The Current

'Canaries in the coal mine': Skiers speak up on climate change to save winter sports

Winter sports may be the latest casualty of climate change, as advocates say winters are getting shorter, and certain sports are becoming less viable. We talk to two skiers about what's being done to save the snow.

Freeskier Mike Douglas says winter athletes are on front lines of fight to reduce carbon emissions

Athletes and advocates of the winter sporting world are raising concerns about how climate change is affecting the planet — and the activities they love. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
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With global temperatures set to rise and ski resorts grappling with how to handle the changing climate, one skier says winter sport athletes are on the front lines of climate change.

Freeskier and filmmaker Mike Douglas came to that realization after noticing changes on Horstman Glacier in Whistler, B.C., where he used to train.

Mike Douglas is a professional freeskier, filmmaker and chair of Protect Our Winters Canada, a group that's concerned about the impact of climate change on winter sports. (Submitted by Mike Douglas)

"After five or 10 years of training up there, I started to see changes like, oh that rock up there used to be down here. The ice used to fill this bowl and it no longer does," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"It was probably about 15 years after I started training up there that I realized that that glacier would be gone in my lifetime, and that was … pretty sobering."

Douglas now chairs Protect Our Winters Canada, a group that's concerned about the fate of the planet — as well as winter sports, the industry behind it, and communities like Whistler that survive on the promise of snow returning each year.

They are trying to encourage the winter sports community to speak up about climate change.

Freeskier Mike Douglas says he's witnessed 'sobering' changes on the face of Horstman Glacier at Whistler Blackcomb during his years of training there. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

'Disconnect' among industry leaders

But one skier and writer says industry owners in the U.S. have denied that climate change will affect their business, and have financially supported legislators who have blocked climate change initiatives.

"It's a disconnect that's just pretty hard to understand," said Porter Fox, an avid skier and author who was an editor of Powder magazine for 20 years.

However, those attitudes don't hold true all the way across the board. Some of the biggest utilities in the United States, which also service ski resorts, have committed to drastically reducing their carbon emissions over the coming decades, Fox said.

Porter Fox is an avid skier and writer. (Sara Fox)

He agreed that skiers are an ideal group to be spreading the word about fighting climate change.

"We're the canaries in the coal mine," he said. "We can see what's happening here and skiers are an affluent and powerful group that can amplify that message."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Sarah-Joyce Battersby and Ines Colabrese.

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