In 2007, alarmed by the number of ski resorts closing due to lack of snow, and noticing a need for a non-profit environmental organization to mobilize the snow-sports community in the fight against climate change, professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones founded Protect Our Winters (POW). Since then, his labour of love has grown into a movement that counts 11 full-time employees, a multitude of world-renowned outdoor brands and athletes as partners and ambassadors, and 130,000 members and counting. In mid- September, with the organization beginning to expand globally, The Great White North joined the mix with POW ambassador and the godfather of freeskiing, Mike Douglas, spearheading the launch of Protect Our Winters Canada.
Mike Douglas. Photo by Reuben Krabbe
“Climate change is an issue that knows no borders,” says Douglas. “And with the political systems, education systems and rules around non-profits being different in every country, POW realized you can’t just take a blanket approach.”
After speaking at an event on how climate change is affecting the mountains, POW approached Douglas, who’s been one of freeskiing’s foremost spokespersons since the sport’s inception, about coming on board to bring the movement to Canada. And while many may consider his well-documented exploits on the slopes and the subsequent future of his profession reason enough to get involved, it was his children that provided the biggest motivation.
“I’ve lived a great life and have experienced a lot of great things, but I’m much more concerned about my kids’ future,” he says. “I want them to live in a world that has the same great things we have, like clean air and clean water, so it’s much more about them than myself.”
Protect Our Winters Canada Ambassadors. Photo by Reuben Krabbe
Alongside Douglas, who chairs Protect Our Winters Canada’s board, POW ambassadors Greg Hill, Ian McIntosh, Tobin Seagel and Marie France-Roy committed themselves to the effort, while Dave Erb, who has extensive experience working with Canadian non-profits, stepped up to lead the charge as Executive Director. “It’s been a long time since I’ve worked on something where I’ve seen so many people so energized and wanting to get involved,” Douglas says of the early interest in the organization’s establishment. “There’s a tipping point in society when some sort of catalyst takes place to create public awareness to a point where people want to get involved, which is what we want to do with POW Canada.”
The organization’s aims include education and awareness, particularly by targeting youth with their Hot Planet/Cool Athletes initiative, which will see athletes travelling to schools across Canada to discuss the threat of climate change with the decision makers of tomorrow. They’ve also completed a national launch campaign of meet-and-greet events, which succeeded in getting like-minded people together at Mountain Equipment Co-op stores in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary throughout October and November.
Chris Rubens and Greg Hill at the POW Canada launch event at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vancouver. Photo by Reuben Krabbe
“Our goal is to get POW Canada to a point where people fully realize how big of a deal climate change is, and become willing to get serious about doing something,” says Douglas.
Photo by Anna Segal
To start getting serious, visit protectourwinters.ca and sign up to become a free member for updates on the organization’s plans, or to donate... for the sake of future generations. —JEFF SCHMUCK