In Copenhagen, one skier wants to save our snow

At the U.N. climate talks, droves of delegates in suits walk beside young activists in T-shirts, but there’s only one person in the building with a pair of skis strapped to her back.

That’s Alison Gannett, an extreme skier who holds World Cup Free-skiing titles and starring roles in Warren Miller films of the ’90s. For the past decade, however, she’s been a climate change activist in the U.S.

“I really felt that for some reason, people weren’t connecting to climate change,” Gannett says. “It was too far away, too esoteric, too intangible.”

So to make the problem more concrete, two years ago, she started the Save Our Snow foundation, which is why she’s attached that message on a glossy paper to her backpack in Copenhagen. It’s a message that many people, especially Canadians, can relate to.

Her get-up has been a conversation starter with everyone from the president of Costa Rica to the first president of the UNFCC, who both tapped her on the shoulder when they saw her skis.

But the “save our snow” message goes beyond sport, Gannett says, since more than 50 percent of the world’s drinking water comes from snow.

Like many skiers, Gannett has spent a lot of time in Canada. Her favorite spot is Rossland, B.C., the home of Red Mountain. She also raves about Whistler (check out CG’s Travel article from November), but not because of the powder.

“Whistler as a ski area has done amazing things to calculate their carbon emissions, reduce and offset them and produce clean power,” she says.

Gannett is also a fan of B.C.’s carbon tax, a system that the province introduced in 2008 to make companies pay for their emissions. The tax doesn’t create revenue for the province and is given back to taxpayers.

If sirens are going off just thinking about the carbon impact of Gannett’s travels – consider this. She lumps together speaking engagements geographically, and often has to break the news to organizations that she might only be able to come speak in two years. On the way to Denmark, she walked from London to Belgium, which took 15 days, before hopping on the climate express train to Copenhagen.

But if walking across countries isn’t your thing, Gannett has other suggestions for cutting back consumption. Her web site lists some easy ways to be sustainable.

“A lot of people say ‘oh we have to climb into a cave’ to make these reductions, but I show examples of how to reduce your carbon footprint and still retain a very high quality of life,” Gannett says.

Check back soon for more reports from Copenhagen.

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