Guest blog by Ambassador/Team Painter Lexi Dowdall
Like many of you, 2020 hijacked most of my big plans and goals the moment mid-March steamrolled in. I had committed to skiing each of the 15 ski resorts in Utah. I was on my 7th resort when we all retreated into lockdowns of unknown duration. My employment in the ski industry, helping to organize and facilitate nearly 100 Freeride competitions for skiers and snowboarders in the USA and Canada, ground to a halt. I had no work and nothing to keep me occupied during what would normally be the most intense period of my season, culminating in 3 championship events in April. Ten months of planning and logistics. Gone. Within three days, everything was cancellations and... crickets.
I didn’t know what to do with the sudden closure of my favorite ski areas and I suddenly had more time on my hands than I’d had in years. I began a 15 day sketching challenge. This turned into a 100 day watercolor challenge. I suddenly had the time and energy to invest in myself and my hobbies, so I went for it. In December 2020, I launched an art website, www.kapowder.com, alongside a new goal. To visit and paint each ski resort in Utah. I picked one of my favorite resorts to start: Alta Ski Area.
In 2020 I had randomly collected and saved some powder snow from Alta underneath a gleaming full moon following a particularly memorable storm cycle. I thought how fun it would be to use this mason jar of water in my watercolor painting of Alta. I thought it would better capture the essence and magic of what we locals call “Alta Magic.”
While painting Alta with my snowmelt, I contemplated how much skiing means to me and the vital role the winter landscape of Utah and our snowpack plays in my own life. So many of my peers and friends actually depend on snowfall for their jobs and livelihoods too. Winter and skiing and snowboarding is integral to our well-being, our mental health, our very identity. Any deep thoughts about winter are always accompanied by a deeper twinge of fear. The ever-present threat of climate change. The natural response is to feel helpless and to pretend it’s not happening. I know I do.
Lexi collecting some snow another kind of way... Photo: Jeff Bartlett
Science tells us:
The last five years were the hottest on record and carbon dioxide emission levels have surpassed historic levels— the climate is warming.
Years with low snow totals negatively impact the economy in Utah and beyond. In Utah alone, the ski industry brings in $1.7 billion and creates over 20,000 jobs. The global impact is difficult to calculate or even fathom...
Warmer temperatures will and have adversely affected the quality and depth of the snow in many regions.
Brian McInerney, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Salt Lake City, Utah anticipates that the Wasatch Range (where I’ve lived and played my whole life) will be snow free by 2100. Well over 500 inches (1300cm) of snowfall blankets the Wasatch in an average year. All of this snow could be rainfall in 80 years.
All of this is so scary. Even typing that sentence above makes me want to puke. The simplest thing to do is to give up or ignore the facts. However, it’s vital to remember the importance and power of collective change. If we all make small changes, we can make a difference in this fight against climate change. Join me.
By painting each of the 15 ski resorts in Utah with meltwater collected from each mountain, I want to bring awareness and inspire action around the changes we must all make to fight climate change. Five percent of all proceeds from my Paint by Powder prints will be donated to Protect our Winters. Help me spread the word.
Making even a small change is empowering and builds momentum. Here are some simple and effective steps you can take to save our snow.
- Carpool to the ski hill or ride public transit.
- Work remotely when possible and combine errands into one trip to use your car less.
- Bike to grab groceries or run errands near home.
- Buy and consume less meat.
- Use your ski or shred gear till it’s throttled. If your gear still has life, donate it to a worthy organization. Here in the US there are awesome orgs like the Chill Foundation or Share Winter that bring low income children to local hills for ski and snowboard lessons. Many mountains have adaptive skiing or snowboarding programs that can reuse outerwear, gloves, goggles, etc.
- If you’re not using a light--shut it off. If it’s on and you’re not using it, you’re wasting energy and pumping carbon needlessly into the air. This one is so simple! Turn off outdoor lights at night. Switch to higher efficiency light bulbs. I only run large loads of laundry 1x per week and when it’s warm, I air dry my clothes outside. My power bill is typically under $30 a month because I am vigilant with my electricity use.
- When buying household items that come in plastic, purchase in bulk or the largest containers you can find. For example, I buy jumbo shampoo, laundry detergent, dish soap, body wash, cleaning supplies etc. in the largest container I can find to cut down on plastic consumption, shipping and transportation of the products, and my own shopping trips to buy them.
- Look for and support brands that do not use plastic packaging. For example, save up some money and buy a metal razor. Use toothpaste tablets that come in a glass jar. A little research goes a long way here and it’s rewarding to slowly switch your household products over to more responsible options which often cost the same or less than conventional products. This isn’t an overnight process, it’s a journey. I just found a subscription service for bamboo toilet paper that uses NO plastic - WIN!
- When travelling, don’t use or steal the hotel shampoo! This one was really hard for me. I am a recovering hotel shampoo kleptomaniac. I now use refillable bottles from home and leave the complementary stuff behind because it creates SO much plastic waste. In a hotel room, there are typically 2-3 garbage cans. Just use one and reduce your plastic bag wastage by 50-66%! See how quickly that tiny little choices and actions can all add up to using drastically less resources?
- Consider cancelling your Amazon Prime account. It’s just stuff. Do you really need all that stuff? Does it actually make you happy? I know that’s a big one…and it may not be feasible for some households. But do think about it…
- The stuff that makes me happiest isn’t stuff at all! It is experiences, time with friends or my cat, investing in a hobby, listening to music, talking to a loved one...you get the gist.
Try one change, then try another. I’ve found that as I improve in one area I’m keen to try another challenge and then tell my friends and peers about it. Be an inspiration and example to others and our positive impact multiplies exponentially! I hope to see you out there on the slopes and may we all work a little harder to safeguard the winter sports that make us feel alive. Winter is worth it.
More snow banks like this please. Photo: Jeff Bartlett