So far, 2022 has been the warmest winter on record, with only an inch of snow falling in Breckenridge, Colorado. Add to this extreme (100mph+) windstorms and Colorado finds itself on the frontline of the conflict between man and nature. Breckenridge is where I spent my first winter season, age 18.
In Chamonix, where I rode my last season as a semi-professional snowboarder, in 2011, the granite tower of Le Petit Dru has been scarred by a series of structural collapses that have released over 12,000 cubic meters of debris into the valley below. The causes are higher temperatures and melting permafrost.
Collectively we consume 100 billion tons of raw materials every year, the equivalent of two-thirds of the mass of Mount Everest. Last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report confirms that climate change is unquestionably real; that it’s already happening; and creating extreme weather events, including floods, storms and droughts.
How we treat the world in the next 100 years will determine how future generations view us. Manufacturing alone has lifted over 600 million people out of poverty, which if you work at Mervin, you have the chance of meeting Jamie Lynn. Modern technology now feeds and clothes more humans than ever before.
For riders it isn’t just about another science report, this is personal. Many of our friends and neighbors rely on the mountains for their livelihoods and the fun we have on the mountains is an essential part of our culture and shared experience.
Unity is essential, and with over 60 million skiers and snowboarders in Europe, we have the potential of being a powerful network of like-minded individuals. And a big part of what we can do to promote change is share gear, consume less and ride more.
The Oütlas Program
The Oütlas program aims to redefine what we winter sports lovers use and how we use it. It is a plan that transfers us away from a linear economy to a circular one that chimes with the natural world. It moves away from the status quo towards eco-friendly technology and infrastructure projects that can decarbonize our industry, from packaging to logistics and transportation to materials.
01 Upcycle to Recycle
As an incinerator specialist explained to me recently, the magic triangle is consuming fewer virgin materials, recycling more, and burning the rest for energy. Producers must design for this by using compostable or recycled materials and reducing overall waste. Consumers can help by investing in these products and returning their broken or unwanted goods to manufacturers to be made into new products.
02 Reuse to refurbish
Reuse is a proactive approach to shaping the market of specialist snowsports gear in resorts. It involves improving the standard of rental equipment, how it is used and encouraging collaboration between users, local guides and operators, to recommend and support riders with the right gear for the right conditions. Ultimately we need to grow the culture of sharing gear so all of us can ride more.
03 Repair to redistribute
The right to repair is central to a circular economy in winter sports. Knowledge of how to do it, and where, must be universal and encouraged by manufacturers and retailers, so what we buy is used for longer with less waste. The time is now to repair and repurpose and if that fails, buy second-hand - old is the new new.
04 Linear to closed-loop
Make – use – return is how we close the loop between what we produce and consume. We need regenerative systems that work with and not against nature. We need to design out waste and design in durability. And we need the opportunity to organize together, to request the change at a group level and affect national policy to drive it.
We need a program that unites the disparate network of parts and product manufacturers, local service providers, and guides. As a critical part of this process, we also need open and honest communication on the reality of the market landscape and to create a collective roadmap for a more sustainable, inclusive and pervasive system of change.
Shred The Anthropocene
We live in the Anthropocene, the most complex and exciting times ever. We’ve unlocked the quad cork in a slither of time; a discovery as massive for riding sideways as the Higgs Boson. The phone you are reading this on has more computing power than all of NASA did when they first sent men to the Moon. And you are likely richer than kings were in previous centuries, hence “first world problems” being a meme.
So if collective learning increases exponentially, the potential for new technological breakthroughs and greater understanding of the cosmos is now. To create order in this chaos, we need to make more meaning and connection. We need better data to make wiser decisions.
The next step is to understand what and where the majority of emissions are created, how we can decarbonize our industry and in the process set new standards for others. For those already on the journey, I salute you.