Sustainable pro skiing is undoubtedly oxymoronic. The gear, the resources, and the travel alone use tons of fossil fuels that contribute to the rapid increase in carbon pollution. We know that, and so does Angel Collinson. But as one of the leading female skiers of our generation, these less than environmentally friendly practices have given her a voice, and a loud one at that. As a direct result of her career as a pro skier, Angel has had access to politicians, students, teachers, business execs, all the with explicit purpose of inspiring her fans to protect the environment that she has shown them through her skiing.
"I'm not trying to boast that I'm the most sustainable, I'm not perfect" says Angel. But it is something she's passionate about and that passion is what can make change. As TGR co-founder Steve Jones said, "We know that walking to Alaska is unrealistic. We also know that the content we produce inspires people to get outside. Our films nurture a deep appreciation for our natural environment, and foster a community of mountain-minded enthusiasts"
To quote our very own Ian McIntosh, everyone should "ski with a purpose." While he may not have climate change in mind when he frequently tells our rookie athletes to do just that, we think his words resonate with something larger than skiing aggressively. After hearing her speak at the SHIFT Conversation Festival in Jackson Hole, we figured we could take a few tips from one of the pros. From getting into the right headspace, to purposefully captioning a headshot, here are a few ways that Angel Collinson skis with a purpose and addresses climate change.
Passion Based Motivation Instead of Fear Based Obligation
"One minute before doom, eh? Well I would say don’t take anything too seriously. My advice is be a half-assed crusader, a part-time fanatic, don’t worry too much about the fate of the world. Saving the world is only a hobby. Get out there and enjoy the world, your girlfriends, your boyfriends, husbands, wives, climb mountains, run rivers, get drunk, do it while you can before it is too late.” (Edward Abbey)
Obligation is about as uninspiring as it gets. Whether or not it's necessary and prudent, which it is, obligation lacks the power to move someone to care. Passion based motivation is where the heart of climate change should be. If you love a place and feel deeply connected to it, you will do what you can to preserve it.
Engage With Your Environment
Angel might engage with her environment a little differently than a normal person might...Mark Fisher photo.
You can't protect what you don't know. Pro skiers are intimately engaging with our environment every single day. Reading the temperatures, studying the snowpack, digging pits, and eventually, reaping the benefits of a pow day, all require immense understanding of what is going on in a specific region and climate.
But for the majority of you who don't make your living in the mountains, get out and enjoy what you have. Whether or not it's a lunch break stroll in your backyard, a weekend bike ride with friends, get to know your surroundings. Engaging with your environment is the first step to fostering an appreciation for it. And if you appreciate your planet, you will be more inclined to protect it.
Find One Thing, Not Everything
Angel and Dash finding the goods for Paradise Waits. Photo via Angel's Facebook.
Whether its an animal you love, a food you can't live without, a mountain that has become your home, find one thing to be passionate about. If each person in the US was dedicated to protecting one one things, we could make a difference. Climate change is an immensely comprehensive and codependent issue that affects all aspects of our lives, which means that those little things affect each other as well.
Check out this website if you want to know how climate change will affect something that you love. From microbrew beer, to merino wool, to the Colorado Rockies, protect something.
Small Changes Can Make a Huge Difference
Small things really do make a big difference. Photo via Angel's Facebook.
Simple practices, like replacing your light bulbs to LED, turning them off when you leave, riding your bike to work, forgoing plastic water bottles and bags for reusable ones, and locally sourcing your food can pave the way for a sustainable lifestyle.
Even if you can't "green" your entire life, try implementing the little things. Fostering an awareness through daily activity can be the first step to building a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Socia Media Is Good For More than Selfies
Documenting our every action has become as routine as washing our hands (bad example). But for skiers and snowboarders, social media has become a means to an end. Followers, friends, and likes can snag you sponsors, get you laid, make you famous, and also make a difference.
Angel uses hers for the latter. As a general rule Angel says "you can't go wrong when it's from the heart and you're expressing something authentic" Social media shouldn't be an outlet to tell your followers what to do or scare your friends into likes and petition signs, it should be a way to engage with your audience about something your excited about. Organizations like Protect Our Winters who use social media as a platform have done so successfully, by integrating hashtags like #actonclimate and #protectourwinters.
Use Your Power as a Consumer
Skiers need stuff, lots of stuff, but choosing wisely when you purchase can make all the difference. Photo via Angel's Facebook.
As skiers and snowboarders, we are consumers. Whether it be next years ski boots, or this seasons ski pass. We can choose where we spend our money. Why not pressure your hometown ski resort to incorporate the cost of carbon offsets into your ski pass? As mountain men and women, we have limited budgets, but purchasing carbon offsets can be a productive way to give back to our environment.
Perhaps opt out of the plastic bags at the grocery store, and consider a green alternative when shopping for appliances, like lightbulbs. We know money doesn't grow on trees, but rearranging your budget to incorporate sustainable practices may actually save those trees in the long run.
Changing the Way We Speak About It
Angel Collison front and center with Protect Our Winters at The White House
Whether it's chatting about the bear you saw in the park, the lack of snowfall, or even the smoggy air, it's easy to talk about climate change. It's happening every day all around us. But having a productive conversation about sustainability can be even easier. Spreading the stoke about a blower pow day at Alta or an inversion bluebird in Jackson can be just as effective picketing or lobbying.
Bringing the discourse back to the lunch break, the dinner party, the small talk can create social movements that aren't dictated by conferences and politics. And those conversations can motivate you to call your senator or support a bill because you want to, not because you have to.
Forums like the SHIFT Festival in Jackson have given communities the ability to address climate change and sustainability on a personal level, because yes, for the mountain towns, it's personal.
Angel is a privileged member of the small community of elite athletes who travel the world to film ski movies. By using the social platform that those films have enabled for her, she too can be a sustainable skier by pressuring our politicians and teaching our students. But, for the rest of us that don't have that influence, we can all individually do our part.
Angel skiing with a purpose. Blake Jorgensen photo.