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Wednesday June 14, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

It's been going for almost 3 decades & comes as US snowsports industry joins forces to fight climate change. And President Trump. UPDATED

After a great season in North America, we are reminded of the accelerating threat that global warming poses.

Whistler's freestyle skiing and riding summer camp is forced to shut due to glacier conditions.

Declining conditions of Whistler's Horstman Glacier have broken the 28-year run of the Camp of Champions (COC).

Climate change has been its killer.

The glacier is melting.

Following Whistler Blackcomb sending news of there being "less snow than meets the eye" on Horstman, the owner and founder of COC, Ken Achenbach, made a tough decision.

"Once I received this email, I knew that we weren't going to have enough snow to build the park we've been promising everyone all winter," Achenbach writes.

Whistler's Horstman GlacierThe Camp of Champions

His letter to the public and camp skiers and boarders explaining the situation and news that it is declaring bankruptcy is deeply saddening.

"Every year, the final pitch of the Horstman T-Bar shrinks more and more making it harder and harder for Whistler Blackcomb to maintain ... This has accelerated over the last four summers."

In 2015, the Horstman lost 35 vertical feet of ice and last season access to the glacier had to be dropped 40ft.

"The rock I used to sit on to do up my bindings in 1989 is 140 or more feet up the cliff wall above the camp park," Achenbach laments.

"For this to happen after such an exceptional winter makes this news even harder to take. I thought we'd turned to corner from bad snow summers."
So how, after such a good season, is it happening now?

"This year's snow pack is less dense than usual because we enjoyed such a long cold winter.

"We didn't get the wet cement spring snow that builds the snow pack we count on.

"During the snow drought years of 2014 and 2015 we started with more snow than we have now and barely made it through two weeks."

End of an eraEnd of an era

Camp of Champions, WhistlerCamp of Champions, Whistler BC

With no solid snowpack on the glacier the park expected of COC would not be up to scratch.

"For 2017, there isn't enough snow to build intermediate or expert sized jumps.

"A huge portion of our campers are intermediate/expert level riders, and a park without those features will leave them unsatisfied.

It wouldn't have lasted to the end of the camp season either."

"Camp of Champs was sort of like a fairytale land for kids. The view, the park, and the people were top notch. It will be missed," Canadian pro snowboarder and Olympic bronze medallist Mark McMorris told Snowboarder magazine.

Whistler invests a huge amount to keep the glacier open in summer and maintain the lift for glacier skiing in winter.

But it is battling against an impossible force: the steady increase in temperature.

Honourably COC decided to file for bankruptcy to ensure customers get a refund.

"In a nutshell, there isn't enough snow to deliver what we promised," Alpenbach writes.

It is not the death of summer skiing in Whistler, of course; the glacier is open and other ski and snowboard camps will run.

It does serve to remind us of the urgent need to face global warming; It is a small insight that we are destroying our winter playgrounds.

Global warming is one of the biggest threats to the winter sports industry.

With President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the start of the month, there has been movement within the US ski industry to implement the global agreement despite Washington's withdrawal. 

The new movement is called We Are Still In.

WE ARE STILL IN - Read the full article of PlanetSKI's chief reporter, Jane Peel, here.

The two mega ski corporations, Aspen Skiing Company and Vail Resorts, have joined hundreds of US businesses, mayors, cities, counties, states and governors in signing an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris agreement. 

In it they declare their intention to ensure the US remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions. 

The National Ski Areas Association, which covers the US and Canada, has a Sustainable Slopes Charter.   

So far 195 ski areas (75 per cent of North American resorts by skier visits) have agreed to abide by the charter and take steps to improve their environmental performance.

We Are Still In has the support of major industry leaders including Nike, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and e-Bay. 

SLCSalt Lake City - pollution in the mountains

Meanwhile scientists in Colorado continue to monitor the snowpack on the glacier that supplies the city of Boulder with its drinking water.

As the glacier contains the city's water supply, public access is normally forbidden to prevent contamination.

Each spring a team of researchers from CU Boulder head up to the Green Lakes Valley to collect data at 12,000 feet.

The team measures the depth of the snowpack.

The data is used to help forecast water supplies and estimate wildfire danger for the coming year.

The annual survey helps maintain an unbroken record of environmental data collected over 30 years to measure climate change.

CU Boulder has recently received a renewal grant of $6.8 million to continue its research for a further 6 years into INSTAAR (Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research).

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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