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Archive for October, 2009

A Response to Remsen @ NENSA

30.Oct.2009 by Tim Reynolds

Mr. Remsen, a ski coach at Rutland High School wrote this article at NENSA about green skiers. Here’s the link.

Below is my response to his letter:

Dear Mr. Remsen:

A provocative letter you posted at NENSA.  One certainly can’t argue with you that the average high school ski racer might be the ‘greenest’ racer out there.  Yes, he/she would likely have fewer pairs of skis, wax their skis less frequently, and travel a shorter distance to training camps and races.  This would indeed result in a smaller carbon footprint than that of an elite skier in northern Vermont who has a fleet of skis, waxes a couple pair of skis for each race, and will even leave New England in search of snow and competition.

But let’s take this a bit further- or even greener.  How about your average high-schooler who doesn’t even ski at all.  They wouldn’t own skis or even wax, and he/she definitely wouldn’t be traveling to ski races.  This high school kid could one-up the greenest ski racer out there; no carbon guilt from ski and wax production, and certainly none from burning gas on the school bus to get to practice or races.

But why stop there- how about a kid who doesn’t even go to high school.  There would be no carbon output from his/her transportation to even get to school, let alone the whole skiing piece.  Following this logic, the greenest person out there is the one that does the least.  In fact, the less you do, the less carbon you emit.  Period.  Why not eliminate ski racing altogether?  That would certainly ensure abundant snow in the future for our children’s children to enjoy.

Actually, it won’t.  The point is people emit carbon.  We put carbon into the atmosphere by cooking our food, heating our homes, even breathing the air. Carbon footprints aren’t a competition, they are an inevitability.  But it’s not this carbon that’s a problem.  It’s the bigger issues, the ones that are often beyond the control of the individual. It’s the way our society functions, the fuels we choose to use for energy, and the economics and politics behind those systems.  These are difficult problems for an individual to address.  But if the whole group demanded cleaner energy and cleaner products, if they refused to use anything else, things would change.

That’s what 350 is all about.  Climate change is huge, and people should care about it.  A high school drop-out might be ‘greener’ than a professional ski racer, but if that person isn’t actively trying to do something about climate change, it doesn’t matter.  People need to care. They need to do what they can in their own lives to make a difference.  They need to reach out to others to do the same. But I don’t think that means sacrificing everything that is important to you.  350’s Day of Action was a great chance for everyone, drop-outs and pro athletes alike, to let the world know that climate change is an important issue and they want to see big changes.  Though I’m conscious of my own footprint, participation in a movement like this is far more important than counting the pounds of CO2 I am personally responsible for putting in the atmosphere.  It made me proud to see how many athletes in the cross-country ski community cared enough about this to put aside their own plans for the day and participate.

Mr. Remsen, while I respect your concern about the legitimacy of an elite athlete’s green-ness, I think it is misguided.  In no way are elite skiers claiming to be the greenest skiers out there by participating in a day of environmental action with 350.org or joining a new racing team that strives to make a difference in its community. What they are expressing is concern and consciousness about the current state of things, something that rarely crosses most professional athlete’s minds, not to mention their public actions.

I suppose this is the same concern and consciousness that you strove to communicate in your letter to NENSA, but I think you might have missed the point.  I was left wondering if you understood the big picture.

If elite racers want to reduce their impact on the globe in this simple way you suggest, by returning to the ways of the high school athlete, then they wouldn’t be elite skiers anymore.  In fact, the easiest way for them to reduce their impact would be to quit skiing altogether.  This issue is far more complex than that.  I hope that trying to be green doesn’t mean abandoning Olympic dreams and lifelong passions.  I hope there are bigger ways to combat climate change than just quitting something you do because it isn’t green enough.  And I hope that elite skiers can be a part of these changes and help their communities move in the right direction.

Hypoxic Wake-Up

29.Oct.2009 by Ollie Burruss

This morning we did max bounding intervals up the service road at the Diamond Peak alpine area. As the title indicates, the workout was a rude awakening for me. I blew the pacing on the first few and quickly felt the “hand around my windpipe” feeling I’ve come to associate with pushing too hard at altitude.

After a bit of a tongue lashing from Pepa about pacing, I salvaged the remaining intervals and finished feeling strong.

Today’s lesson: don’t play your cards too early at 6,000 feet. The mistake will come back to haunt you.

Thumbs Up

29.Oct.2009 by Matt Briggs

Yesterday Ollie and I were rollerskiing and I fell and jammed my thumb.  I went home and Pepa thought it would be a good idea to get it checked out to make sure it wasn’t broken.

But here’s the good part.  On the insurance form at the Urgent Care where it said occupation I wrote athlete.  And in the part where it asked if my injury happened while I was on the job, I checked yes.

I’m pretty sure that means I’m eligible for workers comp if I can’t ski.

Green and 350

26.Oct.2009 by Chelsea Little

Note: this was originally posted on  SkiTrax

When people ask me what it means to be a green ski team, I sometimes struggle to answer. We haven’t changed the world (yet). But we’ve done a few things, we’ve tried to do a few more things, and we organized the Team 350 Challenge.

The idea of the challenge was to get people to think. Our earth’s atmosphere currently has 387 parts per million of carbon dioxide floating around in it. In order to avoid catastrophic environmental effects – which, more than just wrecking the “environment”, which a lot of people don’t really care about, would wreck people’s lives – this level should drop below 350 parts per million. As Andrew Gardner pointed out in a previous post, one of these catastrophes is that there would be no snow, and we’d be out of luck for skiing.

We challenged our community, along with the rowing community, to cumulatively train 350 million meters over the course of a month. While our goal was to get as many people signed on as possible, and to log as many meters as we could, I imagined that if 1,000 people each logged 350 thousand meters (350 kilometers), we’d reach our goal. That’s not much more than 10 kilometers per day. There is quite a large number of athletes out there who train that much or more.

While the Team 350 Challenge doesn’t include any specific action to lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, each person that signs onto the challenge is aware of the issue. If we could get athletes to think about climate change as they logged their meters online, surely we could make a difference, or at least a statement.

As I write this, nearly 1,500 people have taken up the challenge. Among the names on the honor boards are Green Mountain Valley School coach Justin Beckwith and his team; NCAA All-Americans Rosie Brennan, Susan Dunklee, and Caitlin Patterson; and, of course, all the members of our team. Nearly 100 athletes have completed 350 kilometers of training.

Regardless of the fact that we will not reach our goal, we have reached out to a significant number of people. And this ties back into our goal, into my answer to the first question, into what makes us a “green” racing team. Although acting is undeniably better than thinking, at the very least, our goal is to raise awareness about sustainability issues.

Tim sometimes refers to “the hypocrisy of being a green ski racer.” We will never be a zero-waste, zero-emissions team. It’s not possible. You can’t walk to every race on your own two feet. You can’t train at altitude in Vermont – hence we’re in Lake Tahoe right now.

But we can do as much as we can make sure we are not wasting resources unnecessarily, and to make sure that our competitors are aware of their own effect on the environment. We can do our workouts from our house whenever possible instead of driving somewhere. We can eat as much local food as possible. We can write letters to our legislators and politicians and try to make sure that the Copenhagen negotiations are fruitful.

There is a lot of buzz around 350 right now. We hope that you’re paying attention to what so many people are saying – thanks Andrew Gardner, thanks Steinbock, thanks Sara Renner, thanks to so many others – and we hope you continue to think about it for the rest of the year, too.