Ski Association with the US Ski Team.
These days, USSA Senior Director Eric Webster is taking the lead when it comes to helping the USSA evolve—this time in the direction of mitigating the risks caused by climate change. “We kind of sat on the sidelines for a number of years, but with everything that’s going on…we felt it was important to use our image and athletes to promote [sustainability],” Webster told Vail Daily.
The specifics of the USSA’s plan are still to be worked out, but they are currently looking at recycling programs, offsetting carbon footprints during competitions, carpooling, and an overall reduction of paper products. And since the USSA competes all over the US—and the world at large—their changes are likely to encourage others to make green decisions as well.
The USSA has personal experience with the problems caused by climate change. Last year’s World Cup in Beaver Creek was canceled because it was too warm to make snow. And another World Cup in Tahoe was canceled three years ago, also because of unusually warm weather.
As part of the new initiative, the USSA has made new partnerships with the City of Park City, National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) and Protect Our Winters (POW), organizations dedicated to promoting environmentally-friendly practices.
Interestingly, the USSA isn’t the only ski-centric group to recently announce their plan to up their game when it comes to fighting climate change. In early November a group of veteran skiers from British Columbia, Canada released a documentary called The Curve of Time about how the practices of extreme winter athletes can have negative effects on the environment—and what to do about it. Following skiers Greg Hill and Chris Rubens, the documentary highlights these athletes’ efforts to be more sustainable and to protect the environments where they enjoy their winter sports.
“My main thing is exploration and adventure in the mountains and enjoying nature,” said Hill. “But the way I get to nature is terribly detrimental to the places I love.”
Hill has subsequently traded his Ford truck for an electric one, stopped using his snowmobile, limited transatlantic flights, and given up eating meat during the week. He’s hoping his actions, as well as the other documentary content, will inspire others to think more sustainably, both recreationally and in their daily lives.
The Curve of Time was released as part of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival on November 9 and will be generally available early next year.
The leadership of winter sports athletes and related organizations is vital to spreading the word about the environmental impact of well-loved sports—as well as coming up with solutions for how those sports can be enjoyed without causing damage to the natural world that enhances them.