How do you inspire others to take a stand against global warming? Just ask Alison Gannett, world champion free skier from Crested Butte, Colo. Founder of two environmental nonprofits, the Office for Resource Efficiency and the Save our Snow (SOS) Foundation, 41-year-old Gannett recently teamed up with Clif Bar to create the Save our Snow Winter Road Trip. We spoke with Gannett about her SOS tour and her plans to educate people on how to take action against global warming.
How did you make the leap from professional skier to environmentalist?
Alison Gannett: Actually, I'm a lifelong environmentalist and skiing is my second career. I started my own business, Sunseekers Design, in '92. It was a business for green building consulting and energy efficiency consulting. Then, three years ago I decided it wasn't enough being a small business. I wanted to take the message bigger, so I started the Office for Resource Efficiency (ORE). That nonprofit focuses on all forms of global warming, so it's anything from alternative energy, energy efficiency, wind, solar, hydro, bio-diesel, etc. Two weeks ago I founded the Save Our Snow Foundation, taking the whole project to the national and international level. The goal of that foundation is to work with corporations and individuals to decrease their carbon footprints and then offset that in ways that are going to help save our snows for future generations.
What is the Save Our Snow Winter Road Trip?
The road trip has two purposes: we want to call attention to the impacts of global warming on winter sports and we want to inspire people to make changes in their lifestyle — to do something to save our snow. I think skiers and boarders are pretty unaware that snows could disappear in 50 percent of our ski areas in the United States in our lifetime.
How are you increasing their awareness?
There are several different ways we're going about the education. The first part is the "On Snow" portion. We renovated a 1980s RV to run on veggie oil and we'll be having tours of our "home" on the snow. I also have a solar-panel display with compact fluorescent light bulbs and a blender for solar-powered margaritas. In the evening, we're going to have Alison Gannett's Global Cooling Ski Adventure Show.
What will we see at the show?
I try to entice people to come see my ski film segment, but then the second part of the show is to educate people about climate disruption, how it's affecting the ski industry and what people can do about it. I try to have the show be more on the light, fun side — like, "here's a fact that glaciers are receding and here's a picture of me touring in India or touring Europe," so it makes it an adventure while you're learning.
What's causing the snow to melt in these mountain ski resort areas?
Temperatures aren't rising equally throughout the year; they're tending to disproportionately rise in the middle of winter. Europe is also receiving disproportionate amounts of global warming. There are lots of different theories, but the bottom line is that Europe is having more glacial recession than a lot of other places in the world. The other thing about Europe that's interesting is they depend on glaciers for their skiing, whereas in the U.S. we have hardly any glaciers, so we've been much more dependent on natural snow and snowmaking. A lot of people say, "Oh, well, we'll use snowmaking." But even with the toxic additives they use to make snow, they can't make snow above 34 degrees.
What's next on your agenda after this?
After this? I think this is going to be a long mission. I think we have five or 10 years to get our ducks in a row, to save our snow and keep our planet weather system from going haywire. So how do we create an army to go out and educate people and teach them how they can take action? I think that's the tough part. I was lucky enough to train with Al Gore this fall, and I think my goal in getting out there is to train another army that's gonna go out and do the same. I think a big part of it is just getting the word out there. Start with a message, like, "Oh, it's simple. Just change a few light bulbs."
Story by Alison Sherbach. This article originally appeared in Plenty in January 2007. The story was added to MNN.com in December 2009.
Copyright Environ Press 2007