TH Interview: Clif Bar Sets Out to "Save Our Snow" With World Champion Freeskier Alison Gannett

Skiers on a lift going up a mountain.

Johannes Kroemer / Getty Images

Last week Clif Bar launched a new tour for the winter called the Save Our Snow (S.O.S.) Winter Roadrip. Using a vegetable oil powered, environmentally-friendly RV, the Roadtrip will visit ski resorts throughout North America to inform and inspire thousands of winter enthusiasts to help stop global warming. Yesterday special guest Alison Gannett, former world free skiing champion and a Team Clif Bar athlete, joined the tour in Las Vegas.Gannett, who operates her own environmental consulting firm, will present a powerful multimedia show featuring highlights from her ski adventures in Alaska and other places around the globe at each tour stop she is involved in. She will also teach attendees simple ways to reduce their own environmental impact while saving money. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Gannett and to ask her a few questions about Clif Bar's S.O.S. Winter Roadtrip and what her thoughts were on global warming.

1) Alison, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me and I'd like to say thanks for being a part of this. Many people have doubted that the lack of snow this year is due to global warming: do you disagree?

Yes, I disagree and I think everyone participating in the Clif Bar Save our Snow Winter Roadtrip would disagree. There have been scientific advances that allow for the test molecules of CO2 which are human induced and which are naturally occurring. Our Earth is warming naturally, however we are off the charts as to where we are supposed to be, and where we are going. The general trend of global warming is there.

2) I've been reading so many articles lately on "green" ski areas — are the ones that you are visiting "green?"

Yes, some of them are in varying degrees. Clif Bar has partnered with several of the ski areas on our Roadtrip to offset the energy used to power their lifts, including Alta (UT), Park City (UT), Northstar (CA) and Stevens Pass (WA). Aspen is the defacto leader in the green ski movement and started their initiatives way before it was "cool." The Office for Resource Efficiency (ORE) recently asked my company to become a partner in working with Crested Butte to become green. We suggested to green just one lift and that resulted in them doing all of the lifts, the lodging and even the bars that they own. So this year, Crested Butte is 100% wind powered.

3) After being a world champion freeskier, what made you become interested and involved in the environmental, specifically global warming?

I am a life long environmentalist that became a champion freeskier. I'm afraid of global warming destroying my lifeblood—the mountain snowpack. This snowpack provides us our playground, but also drinking water for 80% of the planet. As a member of Team Clif Bar, a company that makes it a bottom-line priority to protect the environment, this roadtrip provides a great opportunity for both of us to bring the issue of global warming directly to thousands of winter sports enthusiasts.

Plus, this has been my life's work. I have been interested in the environment since I was a child. My father was in ski industry but I always argued with him on specific environmental issues. My grandmother was a big environmental crusader and so was my mom.

4) Was it tough to balance the two?

The environment and skiing were night and day and had no cross over. I got hurt in the X Games in 1999 and blew out both my knees. My sponsors at the time were less than kind about my environmental interests and I felt there had to be more to life; more compassion, more caring. Everybody told me that I couldn't have a career blending the two and told me I was crazy. But I wanted to do it anyway and wanted to help so I started to pursue sponsors that had morals similar to mine like Clif Bar and Patagonia.

5) In your slideshow, you're speaking about simple ways consumers can help keep winter cool and save how we can save our snow. For those of us who aren't able to attend, can you give us a few of your tips?

The Clif Bar S.O.S. Winter Roadtrip highlights five simple actions anyone can take. If we all took these simple steps it would have a dramatic impact on global warming. They are:

- Buy Renewable Energy: Renewable energy helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the main contributor to global warming. A $2 Clif Bar Cool Tag, for example, funds enough clean wind energy to offset the impact of driving a car about 300 miles. Cool Tags are available at or from us during our road-trip.

- Eat Local, Organic Foods: Organic farming practices use 30-50% less fossil fuels, which when burned create "greenhouse" gases--the primary cause of global warming.

- Use CFL Light Bulbs: Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs use about 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than classic incandescents while emitting the same light.

- Reduce Reuse, Recycle, Rot: For every pound of waste eliminated or recycled, you save energy and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by at least 1 pound. CO2 is the principal "greenhouse" gas thought to be driving global warming.

- Carpooling, Buying a Hybrid or Switching to Biodiesel: Saves money on gas, drastically reduces CO2 emissions, and reduces dependency on oil.

We're handing these tips out to the people we meet and they're also available to anyone on Clif Bar's S.O.S. website.

6) What do you do on a daily basis to help the planet?

I believe that everything starts at home. I live in environmentally friendly house that I built 10 years ago. It is built from local straw, local wood and non-toxic building materials. Its solar design also includes solar hot water panels. I use CFL's and have super energy efficient appliances. For example, my refrigerator uses less energy in a year than a general one in one month. There's a great website you can visit from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy that compares energy efficiency from almost anything.

I also started my non-profit, the Save Our Snow Foundation, because I wanted to give people an opportunity in my valley to learn about energy efficiency. I wanted to take what I had learned and broaden it. I started Save our Snow because I wanted to take it even further and allow people to offset carbon dioxide emissions on a website. This money is being funneled to organizations and programs around the globe. We can Save Our Snow for future generations. If we continue on this path we're going to be reminiscing about how we used to build a snowman and make a snowball. And what's frightening is that this could happen in our lifetime.

7) What kind of year do you think 2007 will be?

In 2006 I think that people were finally starting to become educated. So it's positive that they are moving out of denial but I think they are moving from denial to despair. The question becomes: when are people going to take action? So many people are educated, yet they continue to fire up their snowmobile on a daily basis. I'm hoping 2007 is the year people take action. It's a tough connection for many and the reason why Clif Bar and I are conducting the S.O.S. Winter Roadtrip is because we believe we have to make it personal. If it's going to affect something that people really love, like skiing, they will take action. Environmentalism is starting to become trendy, which is helpful, but I think if we can work with people to communicate effectively and emotionally with something they care about--whether it's their children's future, skiing, surfing, fishing—we will have more success. The S.O.S. Winter Roadtrip is an attempt to make the emotional connection so visitors will go home and change their light bulbs. Statistics are great but it's the emotional connection that gets people going.

And people can't just look at offsetting and think everything will be okay. Reduction is the key. Yes, there are simple things we can do, but the reality is that we're going to have to start making big sacrifices if we don't address the problems now. We have to curb our global warming gasses because what we consume today will be released over the next 30 years.

Thank you again Alison!

The dates of Clif Bar's S.O.S. Winter Roadtrip are:

January 12th-13th Sugarbowl, CA
January 14th Northstar, CA
January 15th Kirkwood, CA
January 19th-21st Mammoth, CA
~Alison joins up with the tour~

January 23rd SIA - Las Vegas, NV
January 26th Brighton, UT
January 27th Alta, UT
January 28th Park City, UT
February 2nd-3rd Aspen, CO
February 4th Crested Butte, CO
February 9th-11th Jackson, WY
February 14th U of Oregon — Eugene, OR
February 17th-19th Whistler, BC
February 21st Seattle, WA
~Alison leaves the tour~

February 24th Stevens Pass, WA
February 25th Snoqualmie Pass, WA


::Clif Bar ::Alison Gannett's Save Our Snow Foundation ::TreeHugger's Interview with Sheryl O'Loughlin, CEO of Clif Bar