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As warm, dry fall sparks fires, slows ski openings, POW praises Biden climate infrastructure bills

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November 16, 2021, 11:38 am
Sparse snow coverage on lower Vail Mountain over the weekend.

Vail and Breckenridge managed to open a few ski runs last Friday despite a very warm, dry fall so far, joining Keystone, but other Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass ski resorts around the West haven’t been quite as fortunate.

Park City last week delayed its opening indefinitely, and on Tuesday two Lake Tahoe Epic Pass resorts — Heavenly and Northstar — also pushed back their openings. And Snowbasin in Utah also announced a delayed opening.

Colorado should be brushed by a northern storm Tuesday into Wednesday, with colder temperatures better suited for snowmaking, and then another minor shot moves in over the weekend, but natural snowfall amounts will likely be low. And there’s more warm, sunny weather in the forecast in between the small storms.

However, there is a chance for a more significant storm the middle of next week, when Beaver Creek is scheduled to open on Wednesday, Nov. 24.

Any moisture would be helpful, and not just for skiing. As manmade climate change continues to exacerbate the aridification of Colorado and the West over the past two decades, wildfire season is pushing deeper into what used to be ski season. On Tuesday, a wildfire near Estes Park forced some mandatory evacuations of homes.

There is some good news on the climate front, however, with the signing Monday by President Joe Biden of a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that contains some of the largest investments yet on climate mitigation and resiliency in the nation’s energy and transportation sectors.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who owns a home in Vail and has directed unprecedented state spending toward combating climate change, and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, who sits the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and whose district includes Vail, were both in attendance for the infrastructure bill signing.

And Vail Resorts recently announced it is sourcing about 85% of its electricity at its 34 ski resorts from renewable sources, moving the company closer to its goal of 100% net zero by 2030.

Protect Our Winters, a snow rider-driven advocacy group, praised the bipartisan infrastructure bill and urged passage of the Build Back Better budget bill with even more spending on clean energy and electric-vehicle infrastructure. Here’s a press release from POW:

The Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act that President Biden just signed into law includes a historic $150 billion in climate related investments. Investments in EVs including a national charging network, grid updates that are essential for a clean energy future, and a plan to cap orphan methane wells that are releasing emissions that Protect Our Winters has been advocating for for more than a decade. 

POW’s Athlete, Brand and Science Alliance members have been on Capitol Hill and speaking out for many of the investments in clean energy and transportation that are being made as part of the Infrastructure Bill. These investments will start to put the infrastructure in place for the U.S. to reach Paris Climate Accord goals, and are the first steps toward clean air and a healthier planet. 

“We are at a critical moment both environmentally and politically to take meaningful action on climate,” said Mario Molina, Executive Director of Protect Our Winters. “Protect Our Winters, along with our athlete, science and brand alliance members have been advocating for years on Capitol Hill for action on electric vehicles, grid updates and worker transition to a clean energy future.”

POW Alliance Members directed their energy toward including climate programs in this Infrastructure bill. Protect Our Winters generated 10 opinion pieces in targeted regions, held personal meetings with Senator’s offices in Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Montana, and an additional 31 meetings on Capitol Hill, many directly with key Senators and members of Congress. On social media, POW and the Alliance created  nearly three million engagements around championing climate action in Infrastructure and the budget. 

The Infrastructure and Jobs Act is also remarkable in that it is cross-partisan. Twenty-two Senators from both sides of the aisle came together to write and co-sponsor this bill. POW believes that climate change should and can be bigger than party line (even at this divided moment).

“This is a major win and an important first step in the right direction in a number of ways: it is bipartisan and it builds a base layer from which we can quickly scale the transition to clean energy,” Molina continued. The phone calls, votes, advocacy and action of POW members and the Outdoor State as a whole undeniably played a big role in getting this done. People who recreate outdoors are up for a challenge and today shows that through grit and tenacity we can achieve tough goals. We’re now off the starting line and ready to hit our stride on climate action.”

While this bill is a great start, reducing emissions and slowing global warming will be a marathon. Just around the bend is the Budget Reconciliation Bill, in which current versions include $550 billion in climate programs and policies. This second round of major funding is still being debated, but members seem to be coalescing around clean energy tax credits, resilience investments including the creation of a civilian climate corps, and major investments and incentives for clean energy technology, manufacturing and supply chains. 

To go from where the country was on climate a year ago to where we are today, with a President championing climate action and Congress working to pull together a combined $700 billion in climate investments is remarkable. We know that the votes of the Outdoor State, voices of POW’s Athlete, Science and Brand Alliances and support from industry partners and POW supporters were crucial in today’s climate action win. 

While those who love the outdoors can celebrate today, there are miles to go to keep warming below 1.5 C degrees. POW is organizing advocacy efforts to ensure that the Budget Reconciliation Bill includes substantial climate action and makes it to President Biden’s ready and waiting signature. POW will then continue working tirelessly to advocate for the clean electricity payment program, which was dropped from the budget, to begin placing a price on carbon, to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies once and for all, and other crucial efforts to reduce emissions and slow warming. 

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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