DILLON – The first-ever Save the Snow Climate Summit kicked off on Thursday at Maverick Mountain and at the University of Montana Western.
Two of the event organizers teamed up because they have a shared passion for snow, so we headed out to the Grasshopper Valley to find out more.
“[I] study climate change. I got my PhD at the University of Washington studying ice cores in Antarctica and Greenland,” explained Dr. Spruce Schoenemann, one of the event’s organizers.
“I love Maverick Mountain! I am a skier. [The] thing is, skiing is been part of my life since I was two years old taking my first run on this chairlift,” said fellow organizer Cory Birkenbuel. “It makes me sort of emotional thinking about it — how long you’ve been able to do something!
“The seasons are about six weeks shorter,” Dr. Schoenemann said. “A couple of ski areas go out of business. It’s really had an impact on me. I want to do something about it.”
“I’ve had a low snow packed the climbing over the last 30 years. We need this long-term perspective. I can look at tree ring records going back 800 years and they show us that we are in one of the lowest snowpacked periods in the last 30 to 40 years,” Dr. Schoenemann told MTN News.
“So we wanted to have a conversation help inform people about [the] long-term perspective. Snow affects everyone’s livelihood — whether you love to recreate, [do] winter snow sports…if you are an angler or a rancher, retail.”
While it all affects the agriculture industry and ranching and recreation, it also affects the local economy as well.
“When the weather is not a true winter we suffer here as an outdoor retailer,” Beth Sullivan said. “It really affects our fishing as well.”
“Water is the lifeblood of Montana and West,” added Dr. Schoenemann.
“This is about having fun and celebrating snow — and talking about our snow pack,” Birkenbuel said.
“It’s not a conservative issue. It’s not a liberal issue,” Dr. Schoenemann pointed out with adding, “it’s a Montana issue and we are here to save the snow.”
Click here to learn more about the Save The Snow! Climate Summit.
Reporting by Missy O’Malley for MTN News