Just one week from today within the blank walls of a federal building in Centennial, CO, I will take the Oath of Allegiance—the final step in the climb to becoming a U.S. Citizen.
“I will perform work of national importance…without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,” declares the Oath. Surely there will be others there, each of us with our own understanding of “importance” and “the American Dream.” Each with a vision of who we can be in this country, in our communities, and in the world. For some, this may be tied to freedom from persecution; for others, to economic opportunity, or to family.
For me, the American Dream has always been inextricably intertwined with the American landscape. The freedom to roam the lands specifically set aside for the preservation of wilderness is a unique right to be held in the highest esteem. The privilege of accessing hundreds of thousands of acres for the sole purpose of nourishing the spirit through recreation is a true gift. My American Dream affords the thrill of adventure that comes from dropping into a snow-covered slope, the opportunity to make a living pursuing the activities I love, and most importantly, the right to have a say in the decisions that impact such experiences.
That version of the American Dream is not unique to me; a pioneering economic report released by Protect Our Winters last week illustrates that some 23.5 million Americans participated in winter outdoor recreation in the 2015-2016 season (SIA, 2017). That recreation supported over 191,000 jobs in mountain communities across the country contributing $11.4 billion in value to the American economy. Let that sink in -191,000 jobs and $11.4 billion in what has been a tumultuous economy to say the least -winter recreation is clear contributor to our economy. But the report documents how low snowfall years decrease winter outdoor recreation’s contribution to the economy by over $1 billion and costs 17,400 jobs when compared to “average” seasons.
But as POW ambassador and Olympian Steven Nyman told USA Today, this is about more than the economy and jobs, it’s also about legacy. If we don’t “kick our fossil fuel addiction,” the world we pass on to the next generation will have fewer opportunities to share our beloved traditions, sports, and passions that are part of the American legacy. As POW’s report also shows, this does not have to be a pre-determined outcome. We have the human innovation, the technology we need, and the know-how to prevent that. What we don’t have is a lot of time; we must urgently ramp up the political will for climate-friendly legislation and solutions.
That is why at POW we are working with our members, strategic partners, athletes, top brands, and CEOs to lead our community in being a critical part of the solution. Last February, we led important discussions around carbon pricing and trained over 200 Burton employees on the science, solutions, and path forward on climate at the company’s headquarters in Burlington, Vermont. In Portland, OR, 130 millennials answered a call to action and emailed their representatives asking for climate action during a POW event hosted by 10 Barrel Brewing Co. At this year’s Outdoor Retailer show, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) and POW announced a joint initiative to be launched at Telluride’s Mountain Film Festival around a groundbreaking collaboration with trade groups, brands and CEOs to advance climate advocacy and action.
As an outdoor recreation community, we have the strength of millions. As POW Founder Jeremy Jones pointed out in a recent Op-Ed to the New York Times, “About 20 million people participate in winter sports every year. And many of them vote.” Last year’s special elections in Virginia and New Jersey showed that turnout matters. Red or blue, we will turn out in support of climate action across the country. POW is dedicating our work in 2018 to educating, recruiting, and activating voters. We’ll be at the 36th Annual Burton U.S. Open this week with the aim to recruit new voters right on the hill. We have partnered with Teton Gravity Research to connect with and motivate voters at the stops of their 2018 film tour. We are investing in resources and engagement opportunities for our athletes, CEOs, and partner brands. And this is only the beginning! We can do this but it’s going to take our entire community, we need your support.
As for me, when I take that oath next week and think about what it means to be an American, I will do so with gratitude for the privilege and duty of exercising my own right to vote, but most importantly with the great joy of knowing that I am part of a community that is truly executing ‘work of national importance’ by turning its passion into a sense of purpose. As Hilaree O’Neill told POWDER magazine: “All of this hardship is balanced by amazing things, and if you give it enough time, that’s all going to equal out, but you have to have resilience to keep pushing on”.
At POW, we are pushing on, but it’s going to take help from across our community. For our beloved traditions and iconic landscapes, for our communities, for our winters, for future generations—we need you. Belong to the solution.
For the adventure of purpose,
POW Executive Director