Protect Our Winters

Written by Lindsay Cannon 15 November 2023

Last modified on 29 February 2024
Wintery morning in the Alps Wintery morning in the Alps
This week we have had masses of fresh snow in the Alps and we all got very excited about so much 'white stuff' so early in the season. We even got our skis out and went for a slide. Then, it rained and it rained and it rained! A few years ago we would have uttered the words "What on earth is going on with the weather?" Now, we know...


The mountain environment is a good gauge of weather patterns and changes, and many studies are now underway to monitor these. More rain when it should be snowing, increased rockfall at a time when the mountains should be stable, blistering heat and melting glaciers, and landslides. It sounds like a catalogue of disaster, yet our mountains have been constantly changing over the millenium; generating their own weather systems with localised extreme conditions. The difference now is that these are more regular and more extreme.  

Protect Our Winters

In recent weeks Tracks and Trails has been working with Protect Our Winters, otherwise known as POW. We took part in a Carbon Literacy course which encourages individuals and businesses to consider how they can reduce their carbon emissions and impact on our climate. We have been talking to Dominic Winter, who is Head of Progammes, for POW, and tasked with spreading the word. Yes, 'Winter' is his real surname!

Why was POW set up? 

"POW was originally setup by legendary backcountry snowboarder Jeremy Jones - the UK group was founded several years later, by like-minded British outdoors enthusiasts, driven as Jeremy was by a desire to protect the outdoors - both our playground and on which so much depends - from the impacts of climate change that are already becoming visible."
Jeremy Jones, snowboard, conservationist and environmental activist
It was in 2007 that Jones founded Protect Our Winters (POW), as a non-profit organisation focusing on addressing climate change. Jones a legendary environmental activist and mountaineer, was nominated as National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in 2012 for his ‘remarkable achievements in exploration, conservation, humanitarianism and adventure sports. He set up POW to unite the winter sports community and encourage winter enthusiasts to work together to reverse the damage already done, and to mitigate the effects on the future. To illustrate his own commitment Jones decided to forego using lifts and helicopters to reach the mountains, and now hiking is his sole means of transportation to the slopes. 

How effective has POW been in spreading the word? 

"POW now has separate registered charities established in fifteen countries. The largest so far are those that were founded first and with large populations and mountain communities - America and Canada, and it is very well known in mountain resorts in those countries. Now many European chapters are growing rapidly and are co-ordinated via a POW Europe chapter. We are definitely becoming well known across Western Europe." 
 A POW team carrying out a glacier clean up

People generally feel overwhelmed went contemplating what they can do...

"It's understandable people can feel that way - it's a global scale issue that has been building up over decades, and the media, politics and fossil fuel companies have not been helpful in progressing the conversation. We need to overcome that and bring the outdoor community voice to the fore as a new powerful voice for positive change."
"You can take a personal carbon footprint such as Giki to find out where your own footprint mostly is and identify steps you could take. Generally there's small daily positive habits like recycling, then the 'big ticket' items like taking one longer holiday, perhaps by train, than multiple shorter ones. But really what we want to see is individuals contributing to the systemic, large scale changes - we can't stop climate change without this, and adding the breadth of support to this is critical so politicians correctly see it as what the majority of people want."
Supporters of POW gathering at Montenvers in Chamonix to raise awareness

What is research showing?

"So seasons are already around one month shorter than in the 1970's - and we've had a little over 1 degree celsius of average global heating. The winter season could be a month shorter again for every degree - and we're on track for several degrees."

"A recent study shows that at 2°C global heating, 53% of resorts are at very high risk for snow supply without snowmaking, or 27% with half of all snow from snowmaking. If we reached 4°C, 98% are at very high risk without snowmaking, and 71% are at very high risk with half of their snow from snowmaking. Snowmaking increases water and electricity demand, related carbon footprint, and cost. A study of 2,234 ski resorts in 28 European countries was carried out in 2023.  (Francois et al, Nature Climate Change, 2023). This shows the importance of keeping global heating down. Of course, there are much wider impacts than just on snow, but it is a good way to show the scale of the issue using something people care deeply for."

In less than 100 years the decline of the McCarty Glacier

What is your message to individuals?

"Get involved! Until the end of November we're asking people to Send It For Climate. If you want to learn more and get involved we provide regular Carbon Literacy Training, and our newsletter and social media channels will keep you up to date on the best opportunities to create change and protect what we love."

November is also a significant date as the COP28 is being held in the United Arab Emirates from 30 November, until 12 December. This annual gathering of countries worldwide aims to commit to actions to tackle climate change. Individuals can make an impact by making small changes to daily routines, such as cutting back on energy consumption, taking public transport, eating less meat, and supporting eco-friendly products, collectively make a substantial impact. Raising awareness, advocating for change, and participating in local initiatives can make significant contributions. We can make a difference. 


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