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Shorter winters, less snow put life as we know it at risk

November 7th, 2014 Posted in Outdoors

Story and photo by Jared Dangerfield

LOGAN — As another winter approaches, ski enthusiasts are crossing their fingers for a “good powder year” but some ski bums are worried there may not be very many good years left.

Porter Fox, a lifelong skier and editor of Powder Magazine, was in Logan Wednesday to talk about the problem and promote his new book, DEEP: the Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow.

Porter Fox, author of DEEP: The story of skiing and the future of snow, signs copies of his book Wednesday at USU. Photo by Jared Dangerfield.

In his research, Fox has been looking at the relationship between global climate change and the shrinking amounts of snow falling around the world each year. He presented many staggering figures in hopes to connect skiers and boarders worldwide in an effort to mitigate human impact on the rising temperatures.

“In the last 50 years a million square miles of spring snowpack has vanished from the northern hemisphere, and in Europe in the last 150 years they have lost half of their glacier ice,” Fox said. “Two-thirds of the ski resorts in Europe will likely close in next 50 to 70 years, and in the U.S. Northeast, we’re looking at half of the (103) ski resorts closing in the next 30 years.”

Whether a person is a snow enthusiast or not, Fox said they will be affected. “Talking about snow as a vital element of the earth’s climate cycle and also water cycle, everything downstream from the mountains is at stake; from river habitats to hydro-power, to wildfires, to the farms around here and the irrigation,” he said. “When we say spring snowpack is melting out two weeks early, to a skier they’ll say go a bit higher up, but to a farmer down in the foothills, that’s a really big change.”

He believes that humans can make a difference and possibly reverse the effects of climate change. “Start off with changing light bulbs, riding bikes, getting a gas efficient car or even better, walking,” he said. “I think it’s pretty obvious people know that is what they should be doing.”

But, he also emphasized that while these individual acts such as recycling can be beneficial to the environment—as well as to your bank account— they are not enough.

“We really need coal-fired power plants to shut down. We need to stop burning fossil fuels, this is not an effort to put people out of work, it’s actually a huge effort to invest in America to move into more efficient and better energy sources.”

This goal, to bring down fossil fuel reliance, is the most important obstacle to overcome in attempts to bring back the snow. But, he says it is difficult to change people’s minds in what has become a political debate. He says however the debate over whether or not climate change is actually happening, is over.

“The scientific debate is over. It is fact. What is being debated now is how to deal with it and what is going to happen in separate regions,” he said. “The only reason the politics are involved in this at all, is that you need national energy policy change.”

Jack Greene, who recruited Fox to come speak in Logan, said, “The main thing I wanted to do was connect him with students and non-students. To get them to start thinking this is real, and get them to start thinking how they can make a difference.”

Greene, who lives in Smithfield, takes full advantage of the winter snow and spends a couple of hours every day either cross-country or Nordic skiing in the mountains east of his home. He hopes skiers can band together to put pressure on politicians and reduce the amount of carbon being put into the air.

Greene and Jim Goodwin worked through Intermountain Bioneers to sponsor Fox’s appearances, which were co-sponsored by Bear River Watershed Council. His talks were free to the public at noon at Utah State University and in the evening at Bruner Hall at First Presbyterian Church.

“We’re excited to spread the word of healthy living, and glad to hear notes of hope,” said FPC Pastor Paul Heins. “The biggest thing we fight against is despair. Any time we can present hope, I think it inspires people to act and change their behavior.”

Heins, who also enjoys spending time in the snow, although he is not an avid snowboarder, is hoping that people will understand the importance of protecting the environment not only for just recreational purposes. “As a congregation, we’ve become a lot more interested in issues of sustainability and healthy living, and particularly how it relates to our faith walk,” he said. “Our faith compels us to work for wholeness and health, not just for people, but for the whole creation.”

Fox encourages people who are seeking more information on how they can contribute to the mitigation of climate change to get involved with Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization created by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones.


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