Jeremy Jones opinion: At POW, we stay away from resort development talks
March 11, 2015
I appreciate David Brew's passion about Squaw Valley's proposed development and know that he is genuinely concerned about the future of our community.
But I need to clarify some of his comments about Protect Our Winters (POW), the nonprofit I founded, that he made in his March 4 Sierra Sun My Turn column, "Protect Our Winters should urge Squaw to scale down expansion."
POW is focused on solving the problem of climate change. Squaw supports those efforts through its participation in the Mountain Collective Pass. Having those 13 resorts behind us gives us vital influence and reach.
Mountain Collective resorts are pioneers in resort climate advocacy. Before they got involved, few if any ski resorts were taking meaningful policy and advocacy action on climate. They've taken a lot of risk by showing that bold leadership.
Protect our Winters has three full-time employees and a very engaged board of directors. Our goal has always been the same from the start: make every dollar go as far as possible to move the needle on climate change, focusing on enabling or supporting the state and federal policy we need to solve this large-scale problem.
How do we do this with the bandwidth we have? We pick a few things and try to do them really well, and we rely on our partners to be there with us.
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Here's what we're doing — we're hyper-focused on the most impactful climate change and carbon reduction strategies. How? Our athlete-driven youth education program has reached 30,000 students to date, building the next generation of environmental leaders.
We're representing the snow sports industry and resorts at the highest levels in Washington so that we have an impact on future climate policy. Our Coal Kills Snow program takes direct aim at the source of 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and this year, we completed a documentary called Momenta, taking action against coal exports in the Pacific Northwest.
We're providing a platform for our 62 pro athlete POW Riders Alliance to speak out personally about climate change and influence students, national media and the community to get involved with them. Our Costa Rican rainforest initiative has planted thousands of trees, re-building the earth's carbon sink, and providing individuals with the opportunity to plant more. And finally, we're giving every one of our members the education, the voice and tools to be part of this movement, every day.
That's why we intentionally stay out of resort development conversations: It's not our expertise, and we need to stay focused. Protect Our Winters has not endorsed or opposed the development at Squaw, or any similar projects at other supporting organizations — and there are many.
If we were to weigh in on one issue, we'd be obliged to weigh in everywhere. Do we oppose resort expansion, new snowmaking and lift installations, or new construction elsewhere? That would be a full-time job; it would detract from our mission, and we'd soon have no partners at all because we know that a carbon footprint is inherent in this industry.
But united together, this economically powerful group can have a major impact on the biggest levers that will eventually solve climate change.
As a local resident, I naturally have concerns about all local developments. I've been to many meetings about the Squaw project with Incorporate Squaw Valley, Friends of Squaw Valley, Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Watch, and Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.
I will continue to be involved. But Protect Our Winters will not.
Jeremy Jones is a Truckee resident, a professional snowboarder and founder of Protect Our Winters.