Environmental screed of the month: Along with my copy of Backcountry Magazine came ‘Sanctified,’ a movie DVD. Normally I like to be positive about anyone’s creative efforts. But when it comes to proselytizing with said ‘art,’the crit gloves come off:
Can we just say “Sanctified” is a pile of biased one-sided green propaganda loosely strung together with mediocre ski porn, and leave it at that? Yes, Virginia, we can, but we can say more.
‘Sanctified’ implies a number of things about global warming. Chiefly, by cutting from shots of snowmobiles to those of presumably human powered ski descents, it implies that backcountry skiing will make some kind of significant reduction in green house gasses. Or weirder, it seems to infer we can somehow live in a yurt in the mountains 365 days a year, not burn firewood, not use a pickup truck to maintain the yurt, and thus gloat about our no-impact lifestyle.
Sure, for a brief moment in your life, you can hike up a hill on backcountry skis and cause less pollution that if you were snowmobiling. But face it, the vast bulk of human caused greenhouse gasses are created by our overall industrial and automobile based lifestyle, not by our recreation choices, and not just by we Americans living that way (ever been to Mexico city?). More, the greenhouse gassing developments and industrial skiing that ski town nimbys love to hate also support much of the sanctified lifestyle that some of the narrators in the “Sanctified” movie gloat about. Think about that the next time you drive to a trailhead after a week at your carpentry or lodging job.
More, the film rails on industrial skiing and development, then cuts to the CEO of Aspen Skiing Company on a high horse, talking about how some ski resorts are too industrialized, global warming, etcetera. I’m a fan of Aspen Skiing Company. They do a good job providing lift served skiing. But last time I looked, they were still burning thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, pulling gigawats of electricity, running a mechanized snow cat skiing operation in pristine winter backcountry, and supporting a town choked with automobiles and endless mega-industrial construction projects. Yeah, Aspen Skiing Company uses some biodiesel (still creates greenhouse gasses, and comes from huge industrial petroleum based farming operations), and they use some wind power (from gigantic wind farms maintained by our country’s industrial infrastructure). They also use some energy efficient light bulbs. But to imply that Aspen Skiing Company is somehow environmentally sanctified is “greenwashing,” pure and simple.
What’s the solution to global warming? Let’s get real. If it’s as bad as the folks in ‘Sanctified’ would have us believe, what would it take to stop it ‘cold,’ or reverse the process? After a bit of research, it appears a rule of thumb is that humanity as a whole would have to reduce their carbon consumption (gasoline, wood fires, coal, petro-farming, fleece manufacturing) by at least ONE HALF in several years (some even say two thirds)! Exactly how is this done? Not by driving a Prius. And not by choosing backcountry skiing over snowmobiling — however sanctified that feels.
In fact, for humanity to reduce carbon consumption by one half to two thirds is probably impossible on the short term. And it’s iffy in the long run, since the world is being industrialized at a torrid pace — by countries who might sign a global warming treaty for whatever reason, but who’s compliance to such an agreement is another matter entirely.
So what’s the solution? Sure, it’s only logical to be frugal with our energy consumption, as perhaps we can reduce global warming slightly and live with it. For starters, those who tout their sanctified lifestyle in ‘Sanctified’ might consider the high carbon-consumption per-capita that living in a mountain town entails (food distribution by long distance truck haul, heating homes for colder average temperatures, industrial recreation such as ski resorts, long distance travel to visit mom and dad, snow removal costs, etc.). To compensate for that and be truly ‘sanctified’ you mountain town residents owe it to the rest of us to be even more frugal in your energy consumption habits. Indeed, choosing muscle powered snowsports over snowmobiling is nice and we thank your for that, but please, don’t use ski lifts, helicopters or snowcats, don’t travel, and ride your bicycle to the trailhead.
What’s positive about this film? In a word, Bob Athey, when he says ‘…go to the mountains, get peace and quiet, keeps a person sane and healthy.’ This qualified with Bob’s statement that he got fired from every other job he’s had, so backcountry skiing (he’s a paid avy observer) is all he can do anyway. Anything from the Wizard of the Wasatch is always priceless.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.