Ski Resort on Big Mountain Joins Whitefish’s Climate Advocacy Efforts

Whitefish Mountain Resort, Explore Whitefish and the city partner with Protect Our Winters alliance to raise awareness about climate change and solutions

By Tristan Scott
Snow-making machines throw fresh flakes on the trails of Whitefish Mountain Resort on Nov. 26, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain has joined the city and its promotional partners to raise awareness about climate change through a collaboration with Protect Our Winters (POW), the organization launched 15 years ago by professional to advance local climate change initiatives.

According to the announcement by Explore Whitefish and Whitefish Mountain Resort, the multi-year partnership with POW is designed to raise awareness about climate change, craft solutions to reduce emissions and provide residents with the tools they need to preserve their lifestyles and livelihoods from a warming planet. 

Established by the city of Whitefish in 2006, Explore Whitefish is the officially designated organization charged with destination marketing and stewardship of Whitefish, also known as the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Whitefish Mountain Resort was founded in 1947 as Big Mountain Ski Resort and has operated continuously as an independent ski resort owned by Winter Sports Inc. for nearly 75 years. In 2018, the City of Whitefish adopted the Whitefish Climate Action Plan, with the overarching goal of reducing city facility emissions 26% by 2025, using 2016 emissions as a baseline. 

Through the POW alliance, the partnership will work closely with Climate Smart Glacier Country and the Whitefish Climate Action Plan Standing Committee to help drive community discussions, education, and increased actions to reduce emissions, including support for local solar projects. Visitors will be able to contribute to future clean energy initiatives, as well as other actions like support for replanting the whitebark pine in the Whitefish Range, an endangered species in the high alpine affected by a warming climate. Whitefish Mountain Resort works closely with the US Forest Service and has been touted as one of the most whitebark-friendly ski resorts in North America.

“Our way of life in Whitefish is in jeopardy if more action is not taken on climate change,” said Dylan Boyle, executive director for Explore Whitefish. “With this partnership, we can help in the work to continue to make climate a priority for both residents and visitors and be part of an important cultural shift. This partnership will help identify more solutions locally and advocate for their adoption. It may not change the whole world, but it will help give us more of a fighting chance to save winter in Whitefish for generations to come.”

Fifteen years ago, professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones saw the mountains around him, the snowpack, and the seasons changing rapidly. In 2007, he founded POW to help passionate outdoor people protect the places and lifestyles they love from climate change. 

“From smoky summers to shifting, less consistent winter seasons, mountain communities like Whitefish are seeing the effects of global warming firsthand,” according to a statement from Jones. “The local community and people from around the country who recreate in Whitefish are passionate about the outdoors no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. And through voting for climate champions and advocating for programs and policies that will slow warming, we all have an important role to play in protecting our outdoor way of life and in many cases also our livelihoods. We are grateful for the Whitefish community’s partnership with POW and look forward to joint efforts on climate solutions and advocacy efforts.”

The POW community is made up of outdoor athletes, scientists, brands, and hundreds of thousands of people. In the U.S. there are 50 million people who make up what POW calls the Outdoor State, people who regularly recreate outdoors.

“Together they have the ability to make massive strides in advancing cross-partisan policies designed to protect what they have in common: a love of the outdoors,” Jones added.

According to Nick Polumbus, president and CEO of Whitefish Mountain Resort, there is a renewed sense of urgency for stakeholders, including those invested in the winter sports industry and in the health of the planet.

“In my time in this industry I have seen the weather become more volatile and I have watched the beginning and end of our seasons become more tenuous and difficult,” Polumbus said. “This season has been a good example of that. While the issue of climate change can be seen as a partisan or political issue, this is rapidly shifting — it is a human issue. Climate change will continue to shorten the winter season and make it harder to do the sports we love. Why wouldn’t we want to reverse this and strive to make things more efficient and cleaner?”

A new study reports that in about 35 to 60 years, mountainous states are projected to be nearly snowless for years at a time if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked and climate change does not slow. The Rocky Mountains are warming twice as fast as the global average and Montana’s glaciers are predicted to soon disappear. If global emissions stay on the same trajectory, 20 of the 21 destinations that have previously hosted the Olympic Winter Games won’t be viable for safe, fair competition by the end of the century.

“The City of Whitefish has made the mitigation of climate change a priority,” said Mayor John Muhlfeld. “We welcome this partnership as we continue our community’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for the protection of our environment.”

For more information, visit www.explorewhitefish.comwww.skiwhitefish.com , and join Team POW at www.protectourwinters.org.

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