Of all the organizations about I’ve been asked about over the years, Protect Our Winters (POW) is the unanimous #1. Interestingly, these queries come from both sides. Some resorts are unsure of the organization’s message/approach and want advice, while many POW supporters wonder why more resorts aren’t getting behind their cause.
When this conversation surfaced again a couple months ago, I offered Liftopia’s COO, Rob Webb, the chance to tell the POW side of the story. Liftopia has been supporting the POW cause for a while and Rob recently joined POW’s Board of Directors. Here’s what he had to say.
Like it or not, the ski industry is locked in a deathmatch with climate change. The pain of shorter, warmer, and more erratic seasons is being felt by our industry around the planet, from peaks in Switzerland to man-made hills in Michigan to volcanoes in New Zealand. The seasonal boom and bust of winter has always been a factor for us in the industry, but climate change has upped the ante.
2016 is on pace to be the hottest year on record. May was the hottest May ever recorded. April was the hottest April ever recorded. And so was March. And February. And January. And December. And November. And October. Yep. Eight in a row. If something doesn’t change, it’s going to get ugly.
Many resorts have recognized this, and many have done some really impressive work on the ground with their businesses, customers and municipalities. You just have to look at the NSAA Golden Eagle Awards and nominees over the last 20 years to get a glimpse of what has been accomplished. The fact that so many resorts have stepped up to act is awesome. As an industry, we should all be very proud of these efforts.
In 2007, Protect Our Winters launched, with a mission to engage and mobilize the snowsports community to lead the fight against climate change. At that time there was no central rally point for our industry, despite many of us already starting to see the impacts of climate change in the mountains around us. POW has since grown to be the leading organization in this effort, representing hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals, ski areas and industry partners who are committed to addressing climate change.
POW understands the irony that you all probably see too…how can an organization advocate for climate action on behalf of a carbon intensive industry? The truth is that, right now, nobody is perfect and the reality is that, at least for a while, we’re all dependent on fossil fuels. So while we should continue to look inwards and reduce wherever we can (and many of us are doing that already), we also need to see the larger challenge and double-down in areas that will have the greatest impact. For example: pro snowsports athletes who produce CO2 by traveling to do their jobs, but use their influential voices in Washington and in the media to mobilize millions to fight climate change. Or our customers, producing CO2 by traveling to resorts to ski and snowboard, but doing so in a responsible manner and supporting political representatives who support climate change legislation. Those are the kinds of tradeoffs that we all have to be OK with, otherwise we should just pack up and go home.
What I want to talk about today is the unique angle the ski industry has in the fight on climate change, how it relates to the work Protect Our Winters has been undertaking, and what we as marketers can do to help. I hope you will see that it’s actually our best shot at winning this thing.
The Problem? Scale.
The trick with emissions and climate change is SCALE. In 2010, 77% of global CO2 emissions came from just 90 corporations which produced nearly twenty-eight billion tons of CO2. To put that number in context, if you assume each of the 9.8 million skiers and snowboarders in the U.S. had an above-average carbon footprint of 30 tons per year (U.S. avg. is 20 tons per year), all skiers and snowboarders in the U.S. would produce 196 million tons of CO2.
This means that, even with aggressive assumptions, all U.S. skiers and snowboarders, combined, produced less than 0.7% of the total global CO2 emissions in 2010. So even if we got every single one of our customers to magically become completely carbon neutral, we would change global emissions by less than 1% and we wouldn’t come remotely close to winning the war on climate change.
In other words, we’re not going to win this thing just by inspiring our customers to reduce their carbon footprints or pledging our businesses to go carbon neutral in twenty years. If we want to win, the change has to be top-down from from the federal government in Washington.
Working in Washington
The unique and real impact we can have in Washington, as an industry, is leveraging the fact that we are businesses impacted by climate change. Ski is a multi-billion dollar global industry, employing hundreds of thousands of people, creating $62 billion in economic value in the U.S. alone. And much of the ski industry is based in states whose leaders in Washington still deny that climate change is happening and refuse to support climate change legislation.
But most in Washington who are climate change deniers see themselves as passionately “pro-business” and “pro-jobs.”
So the ski industry is in a unique position to have a real impact because we bring a specific, local, pro-business argument to the war against climate change that resonates very powerfully in Washington. A “save the planet” messages does not resonate with climate change deniers…a “save the jobs and businesses in your state” message is entirely different, and it works. You can check to see if your region’s’ representatives deny climate change here and here.
This is why Protect Our Winters has become active in Washington. They carry our industry’s uniquely powerful message, which breaks through in DC at the very highest levels. Don’t believe me? Watch this video:
That’s EPA Administrator and Obama Cabinet member Gina McCarthy talking candidly with POW Board Member Gretchen Bleiler and Brody Leven, whom she knows personally through working with POW in DC, attending the 2015 and 2016 Winter X Games, and keynoting SIA in 2016: she understands our power and wants more support from the ski industry.
This is why members of the White House climate team are on a first name basis with many POW athletes and POW’s Executive Director: they recognize our power and want more support from the ski industry.
We are a massive industry, impacted by climate change, and many of us are in regions whose representatives deny that climate change is even happening. Because of this, our voices have huge impact. If we’re going to protect our industry, now is the time to do it.
Our strength is in our numbers. It’s imperative that we join the voices of ski areas, brands and the snowsports community together so they can have the impact that we desperately need. Let’s use our marketing firepower to help Protect Our Winters unite this industry and fight on our behalf in Washington.
A simple & high-impact way, we, as ski industry marketers, can support the climate cause is by adding Protect Our Winters as a sponsor to your promotions which collect email addresses from skiers and snowboarders, including POW as a sponsor and on the submission opt-in. Liftopia has done this over the last year with several of our sweepstakes and promotions, and our work grew POW’s email list 4x, from 30,000 to 120,000+ subscribers. This was incredibly easy for us to execute and has changed the way POW operates. POW can focus on elevating our voice in Washington to save winter for us all and Liftopia gets nice brand affiliation with a cause our customers care about. It’s hard to find a downside.
But we’re just one brand out of thousands. Imagine if we all aimed our marketing at the same target. Imagine if we didn’t just fight to thrive as businesses, but did so in a way that protected our planet and our sports for future generations.
If you can pull it off, your grandchildren might thank you one day.
New stories, ideas, and jobs delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.