Outdoor enthusiasts lend their voices to conscious recreation
In an industry that depends on snow, most of the tools necessary to participate in skiing and snowboarding are decidedly un-green—cars need gas to reach the hill, snowcats need gas to groom it; lifts require electricity – unless you’re into ski porn, but that usually involves quite a few helicopters.
The Sierra experienced a record-breaking 2016-17 snow season, but the memory of the drought will not soon fade. And the economic uncertainty of ski towns whose lifeblood is snow (“The coldest summer I ever spent was the winter of 2014-15 in Mammoth” stickers still slapped around town bear a reminder) makes turning a blind eye to climate change a risky proposition.
Even with the intense winter storms that dropped merciful precipitation on the Sierra, the winter of 2016-17 was the sixth warmest in the 123 that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has record of, with an average nationwide temperature of 35.9 degrees Fahrenheit (3.7 degrees above average).
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA) CEO Rusty Gregory said in November 2016 that “the Sierra is certainly suffering from… global climate change. There’s no question about that … Except for a few idiots, the science is pretty tough to refute.”
The trade group Outdoor Industry Association found last year that Americans spend $646 billion annually on recreation—more than on motor vehicles. And a shift has begun in that market. In February, Adventure Journal reported that the Outdoor Retailer (OR) trade show, after 20 years in Salt Lake City, will sever ties with the state of Utah after its 2018 Summer Market. The reason? Utah’s Republican leadership, which many in the outdoor industry see as antagonistic to its needs and philosophies. A Feb. 16 conference call with Utah governor Gary Herbert failed to convince industry leaders from the Outdoor Industry Association that the state would safeguard its public lands (Utah recently threatened to rescind the Bears Ears monument status). The Outdoor Retailer trade show will no longer be held in the Beehive State.
“It is clear that the governor indeed has a different perspective on the protections of public lands from that of our members and the majority of Western state voters, both Republicans and Democrats—that’s bad for our American heritage, and it’s bad for our businesses,” said the group in a press release.