From the Slopes to the Hill: Reflecting on My First POW Lobby Trip to D.C.


By: Bea Kim

Photos by POW Creative Alliance member, Chris Shane

Three years ago I attended my first POW Leadership Summit. During those three days in Reno, I witnessed the diversity within POW’s Alliances and was amazed to see people with varying perspectives and experiences sharing a collective agenda. It is also where I learned that athletes were often invited on lobbying trips to D.C. “Maybe one day,” I thought. I wondered if I’d ever be prepared enough to go. Or qualified enough. Or relevant enough. I wondered if one day I’d be able to go to the Capitol and take the quintessential POW banner photo. Since that first Summit, Graham Zimmerman, POW’s Athlete Alliance Director, has continuously supported me and we have discussed the possibility of me participating in a D.C. trip one day. Then, on a Wednesday in April, “one day” showed up in my inbox.

That quintessential POW banner photo on Capitol Hill

Honestly, I didn’t think “one day” would arrive so quickly, so going into D.C., I definitely had nerves. Not the same nerves I get before dropping into a competition or before attempting a new trick, but the nerves of walking into something completely new, almost like the first day of school nerves. I questioned how useful I could be and if I had anything to contribute during such a crucial time in climate history  – definitely some imposter syndrome. To make those “first day of school” nerves worse, I had been battling a persistent cough, and midway through the meeting, while trying to conceal my coughs, tears rolled down my face. Despite my unfortunate and rather embarrassing respiratory issues, my “first day of school” nerves dissipated in that very first meeting with Senator Rosen’s staff where I witnessed the unique energy POW brings to the Capitol, and I realized that I got to be part of it. 

As I prepared for my trip to D.C.,  I had no idea what would happen behind closed doors.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how interested the members of Congress and their staff were in our journeys to becoming professional outdoor athletes. I was under the impression that the majority of meetings would consist of strategic policy discussions. However, that was before I sat in a meeting with Representative Annie Kuster and she primarily wanted to talk about skiing, and before Senator Welch joked that his staff keep an eye on me because I might try to steal the Jake Burton signed pow surfer off the wall. Our shared connections to the outdoors made a seamless segue into how policy affects our personal and professional lives. Our stories of firsthand experiences with climate change and the people who embody POW are an anomaly on the Capitol. How often does a Congressional member get to meet a professional rock climber, skier, mountain biker, and snowboarder all in one day? Our stories add an emotional layer to why we are sitting in their offices asking them for their support on the Energizing Our Communities Act bill or to protect public lands like the Dolores River Canyon and the Ruby Mountains

The POW team meeting with Senator Welch

We briefly ran into Senator Cortez Masto while she was rushing from one engagement to another and Ben Gubits, POW’s Vice President of Advocacy and Campaigns, stopped her for a quick face-to-face re-introduction. The Senator was cordial and kind, as she would be with any of her constituents, but when Ben told her we were from POW, her facial expression and body language changed. She lit up with excitement and exclaimed how much she loves POW and appreciates our work, thanking us for being at the Capitol. Reciprocating, Ben graciously thanked her for her support on the Inflation Reduction Act and for her sponsorship of the Ruby Mountain’s Protection Act. This brief, informal encounter at the Senate “Swamp Site” squashed any doubts I had about POW’s effectiveness and strengthened my belief that this work really matters. 

Day two consisted of meetings with the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Administration’s Climate Policy Office. Lucky for me I woke up and my voice was gone.

The POW team meeting with Ali Zaidi, the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor to lead the Climate Policy Office

I listened as Ben and the President’s climate advisors discussed how the two agencies might help each other with the promotion and activation of current and future initiatives. Ben asked how POW could be most helpful with the Ruby Mountains withdrawal and the Dolores River National Monument Designation in addition to the work we were already doing with Senators and Representatives. I felt like I was in a slight fever dream, I was very excited to be at the White House for the first time, and trying to absorb as much information as possible, so I was surprised when Ben shifted the conversation to me: “What are young people around you talking about in regards to climate change?” Instantly all eyes were on me, and while my voice had warmed up throughout the day,  I was still worried it would come out in a nervous squeak. Luckily my voice prevailed, and I gave an answer that seemingly contradicted why we were there: To my knowledge, they [young people] aren’t speaking about climate change at all. I did not want to sound like a defeatist, because I know there are individuals in my generation who are speaking up and taking action to solve climate issues, but from my experience, young people are not talking about it as much as they should. Oftentimes, young people, myself included, say and think, “Let the adults handle it.” But by the time we are in charge, it will be too late. It is our responsibility to protect the places we love in order to change the future we will live in. This meeting helped me realize that being young is not a reason to be complacent when it comes to something you care about. A slightly ironic realization as the night before I wasn’t allowed into the POW happy hour because I wasn’t old enough. As the policy advisors continued to ask me questions about my generation’s involvement in the climate battle, all my apprehension and wondering if I should be there and if my perspective would be beneficial washed away. I realized in real time that continuing to show up for this cause matters, especially as a young person. Why wouldn’t we try to change something that has already affected us and will continue to affect us for the rest of our lives?

Are you looking for ways to embark on your climate advocacy journey or expand your understanding of climate science and policy? Check out our Climate Advocate’s Guidebook, your comprehensive guide for navigating the world of climate action. This resource covers everything from responsible banking to imperfect advocacy, equipping you with the knowledge and tools you need to be an advocate – every day.

Bea Kim

Author: Bea Kim

Bea Kim is a professional snowboarder and Athlete Alliance member. Growing up surfing, camping and hiking through State and National Parks, Bea discovered a passion for all things outdoors at an early age. Just after her ninth birthday, she was introduced to competitive snowboarding and instantly fell in love with the sport. Originally from Palos […]