What do trout anglers, backcountry snowboarders, day-hikers, kayakers, elk hunters, and resort skiers have in common? They all rely on a healthy planet to follow their passions. But while outdoor adventurers of all stripes share this fundamental interest, they don’t always come together on behalf of the places they love—and that’s where Protect Our Winters (POW) comes in.
POW aims to unite outdoor lovers, along with pro athletes, scientists, and outdoor businesses, to fight climate change. The bipartisan nonprofit mobilizes voters to support climate champions and regularly sends representatives to Washington, D.C., to lobby for climate-smart policy. Big-mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones founded POW in 2007, and it’s grown from a small group pushing energy-efficient lightbulbs to an international powerhouse of policy experts, volunteers, and other supporters that orchestrates a variety of campaigns to promote clean energy, electric vehicles, carbon pricing, and the protection of public lands from fossil fuel extraction.
We caught up with Jones, an active father who’s also the founder of Jones Snowboards, to talk climate policy, why the outdoor industry needs to step up, and how today’s polarized political culture is a great opportunity for POW.
PUBLIC LANDS: So how did a snowboarder become the head of the outdoor industry’s most influential climate organization?
JEREMY JONES: Basically, I was seeing changes to the mountains that coincided with what scientists were telling us. That was through glaciers, closed resorts that no longer had natural snow, rain at the top of peaks where that had never happened before…It was clear that climate change was real and our status quo was leading us down the wrong path.
Originally I was like, where do I write my check for climate change? I just couldn’t find an organization that remotely felt right. There were so few, and definitely nothing tied to the outdoor industry. I tried to talk myself out of [starting POW] for two years. But I just kept seeing the issue and I’m like, we need to do something.
How has POW changed since its founding in 2007?
The very first spot we put in front of a Teton Gravity Research film was about reusable water bottles and changing light bulbs. As I surrounded myself with scientists and experts on the issue, [they said] ‘Look, we’re not going to see reduction by just light bulbs and water bottles. We need policy change.’ At that time [around 2008], the Waxman-Markey climate bill had a real chance of getting passed. It’s hands-down the closest we’ve ever come [to passing a meaningful climate bill]. That was the first time we went to Capitol Hill.