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snow of tomorrow

Snow of Tomorrow | Moritz Nachtschatt from POW Austria about his Snow of Tomorrow

What does your snow of tomorrow look like?

by Lisa Amenda 12/20/2021
The snow of tomorrow has many faces. And as we can't and don't want to imagine the future of winter sports alone, PowderGuide author Lisa spoke to Moritz Nachtschatt, Managing Director of Protect our Winters Austria, about what POW is doing for the future of the sport, why day tours are anything but climate-friendly and what ski resorts will look like in 2050.

PG: Moritz, are winter sports, as they are practiced today, still up to date?

MN: Good question. I have to answer in the negative. Many ski resorts still refuse to acknowledge and accept the problem, but on the other hand there are many, many positive examples. That's why I think that winter sports are, by and large, in keeping with the times.

I believe that a lot depends on the community itself and that we as end consumers and end users need to take a good look at ourselves and inform ourselves. After all, 70 percent of emissions on a conventional ski day are caused by the journey to and from the resort. And it is simply up to us to get to the ski resorts as publicly as possible. Then skiing won't be nearly as harmful as many people think.

Would you, like the DAV, advocate taking longer vacations in the mountains and doing fewer day trips?

Definitely. I don't have the figures off the top of my head, but I recently saw an interesting statistic where overnight stays in Tyrol have risen by 6 percent overall since 2005, but arrivals and departures by day tourists have risen by over 20 percent. This shows that vacations are getting shorter and shorter and people are simply going back and forth much more often. The one-week family ski vacation is apparently becoming less and less common.

Would you say that winter sports are endangered to a certain extent?

Winter sports are clearly endangered. You only need to look at the figures: If we carry on as we are, there will only be 50 percent of glaciers left in Austria by the year 2100. It will only be a matter of time before they are all gone. One ski resort in Lower Austria should have been closed by now because the snow is no longer guaranteed and it is no longer profitable, as artificial snow can no longer be produced in the warm temperatures. Countries and regions such as Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol and southern Germany must be interested in stopping this development. Austria in particular, as the skiing nation par excellence, must set a good example. This starts with those who are directly affected - ski resorts and the industry.

Is that also the reason why Protect our Winters is committed to the future of winter sports?

We are not entirely altruistic and naturally also want to protect winter because we want to protect our favorite hobbies. We all love skiing and snowboarding and we want to be able to offer this to our children and grandchildren.

What are the specific goals of POW Austria in this regard? In the past, we mainly wanted to create awareness, which in concrete terms means that each and every individual can contribute something. We have now moved on to political campaigns and there are still some major decisions to be made that affect the Austrian federal government. The eco-social tax reform with a CO2 tax is currently being discussed, as is the Austrian Climate Protection Act, which has been pending for over a year because it expired in 2020. This law will also create the necessary framework conditions for our work.

Our concrete measures include, for example, an open letter in which we have collected signatures from almost all relevant companies in the winter sports industry, from Kästle to Atomic, Fischer, Hagan, Scarpa Austria, Blue Tomato and Burton, and in which we jointly demand an ambitious climate protection target from the federal government. First and foremost, at least a 65 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 as an interim target, in order to actually become climate-neutral by 2040, as the government has planned. This is of course a welcome and very ambitious goal for the government, but it is nowhere near achievable with the current measures.

Aside from the open letter, do you have any other specific goals for the future?

Due to the lockdown, we were unfortunately unable to hand over the letter as planned. We definitely have other goals, but we can't work on everything at the same time, which is why we often join forces with other NGOs and support the demands of the climate referendum, for example. We are also active in the Austrian Climate Alliance. There are also plans for next year, but we haven't decided yet.

One of your goals and credos is "progress instead of perfection". This is often criticized in connection with your athletes. Why?

POW US has the credo "Imperfect advocacy" and for us this actually translates very appropriately as "progress instead of perfection". This runs through virtually our entire way of working and starts with the Athletes Alliance, i.e. our ambassadors. At the same time, this is also often a point of attack. Many athletes are initially skeptical themselves because they say, "Yes, but I travel all over the world for a living." The accusation also often comes from outside: you want to be a climate protection organization and at the same time you have athletes with you who are jetting around the world. But that just sums it up. It may well be that they travel all over the world, but it's their job, so they try to live as sustainably as possible in their private lives and save CO2 wherever possible. It is much more important to us that these people set a positive example in their community with their reach.

In which other areas of work does this credo run through you?

We also work with many business partners and a basic prerequisite for us is that the will to change and to do business sustainably is there. For us, this is the first and most important step and then we are also happy to network companies with professional sustainability managers and develop a well-thought-out sustainability strategy. In this way, the domestic industry can become more sustainable step by step. In Austria, a lot of jobs depend on winter tourism and our signature campaign has made us realize that many people have understood that it is high time to do something.

Another of your goals is to achieve net zero by 2050. Why is climate-neutral not enough, why does it have to be net zero?

There are many different approaches: Unfortunately, you can also be climate neutral, for example, if you offset your own CO2 emissions by planting trees or buying CO2 certificates. Of course, this does not change the fact that you cause the same amount of CO2. We are clearly against offsetting. In our opinion, this can only be an interim solution, because in the long term, we need to reduce CO2 emissions in order to find truly global solutions in the long term.

Don't you think that 2050 is already quite late?

Of course, the sooner the better. Many countries have already set themselves the target earlier. Austria, for example, wants to be climate-neutral by 2040. In principle, I think it is still possible for us to achieve the turnaround. If I didn't believe in it, then I would be in the wrong position here. But I believe that it is unrealistic on a global scale any sooner than 2050.

Can winter sports enthusiasts be better climate activists?

I wouldn't say that across the board, but there are of course advantages to being out in the mountains a lot. That's where you sometimes see the changes first. And I think the sooner you notice changes yourself, the more motivated you are to change something. But that doesn't mean that we are the better climate activists. You only have to look at our personal footprint and compare it with someone from the Global South. So we also have a duty to do something. The climate crisis wouldn't exist without the industrialized countries.

Staying with the year 2050, what do you think the winter sports of the future will look like?

You have to be realistic and say that skiing will no longer be possible in ski resorts below 2,000 meters and artificial snow won't really help either. I hope that skiing will still be possible until 2050 and beyond.

What do we have to do to achieve this - as a society and as individuals?

We will certainly have to find new solutions in one area or another. As I said, 70% of emissions on an average day of skiing are caused by the journey to and from the resort. The ski resorts themselves will be self-sufficient by then and generate their own energy. The water used for artificial snowmaking can be recycled, and some of this already exists today. At the same time, everything will become more energy-efficient and there will also be alternatives for the snow groomers.

A lot certainly depends on the industry, but also on social change, especially a shift towards public transportation. What really bothers me about this is that many people always equate it with doing without. If you can no longer travel to the ski resort by car, then you are no longer as independent. But you shouldn't look at it like that: If, for example, a family from Amsterdam or Berlin goes skiing in the Montafon for a week and travels there by train, they are not only doing something good for themselves, but also for the climate. They can virtually relax from the moment they get on the train.

Of course, many other changes are needed. For winter sports, however, this is one of the crucial points. The food in the huts perhaps too, but getting there is certainly the biggest lever.

If you could wish for something for the snow of tomorrow, what would it be?

If it were really just a wish list, then I would wish for absolutely natural snow that doesn't melt and where you can still ski, even at plus temperatures. Realistically, I hope that we manage to change society and that we will still be able to go skiing in 2050 and our grandchildren in 2100.

That's a great final word. Thank you very much for the interview.

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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