The Climate Reality Leadership Training

Temperatures are rising. And if we care to protect our planet, it is up to us. The time has come for collaboration and innovation. Before it is too late. Those were the major takeaways from The Climate Reality Leadership Training that I completed in Chicago two weeks ago.

Over the course of three days, along with 1200 other attendees from all 50 states and 40 different countries, it became all too clear. Climate change is a reality and we must start banding together to reclaim our planet. Speakers and seminars covered everything from scientific data to social media strategies, but what hit me the hardest was the alarming amount of misinformation that is being fed to the public. The program’s catalyst, Vice President Al Gore put it perfectly- fr those that’s success hinge on the oil and coal industries, all they have to do is plant a seed of doubt because uncertainty and apathy are their greatest weapons. To inspire action is a far greater task.

I am now armed with an incredible amount of knowledge and truly sobering facts, but for change to occur I have to be able to truly connect with climate change deniers. I can bombard them with the statistics and projections (which are very compelling), but for it to really register, it has to be personal. The burning of oil and coal deposit an incredible amount of carbon into our atmosphere which traps heat, causing the temperatures to rise. That sentence is true and odious to those that understand the gravity of our current state and the serious task we have ahead of us. But for those that are not informed, it is just a sentence.

A different tactic would be this: the catastrophic devastation of Megastorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, as well as the soul-breaking prevalence of major drought, flooding, and wild fires is inextricably linked to climate change. For those of us in places that revolve around the snow and mountains it is worth mentioning that truncated, warmer winters are also caused by the increase in temperatures due to carbon emissions. These sentences bear weight. They leave an impact. No one in the world has not experienced or witnessed the harm that climate change is creating.

One champion of this cause is photographer James Balog. As part of the Sundance Institute’s Summer Series, Canyons recently hosted a screening of “Chasing Ice,” a documentary chronicling Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey. He saw that the immediacy of climate change was not being conveyed to the general public because nothing translated it properly. Using his skills as a photographer, he came up with a plan that would not tell people of the incredible damage, but show them. Over the course of six years, Balog and his team set up cameras in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, and Montana using time lapse photography to capture multi-year records of the demise of the world’s glaciers. The images were staggering. One sequence explained the urgency far more clearly than any lecture or grouping of numbers ever could.

What I found incredibly cool was that Balog looked at his own tools- namely his innate grasp on how to frame a compelling picture- and used it to deliver a message. Through Warren Miller Entertainment and The Climate Reality Project, I use my success in ski racing to help raise awareness and spur action. Among other activities, I am honored to be a I AM PRO SNOW Ambassador. Canyons does its part. In addition to focusing on reducing consumption and waste, Canyons has installed solar projects, participates in the NSAA Climate Challenge and encourages its employees and guests to take an active, personal role in sustaining our magnificent landscapes. The screening of “Chasing Ice” was another example of Canyons taking action. It was a zero-waste event, again illustrating that within your own realm, changes and improvements can be made. In the coming months, I look forward to sharing information about Vail Resorts’ sustainability programs, collectively called Echo. Stay tuned.

Because there is always more that needs to be done. The solutions are clear to me, but also massive in scope. There has to be a paradigm shift when it comes to energy: building and investing in an infrastructure of renewable energy, putting a cost on carbon, and promoting and encouraging this type of innovation. We can be the harbingers of a clean, sustainable future. And where better to start than in a community that depends on it’s climate and deeply loves it’s environment?

The highlight of the training program in Chicago was watching Mr. Gore present his famous slide show, famously documented in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection, “An Inconvenient Truth”. The information has evolved as science is catching up with this crisis and the myriad new disasters unfold as corroborating evidence, but the overreaching theme has, unfortunately, remained. The propagation of misinformation must end, the source of these disasters cannot be ignored, and we must usher in a plan for a renewable energy future. Mr. Gore shared more compelling illustrations and astute advice than I could ever digest in one presentation, but what resonated within me was this: We are the keepers of the keys, the guardians of our future.

Our mountains. Our winters. Our lifestyle. Our passion. Many of our livelihoods. All these things are directly reliant on climate. They need protection. The good news is there are solutions and a great deal of hope.

For more on climate change, I AM PRO SNOW, and how you can get involved, please visit

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