Federal Government Shutdown Doesn't Stop Protect Our Winters from Making Themselves Known in Washington
It’s the 11th hour on the date prior to the threatened federal government “shutdown” and you have a trip scheduled to Washington the following day. You are flying in from across the country to meet with a number of Senators as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) on an issue that is very important to you, but you now are learning that the chance of having these meetings cancelled is becoming greater and greater. Do you “risk” taking the trip with the potential of losing all of your meetings? Or do you cancel to be safe?
These were just some of the thoughts going through the minds of 17 winter sports athletes, Olympians and business owners that are part of a delegation called Protect Our Winters, which aims to engage and mobilize the winter sports community in the fight against climate change. Members of Protect Our Winters (POW) arrived in Washington from all over the country on Monday night just before the shutdown with a plan to hit the EPA, CEQ and Senate offices with one straightforward message: it’s time to support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and get moving on a solution to cut carbon emissions from power plants. POW is no stranger to advocating in Washington; two years ago, four of its members including the founder, Jeremy Jones, came to DC to argue the same message that warming temperatures due to climate change are causing noticeably negative impacts on the winter sports industry. Warmer winters mean less snow cover, which means less tourism in high winter activity states, a drop in those state’s revenue, and unhappy winter athletes and businesses.
The POW delegation in front of the Capitol building (photo courtesy of R. Kistner)
This year, the POW delegation grew to 17 representatives including:
Conrad Anker, professional mountaineer and author, The North Face
Donna Carpenter, President, Burton Snowboards
Auden Schendler, Vice President, Sustainability, Aspen Skiing Company
Ryan Gellert, Brand President, Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
Tyler Lamotte, Global Business Unit Director, Patagonia
Matt OLaughlin, Senior Design Engineer, K2 Skis
David Ingemie, President, SnowSports Industries America
Penn Newhard, Partner Backbone Media
Gretchen Bleiler, Olympian, professional snowboarder
Chris Davenport, professional skier, mountaineer
Callan Sifsof, Olympian, professional snowboarder
Forrest Shearer, professional snowboarder
Meg Olenick, professional skier. Member US Ski Team
Seth Wescott, Olympian, professional snowboarder
Danny Davis, professional snowboarder
Angel Collinson, professional skier
John Jackson, professional snowboarder
All of these athletes and business owners made the decision to come to Washington despite the shutdown as representatives of the $66 billion in annual revenue and the 23 million member winter sports community. Winter sports drives a great deal of jobs and economic revenue in many states so the delegation felt it was imperative to let Washington know how important it is to take meaningful action on climate change.
POW member, Gretchen Bleiler, explains why she was in Washington and why it is so important for Congress to hear POW’s message:
Even though the government had officially shut its doors, POW was still able to meet with seven Senators including Senators Collins, Murkowski, Leahy, Tester, Baucus, Sanders, and Representative Waxman, and staff from Senators Portman, Bennet, Markey and Murray’s offices. There was a true feeling of excitement and purpose amongst the delegates as most of them wandered the Capitol for their first time.
“We’re truly excited that these individuals made it a priority to travel to Washington. Having this caliber of athletes, brands and resorts teaming up to call for meaningful action against climate change will make a difference,” said POW’s Executive Director Chris Steinkamp.
First-time visitor, Danny Davis, shared another insight:
“The good news we are telling members of Congress and the administration is we can have a positive impact. It starts with cutting down on the unrestricted carbon pollution from dirty power plants that is accelerating climate change.”
Davis and the other delegates made it a successful day by being able to share not only their personal stories, but also the passion that brought them all the way to Washington to meet with Congress. At the end of the day, the group felt it was definitely worth the “risk” of coming to Washington despite the government shutdown and several of them said they would even come back again. One final message to Washington: be prepared. The next time POW comes to town they’ll be bringing a blizzard of voices with them.
POW delegates with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) outside the Capitol during a press conference (Photo courtesy of R. Kistner)