The Quickening

By David Page, Winter Wildlands Alliance Executive Director

Skier Kyle Toohey slides through deep turns in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Unceded Ute, Eastern Shoshone, Goshute, and Timpanogos lands.

Photo by Iz La Motte @izmottephoto

This letter was originally featured in our Fall 2023 Trail Break issue.

It’s hard for me to fathom that fall is already here. At the time of this writing, I’ve only just waxed and hung up the skis after a final August session of dirty slush bumps on Mammoth Mountain. I’m already overdue in sourcing another couple cords of hardwood to feed the stove this winter. I’m also beginning to face the very real possibility that, due to the ongoing, crisis-level mountain town labor shortage (product of all sorts of factors), a professional fix for our leaky, storm- battered garage roof is once again not going to happen before the snow flies.

I can already see myself up there in late October, leaning into the wind with a trowel and a barrel of petroleum sealant, the first of another protracted series of warm-ocean-driven blizzards rolling down over the Sierra Crest. We’ll be fine, of course. We have an arsenal of sturdy shovels; buckets to catch the water; my skins are in decent shape; and—miracle of miracles and knock on knotty pine—the old skis and knees are still holding up.

Meanwhile, the intensity of the weather of late—first the record-breaking snow; then the record-breaking heat, the floods, the fires (see Jack Stauss and Anneka Williams, “Skiing Through Change”)—seems to have truly shifted the tenor of things. On the one hand, there seems to be a lot less debate about whether or not the climate is changing in radical ways, and more about what we can actually do about it, and how fast. As our friend Connor Ryan, Hunkpapa Lakota skier and philosopher, put it to me recently, there’s a quickening afoot, and more and more of us are feeling the need to start taking real action.

On the other hand, plenty of folks seem to be doubling down on old habits, as if we—they, really, since clearly they’re not considering all of us collectively—might as well get what they can while it’s still there to be gotten. As if now is the time to loosen the regulations, to grease

the skids and speed up the relentless encroachment into what little we have left of the natural world. Dismantle the clean energy programs, drill in the Arctic, build more chairlifts for the rich, sell more toys, carve up more habitat to boost the quarterly earnings reports.

I’m not sure the challenges we face are any more complex than they’ve ever been over the immeasurable sweep of human history. But there are more of us now. Crammed into the same amount of space. And our impact per person—on our surroundings, on other species, on other people, on ourselves—is surely greater than ever. It seems high time we move beyond the marketing campaigns celebrating our individual right to trample, and instead start thinking

of ourselves as part of something bigger—listening to each other, helping each other out, and, as veteran Winter Wildlands Alliance ambassador Noah Howell shares in his audio recommendations here looking at the path forward with some humility and self-restraint.

Let it snow,

David Page, Executive Director Winter Wildlands Alliance