Documenting the future of snow
Slush melts on the streets outside as Porter Fox stands in front of a roomful of people and holds up his new book, Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow. Each event on his book tour has turned into "a conversation almost like a town meeting," and tonight is no different. In fact, Porter's independently-published book has been raising the topic of climate change and snow at the highest levels of national conversation, including an op-ed piece in the New York Times, an interview on NPR, and even a discussion of the book on the floor of Congress.
This was exactly the dialogue Porter and a few friends from the ski community hoped to inspire when they first began their grassroots effort to create the book. "We couldn't have done this ten years ago. There has been a democratization of funding, publishing, and digital media where creative people can just make something."
To be able to release a manuscript to the world with the click of a button was a small miracle.
But there were still obstacles. "A crew of four simply can't get a book out to the country, and the world, by themselves. Most major distributors told us we needed to show them a large amount of sales before they would stock the book in stores. Many independent bookstores told us that they would not stock the book unless we had an account with one of those distributors. We simply wanted people to read the book. Amazon made it easy to do that. Especially with Kindle Direct Publishing. To be able to release a manuscript to the world with the click of a button was a small miracle."
Thanks to the efforts of Porter and his friends, in partnership with the organization Protect Our Winters, the word is getting out that snow and ice may be living on borrowed time.
"The most surprising thing for readers of the book seems to be the timeline regarding climate change and disappearing snow. The fact that they are going to see it in their lifetime, and their children will see dramatic changes, is very unsettling. It was for me too, and that is why I wrote the book."
Porter, who has traveled all over the world as an editor for Powder magazine, says that when he first began researching the book "I was shocked by how much snow and ice has already melted on the planet. I've been writing about skiing for 20 years and I had no idea. A million square miles of spring snow cover has vanished in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 47 years. Europe has lost half of its glacial ice since the 1850s. Spring at Lake Tahoe now arrives two and a half weeks earlier. If things continue on the track they are now, the Rockies could very well be snow-free by the end of the century."
In a winter that has brought extreme storms to much of the country and record-breaking drought to California, Porter emphasizes that "snow is about much more than things like skiing. More than a billion people around the world depend on snowpack for their water supply, including 70 million people in the U.S. West."
Asked what he'd like to say to readers, Porter says, "There is still hope. We do know how to fix this. There's about a 20- to 30-year window, right now, to make major change, to avoid the most catastrophic forms of global warming. After that there's a tipping point where we actually can't control it anymore. Educate yourself, and then find the most influential person in your life and educate them."