We were crushed to hear the news on Thursday that Ken Achenbach has been forced to close Camp of Champions (‘COC’) in Whistler, B.C., due to lack of snow coverage and the shrinking Whistler Blackcomb glacier.
In an open letter published on Facebook, Ken wrote a heartfelt apology to his customers expressing his deep sorrow for the decision, which is sadly beyond his control and likely irreversible…
“To give you an idea of how much melting has happened the last few years, in 2015 alone the glacier lost 35 vertical feet of ice. Last year, the entrance to the entire glacier had to be moved 40 feet lower. … I haven’t slept in a week. After 28 years my dream is over. Honestly, I want to crawl under a rock. I feel like I have died. Camp is my life…. but global warming has decimated the glacier and our ability to run a summer camp.”
What makes this even harder to bear is the knowledge that this is likely to be the first of many such stories we’ll be reporting. Glaciers around the globe are melting at an unprecedented rate, whilst the likes of Donald Trump are claiming that climate change is a hoax. Sure, the rest of the civilised world may be sane enough to disagree, but we’re still not acting fast enough, and unless we do, we may not be left with any glaciers left to fight for.
Part of the reason we’re so passionate about acting on climate change with such urgency is that it’s happening before our very eyes. Whereas some, like President Trump and his cronies, see it as some elaborate dystopian conspiracy, the snow sports community is at the very front line of climate change . We’re seeing glaciers melting, high-temperature volatility during winter and ever more erratic snow conditions. Just the other day, we posted a before and after photo of the Glacier des Bossons in Chamonix to our Facebook page. The post prompted a lively discussion, and it was interesting to note that some pointed to the change of season in the photos as a reason behind the difference in the size of the glacier. It was a reasonable assumption to make but the sad reality is that whatever the season, the glacier is getting smaller.
This was also the case at COC, where it wasn’t so much the snowfall (the US had a bumper season) but the loss of glacier length and depth that caused the camp to close. Weather is short term and changeable, such a big snow winter whereas climate is long-term trends. Sadly this is not isolated, glaciers worldwide are moving backwards rapidly as POW UK ambassador Ed Leigh says “the changes we’re seeing now in the mountains are undeniable” and these are the canaries in the mine for our species.
Astonishingly, there are still those who continue to deny climate science. For a species whose civilisation is built on science, this is more than remarkable, it’s bare-faced lunacy. Imagine for a moment your feet start swelling and you start to feel intense pain. You go to the doctor who tells you that you have gout and need to cut back on the red wine and cheese. That’s not what you want to hear – you like red wine and cheese, so you go to another doctor. If you went to 100 doctors and 99 of them gave you the gout diagnosis, would you believe the one who didn’t? Of course not. In fact, you would be likely to question the professionalism of the one doctor who told you to crack on with the rich food and booze. Climate change denial is that one doctor.
For those of us who love winter – whether for the winter sports, the joy of building snowmen with children, sledging, glaciers or polar bears – this is a call to action. If we do not rapidly accelerate the pace of change to a low carbon economy, winter sports as we know them will be a thing of the past, not just impacting the priceless memories of millions of future holiday makers, but also decimating the winter sports economy. The wider environmental impacts on the natural systems which support our civilisation don’t even bear thinking about.
Concerned? You should be. We know this is a big, scary, global problem that our government and big business should be held accountable for – as individuals we often feel voiceless and powerless. That’s where POW comes in. We will guide you through the science and actions that we all, as a UK winter sports community, can take to drive effective change on climate change. Together, we have a louder voice and stronger impact. Together, we can take positive action to make a real, difference.
Let’s make change happen together and protect our winters for future generations.