Jeremy Jones is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts as a Community Resilience Leader.
I started Protect Our Winters (POW) because I had seen real change in the winters during my time spent in the mountains. Snow levels were rising, glaciers shrinking, and winters starting later. The definitive moment was when I was in Northern Canada walking a grassy mountain that used to be a ski hill. It was February and I was with some locals who were telling stories about growing up riding the mountain. When I asked why it was now closed I was shocked at their answer. “It no longer snows here and we don’t have snow making so they had to close the resorts.” Stories like this kept piling up.
Anecdotal stories are one thing, but we recently commissioned a study that actually answers the question: “What is the economic impact of an inconsistent winter?” The results were staggering: in peril are the economies of tourist-dependent states where winter tourism generates $12.2 billion in revenue annually, supports 212,000 jobs, and $7 billion in salaries. Those are the jobs and businesses owned by our friends and families - generators of billions in federal and state income. To us, winter is serious business.
So what is Protect Our Winters doing about it?
First, it’s critical to educate the youth about the problem and inspire them to be the next generation of environmentalists. Throughout the year, we bring professional snow sports athletes into high schools to talk to students about their first-hand experiences with climate change and specific ways to be part of the solution. It’s incredibly powerful to have Olympians and X Games champions talk about climate change and then ask students to join them in being part of the solution. Since launching our Hot Planet/Cool Athletes program in 2012, we’ve met over 15,000 students at 37 schools nationwide.
We also spend a great deal of time with our corporate partners and professional athletes to mobilize the winter sports community at the grassroots level and amplify our collective voices in Washington. The US winter sports industry supports 600,000 jobs and generates $66 billion in economic revenue in the US. If we are going to make a difference, we have to make sure that our community is vocal and recognized at the federal level.
With climate change a constant and visual presence in our lives, our efforts have to be smart, impactful, and swift. Winter sports are in the cross hairs of climate change and I’m as committed as I’ve ever been to continue our efforts on behalf of our industry, our mountain communities, and for our future generations.
Jeremy Jones is an award-winning filmmaker, entrepreneur, environmentalist, and snowboarding pioneer.