By Claudia Frere-Anderson | Mar 28, 2017

It was an honor to participate in UW’s “Future of Ice” Speaker Series earlier this month. Mt. Baker Ski Area hosted a weekend of talks with expert speakers from our region, and I was thrilled to spend an afternoon overlooking the beautiful powdery slopes while discussing some fundamental issues surrounding the current perceptions of climate change and how we talk about it.

The day started with a cold but gorgeous drive up to Mt. Baker, a reminder of how powerful and fragile nature can be. It was an excellent day for skiers and snowboarders because the mountain was covered in fresh snow from the night before. I stared at the wall of ice as we drove up to the top. Luckily, my husband is accustomed to driving in snow (he’s originally from Alaska) and did all the hard work. At last, we reached our destination where I was met by Sarah Myhre from the Future of Ice Initiative.

I was quickly whisked onto a snowmobile headed towards the Raven Hut Lodge, and about mid-way on the mountain side, we caught up with Mt. Baker Ski Area owner, Gwyn Howat. Gwyn and I got into a lively and informal discussion right off the bat and then transitioned into a short video interview about sustainability in our work (the videos will be posted on the Mt. Baker Ski Area website soon). It seemed as if I had known Gwyn long before this meeting because we just talked about everything under the sun regarding sustainability. However, I think it was her approachable and warm demeanor that helped lead us comfortably into the video recording just after meeting one another for the first time. After speaking with Gwyn, I was impressed by the Mt. Baker Ski Area’s sustainability efforts and saw firsthand how they are integrated into its operations! 

The heart of the afternoon was the panel discussion, moderated by Gwyn Howat and Eric Steig, UW professor of Atmospheric Sciences. The other panelists included Atmospheric Sciences professor Cecilia Bitz and policy director Eric de Place from Sightline Institute. We shared our perspectives of climate change and how we can move towards a future that doesn’t focus on the doom and gloom, but rather on the ways we as a society and current occupants of our planet can work, govern and live sustainably. And what does that mean? This is a question that we will all continue to discuss… 

What I loved about this panel talk was the engagement from Mt. Baker’s community of skiers, family friends, customers, staff and supporters. The afternoon was enlivening, from feeling the cold air on beautiful Mt. Baker to hanging out with our region’s climate policy thought leaders and discussing the possibilities of a positive future in the Pacific Northwest and our world.

A big “Thank you!” to the Future of Ice Initiative and Mt. Baker Ski Area for hosting this memorable afternoon!

On the snowmobile with Gwyn Howat before the video shoot.

Preparing for the video interview.

Panel discussion with Cecilia Bitz, Eric de Place and Eric Steig.