By Chris Steinkamp, Executive Director at Protect Our Winters
Last year, we began assembling a network of international affiliate POW offices, because simply, our goal is to create a global movement against climate change. We’re a global outdoor sports community and climate change knows no bounds.
Slowly and thoughtfully, we’ve been building our network in France, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Germany made up of incredibly passionate and experienced POW supporters who want to take what we’ve been doing here in the US and replicate it closer to home.
When we brought up the idea of a meeting a few months ago on our monthly group Skype call, I was excited about the opportunity to meet the team in person, and map out how this loose coalition of partners would finally become one. So last week in Innsbruck, we met as a group for the first time – to have formal introductions, set the framework and celebrate the global movement that we’re all a part of.
What transpired over the next two-and-a-half days was way beyond what I had ever hoped for.
Arriving for dinner on Friday night at the Seegrube, a tram-ride a mile above Innsbruck, the level of climate expertise in the room was clearly evident but even more so, it was clear how incredibly committed to this project everyone is. Hearing the team talk about traveling 30 hours on a train from Sweden and Norway, spending their weekends to be here, put this entire event in crystal-clear perspective: the commitment level was at 11. This was no casual meet up, they were all there for one thing: to build POW into a global brand to solve climate change.
It was also so humbling and energizing to see how POW has grown to be so strong around the world. Maybe I am too close to this sometimes to realize it, but what we launched in 2007 has become very real – a brand that has the same meaning and emotional connection in Austria for example, as it does in Aspen and Truckee. The love for the brand and our mission was so apparent and the realization that what we’ve built had been taken and re-interpreted in other places around the world is just incredibly mind blowing.
For the next two days, we met in the offices of POW Austria, a co-working space in Innsbruck, which would be our home for the weekend. The first day was focused on getting to know each other, with presentations from each team about the staff, the work and their approach to the issue locally. While every presentation was different, the POW brand, our mission and approach were consistent. This is what we set out to do, have global consistency with local applications.
For example, POW Finland is working on an amazing project to get Finland’s ski resorts on 100% renewable energy. POW France and Norway are doing some amazing work with their their Riders Alliance pros. Same mission, different language.
Check out the latest from POW Finland here:
Day two was focused on collaboration on a common future and our discussions centered around concretizing this in a roadmap. Showing up a little blurry eyed and jet lagged didn’t last long – we dove right into some key issues and didn’t stop until early evening, with the energy level remaining high through all of it. How do we create a global partnership platform? What does our global POW Riders Alliance look like? What is our next global campaign? Big, pressing questions that need to get solved if we’re going to operate efficiently. While we didn’t get the answers to every question, we set up the framework to get us there through tighter collaboration and by creating working groups that are already actively working on solutions. And that was the most important part.
The weekend ended with sad goodbyes to new, but old friends. But with those goodbyes, there was a camaraderie and energy that was tough to ignore – nobody was putting their pencils down, and while we were heading home to other things, we knew that the work we did would continue in earnest. The sincere bond I felt with everyone was unreal, it was like I had spent years, not days with this group of amazing activists. As I told the group as we packed up, this weekend was one of the all-time POW moments for me. One that I never expected.
And as we all hiked down the hill after dinner from the Seegrube on the first night, I had to step back at times to take note of what was going on – I was with a group of friends that I first met just hours ago, from all across Europe, joking and laughing and bonded together by our commitment to solving climate change and taking POW to the next level.
This was all very surreal, but thankfully, it was very real.