2023 marks our fifth year working with Protect Our Winters UK, to inspire climate action and protect our winter playgrounds.
As skiers and snowboarders, the SunGod community feels the impact of climate change first-hand, as the mountain spaces we’re lucky enough to ride in disappear around us. For 2023, our shared message with POW UK is more urgent than ever, so we're aiming to raise £16,000 with our carbon-neutral, Lifetime Guarantee-backed, Limited Edition 2023 SunGod x POW Goggles.
The SunGod community is rich in climate advocates, who inspire us every day. We asked 3 SunGod Ambassadors and climate campaigners - Anna, Neil and Melissa - how we can protect our mountain spaces, while still riding the lines we love.
Read on to discover 6 tips to make your ski season more sustainable, and realise it might be simpler than you think.
Freeride skier and sustainable business leader Anna Smoothy knows the snowsports industry better than anyone. As a competitive freerider, Anna came second in the Freeride World Qualifiers twice, before switching it up to bring us all the action, live from the FWT commentary box.
When she's out not scoping lines, Anna is getting down to business. She has worked for industry-leading ski brands, including fellow B Corp, Faction Skis. Most recently, Anna co-founded a ski gear rental startup - Cirkel Supply Co. She aims to reduce overproduction in the outdoor industry by helping people buy less and use more.
Tip 1: Get Educated
"Get educated," says Anna. "Participating in a carbon literacy project from Protect Our Winters is a great way to build your awareness of carbon costs and the impacts of our everyday activities. You will learn how to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational level."
"Once you’ve started learning, you can focus on helping your friends and family learn too, and kick-starting collective action. Reducing your own emissions is fantastic, but influencing your community or business to apply those positive changes is the ultimate powerful action. You could implement a rideshare policy at your company, or participate in POW campaigns like Divest The Dirt, or work to get single-use plastics banned in your community."
Tip 2: Take It Slow
"Instead of taking multiple short ski trips each season, do one big trip and really take your time to enjoy everything the local community has to offer. This reduces your transport emissions, which represent 52% of the average ski holiday. Travel by train where possible, and when it's prohibitively expensive - complain about it!"
"If you have to fly, take a direct flight on an efficient plane, travel light, and offset your travel. Pack your SunGods and woolly undies in your carry-on, and rent your skis, boards, boots and outerwear at your destination. This means you help reduce the overproduction of goods which might sit in an attic for 51 weeks a year; plus, you save on the emissions of transporting 30 kilos of ski gear unnecessarily."
SunGod Ambassador and freeride skier Neil Williman is best known as one of the voices of the Freeride World Tour, joining Anna to commentate on all the action as athletes battle it out for victory, on the toughest faces on the planet.
Based in Innsbruck, Neil has spent the last decade eyeing up epic lines in the Tirol mountains, and in his sustainable ski movie Innsbruck Powder People (search "Innsbruck Powder People" on YouTube) he takes them on, using just the power of trains, buses, and his own two legs.
Tip 3: Switch Up Your Ski Wax
"Though it sounds like a small thing, it makes a big difference", says Neil. "The amount of ski wax that gets left on the snow over a season can contaminate local waterways with enough oil-based runoff during spring that it can kill local wildlife and plants."
"Not enough research has been done into the impact of ski wax on the environment, but what has been done has been pretty damning, in particular for fluoro-based wax which is most common in ski racing. There are non-toxic ski waxes out there, so do your research, find the best one for you, and use it. It's a small change that can have a big impact."
Tip 4: Tackle Your Transport Emissions
“Wherever you can, use public transport, like we did for our movie Innsbruck Powder People. In most of Europe, public transport systems are second to none - make the most of them! It may take a little longer, but it’s far better for the planet, cheaper, and lets you relax and chill out after a hard day on the hill. Cruising through the Alps on a train is far, far nicer than sitting in a traffic jam…”
“If you have to drive, go electric whenever you can. People discount electric cars because them because they’re initially expensive, but the amount you save on fuel will almost certainly be greater than the interest you'd pay on a loan to buy the car in the first place. When I drove one I was really surprised at how cheap it was to charge, and that it could handle ski resort roads no problem. Load it up with a roof rack, chuck your skis on, and you’re good to go!”
Melissa Brandner is a British freeride snowboarder and marine biologist. She currently lives in the Arctic, where she is on the front line, studying the impact of climate change on our oceans.
In the Arctic, climate change is happening faster than anywhere, which means Melissa witnesses the changes to her landscape first-hand; as a marine biologist, as as Arctic resident, and as a competitive snowboarder.
Tip 5: Make Your Gear Last A Lifetime
"First up," Melissa reminds us, "wash your gear regularly, to make it last for endless adventures. Washing your gear can really extend its life, from months to decades. I personally wear my jackets almost every day so need to wash them with tech wash every couple of weeks, and re-waterproof every 6 to 8 washes."
"If your gear does get damaged, repair it. This might mean stitching on a patch at home, or alternatively using a service like the SunGod Lifetime Guarantee, to keep your gear in play. Buy from retailers that offer guarantees or repair programmes, and treat your gear right. Only use recommended tech washes, check the labels, and look after your gear - that way, it'll look after you for years to come."
Tip 6: Skip The Lifts
"Skip the resort lifts for a day by touring or cross-country skiing. For cross-country, you can rent gear in resort and go to local information centres for maps to local trails, which have varying difficulty levels just like downhill skiing. Often, taking the cross-country trails is completely free!"
"For touring, if you’ve never tried it before look into local guide companies for an introduction to the gear, techniques and avalanche education. It's important you don't rush out there - be safe! However, once you've got the knowledge and gear, the experience of moving slowly through nature and earning your turns is like nothing else. You'll appreciate your surroundings much more, both on the way up and on the way down!"
Protect Our Winters UK
Protect Our Winters UK has a mission to help passionate outdoor people become effective climate advocates to achieve systemic solutions to climate change. The charity encourages outdoor people to harness their connection to the outdoors, and use it as a force for positive change.
POW UK wants to build the biggest base of concerned outdoor citizens in UK history to show up for climate - if we come together and demand change, we can be hugely influential.
Together, we can protect the things that we love from climate change - for everyone.
POW UK's 3-point Plan for Climate Action
Join the POW UK Mailing list.
“Big ideas start small. If 20 million people do the right thing, even if it’s small, it will have a huge impact. Joining the POW mailing list means we can suggest simple actions, right in your inbox.”
“Engage with your MPs, voice your concerns to decision-makers, and take the actions that we send your way.”
Whether it’s a general or local election, your vote counts. When the time comes, vote with climate in mind.”
As you dig out your gear, dust off your skis and get planning for the 2023 season, take a moment to reflect on Anna, Neil, Melissa, and POW UK’s suggestions. By taking the slow route, looking after our gear, skipping the lifts for a few days, or simply turning out to vote, our small actions can have a big impact on the places we love.
Our winter playgrounds need our help, and by coming together to support POW UK, who are out there campaigning for climate action where it matters most, we can make a real difference this winter.