Why We Need to Protect Our Winters

Our European Brand Manager Henry Hooganveen sat down with athlete and activist Dani Hochmuth to learn about her journey in becoming president of Protect Our Winters (POW) Austria, and about how she feels you can be a contributing force to ending climate change. See the second part of this three part interview here

What are the problems/threats for our winters and what can be done about it?

It’s as if we are sitting in a car hurtling at full speed towards a cliff. Rather than slow down, we press on the gas in the hopes that before the crash, a bridge will appear, or the car might even start to fly! 

Climate change is palpable - especially in the Global South, where the frequency of extreme weather events, such as  hurricanes and droughts, have increased at a staggering rate.

At home we see the change happening with our own eyes. According to the SLF, the winter season got 12 days shorter in autumn and 24 days shorter in spring since 1970.  The average snowpack decreased 25 percent, that’s freaking a lot. We have to act!  

If we continue down this path, according to the IPCC, the international climate research committee of the UN, we are heading for an average temperature rise of four to six degrees Celsius by the end of the century. In this scenario we will have no more glaciers in the Austrian Alps by 2100.

In order to take steps towards counteracting this outcome, the greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries need to be reduced by at least 85 percent by 2050, and in the so-called "developing countries" by about 50 percent. This is the only option we have that would limit global warming to the two degrees goal.

Personally, I don’t want to be part of a lavish, misanthropic society. I have decided to not play the game anymore. I can’t let myself off the hook, and see myself as a mediator between different worlds. I want to look for new solutions, and when I find them, spread the word in the most impactful and coolest ways possible.

Can you tell us more about why you started POW in Austria?

I did not plan to start POW Austria at all. Two years ago a guy, Berni, ask me if I wanted to join in his project PROSNOW Tirol. The goal was to help impart our knowledge to businesses, with a step by step plan for more sustainable practices. As the project moved forward, we ask POW US if they could help us with some input from their knowledge base. They ended up asking us if we want to be POW Austria. What we didn’t know is that they wanted to expand in Europe quickly before the climate conference in Paris (COP21). I immediately said, YES!

At the riders meeting, at the 4-star Freeride World Qualifier Contest in Obergurgel, I signed the POW license agreement. On the day after the contest, I had a huge fall. At the steepest and most exposed area, I made a wrong decision and dropped into a Y-Couloir with loose snow. I crashed right onto a rock and did a tomahawk face down. I completely lost all control. I was very lucky to be fully conscious the whole time, and to have made it out of the fall alive. I was stuck in a cast for three months. I began working on Protect Our Winters (POW) with all the power I had left. The goal of POW Austria kept me alive during that hard time. Now here I am, and here we are. We have 120 members with our own office in Innsbruck. All of us are still volunteering but we have achieved a lot. I am looking forward to the amazing future we are working towards.

I never ever thought that I would be the president of a climate change organization. When the opportunity happened I thought: “challenge accepted.” Right now, even though it’s not always easy, I think it was the best thing that could have ever happen to me.

How can people take action regarding climate change in their own communities? 

Get outside and start to love the mountains, the deserts and lakes again! Protect what you love! We are the first generation spending 80 percent of our time inside. That means only 20 percent of our time is spent outside. You might think, ‘well then why as a society should we bother?’ Climate change is real. It’s not a bad joke. Americans can make a difference! Sign the letter on our website demanding that Trump keep the Paris agreement. You can follow POW 7 which is also on the POW website. Stay informed.

In the end I believe what Gandhi said: “Be the change what you want see in the world.” Eat local food, curb your dependency on meat, don’t buy plastic or single use items, stop flying for fun. Instead ride your bike, buy eco friendly products, start to upcycle your clothing, and sign petitions --- there is much more work to be done. A single word of advice: Don’t get mad at yourself if you cannot make all these changes immediately, otherwise you will break.

Start with small steps and then get extreme afterwards. If you want to get really into it, get active in your community! Find the the best fitting outlet for your cause and spread the word!

If you would like to learn more about Protect Our Winters and how they are mobilizing the outdoor sports community against climate change please visit their website.