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Monday, January 9, 2012
Updated: January 10, 1:04 PM ET
Global weirding

A photo taken recently at Squaw Valley, Calif.

In 2007, I attended a slideshow at Squaw Valley, Calif., that was presented by Alison Gannett, the 1998 World Freeskiing Champion and the founder of the Save Our Snow Foundation. Shortly after the release of the documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth," about the global climate crisis, Gannett was selected to train with former Vice President Al Gore. The result was a comprehensive series of slideshows about global warming directed toward a snow-loving audience. Her presentation struck a chord with me and it was the first time I heard the term "global weirding." It's now mid-January in a balmy and virtually snow-less Lake Tahoe and I can't help but wonder, is this what Alison Gannett was talking about? I called her up to ask.

One of the main points that you made during your slideshow was that the first thing we would see and experience with global warming was something that you called "global weirding." Please explain.
I found that people couldn't relate to "climate change" and that the term "global warming" left people confused, so I switched to "global weirding." That term more accurately describes what is happening -- while the planet is actually warming, the actual result is extreme weather. Global temperature increases result in really strange local weather -- record low temperatures, record heat waves, more windy weather, record droughts, and yes, even record snowstorms. As the air warms, it can hold more moisture, so in the short term we can have larger snowfalls. In the long term, more of those storms will fall as rain.

Alison Gannett hard at work.
Do you think we have begun to see the effects of global warming/weirding?
Today in Colorado, we are seeing record dust storms that are assisting in extremely early snowmelt -- up to 40 days earlier than historic records. I don't think anyone has to be a rocket scientist to see that the weather is a bit weirder than usual. The extremes are just so much more pronounced. It's January, and I'm going for a bike ride. How strange is that? In Pakistan, I saw glaciers advancing in 2005 due to increased snowfall, and then watched them retreat up to 50 percent by 2007. On one ski expedition it was raining at 17,500 feet -- something I have never seen in my lifetime. In Bolivia, I skied the highest ski area in the world at 18,000-plus feet, that glacier disappeared forever in 2009.

I remember that you said there was going to be a tipping point of sorts, 1 or 2 degrees, that would really mark the beginning of global weather change and global weirding. Have we reached that point?
In my opinion, we have already passed a critical point in the concentrations of carbon dioxide on our planet. But, I'm an optimist, I believe we have the ability to change.

What, specifically, can we do to make those changes?
In the end, I don't care if you believe in climate change. What my personal experience has shown is that it is quite easy to make simple changes in my life that have saved me money and reduced my energy use in half -- getting LED lightbulbs, carpooling, riding my bike or taking public transit, combining work and vacation trips, buying greener products that have lifetime guarantees, and generally consuming less crap. Every day we eat, drink, travel or live we are presented with some choices to make, and I just try to do the best I can.

Why did you start the Save Our Snow Foundation?
I started the Save Our Snow Foundation in 2006, when I realized there was a need to spread the word nationally that solutions to save our snow could be cost-effective and improve quality of life. I had started a local non-profit The Office For Resource Efficiency in 2004, working to calculate and reduce the community's carbon footprint and energy use, with much success, and wanted to take the message worldwide.

Are you still involved with Save Our Snow, what else are you up to these days?
I run three non-profits, The Office for Resource Efficiency,, and Save Our Snow, and two For-Profit companies -- KEEN Rippin Chix Ski, Bike and Surf Camps, my keynote speaking tour "Be Green, Save Green" for businesses and "Alison's Global Cooling Ski Adventure Show." I also travel often for photo shoots and filming as an ambassador for KEEN, Osprey, Patagonia, NEMO and Elemental Herbs.