Outside magazine recently posted a great piece on the environmental impact of skiing/ riding. Well, one particular aspect – the amount of carbon pollution we produce through driving or flying to get to ski destinations.

They tracked and collated the travel mileage during winter of their most snow-obsessed staff, then consulted a carbon offset specialist, who estimated they would have to plant 704 trees to sequester all the carbon generated.

That’s certainly one option: go hard, drive/ fly a lot, and offset at the end of the season…

Obviously you’d need to look into which offsetting companies are most reputable (because, of course, the offsetting only works if those trees are then managed and protected for long periods of time).

But even if some of us offset, climate change will still be impacting on the mountains we love.

If you look locally (say Australia), we will see that mining fossil fuels for electricity or export are the largest single sources of greenhouse pollution. For instance, in Victoria, the ‘stationary energy’ sector contributes around 50% of all our greenhouse emissions. So, if we want to reduce emissions, we should look at getting maximum effect by targeting big emitters. That means being involved in politics and getting active in campaigns to transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Behaviour change and minor measures like offsetting may be essential parts of the required response to climate change, but they are not sufficient on their own.

Apart from reducing future climate change, there is the need to help alpine species and environments adapt to the climate change that we’re already locked in to. There are groups working on this.

Here’s a few ideas:

Individual species: Mountain Critter Cause. MCC raises funds for the Endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum – a species on the brink of extinction and endemic to the Australian alpine ecosystem. You can find out more here.

The Alps as landscape. Support a group like the Victorian National Parks Association, who are working to keep our parks safe from development and feral species and adequately resourced to be able to respond to the realities of climate change.

Or work to tackle climate change directly. Support a group like Friends of the Earth (FoE) who have recently gained a permanent ban on fracking and onshore gas drilling in Victoria. (Disclosure: I work for FoE).

Protect Our Winters. POW is ‘is a passionate crew of diehards, professional athletes and industry brands mobilizing the outdoor sports community to lead the charge towards positive climate action. We focus on educational initiatives, political advocacy and community-based activism’.

Change behaviour

Some obvious ways to reduce our impact as snow addicts:

  • Carpooling. Most resorts will have a ‘seasoners’ facebook group where, amongst other things, you can organise rides to and from mountains. There are various forums where you can look for backcountry skiing buddies (and hence organise rides. Eg Backcountry Forum)
  • Catch the bus. If you’re just staying in resort (or going into the back country from near a resort) a bus is a great option. If you just do a trip or two per season by bus it starts to add up. One great trip to do by bus is to ski from Falls Creek to Hotham (and go the long way, via The Fainters)
  • skip low-snowfall days (and save the petrol)
  • remember that if you do need to fly to get to the snow, short haul flights – eg Melbourne to Hotham – are far less efficient than long-distance flights

Hassle the resorts

If you ski in resort, you will be adding a large carbon footprint to your skiing experience compared with being in the backcountry. Sadly, Australian resorts are pathetic when it comes to responding to climate change. If you do ski regularly in any resort, check out their climate change plan. If they don’t have one, ask them why not? As a starting point, resorts should be sourcing renewable energy from their electricity retailer to run the tows. They should be installing solar panels on resort buildings.They need to start playing their part in responding to climate change.

(Check the ‘climate change’ tag on mountain journal for some examples of overseas resorts who are showing leadership on climate).