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Protect Our Winters launches in Canada

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Professional skier Greg Hill talks to a group of students. Photo by Chris Rubens.
By Oliver Lazenby

Winter is important to Canadians – think ice hockey, snowmobiling and some of the best skiing on the planet.

So with Protect Our Winters (POW) gaining such a following south of the border, it made sense for Canada to have its own branch, thought David Erb, a 41-year-old serial entrepreneur who, after having kids, wanted to devote his life to pursuits that make the world better.

Founded in 2007 by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones, POW is an athlete-driven nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness about climate change and advocates for prioritizing renewable energy. POW regularly gathers athletes and snow enthusiasts in D.C. to talk to politicians, and the organization helped unite the outdoor industry in the U.S. as a political force.

With this success in mind, Erb has been bugging POW to start a Canadian branch for years, he said.

“The voice of POW in the U.S. has zero power in Canada when it comes to anything political,” Erb said. “Knowing that everyone in Canada experiences winter it just made sense to have our own organization.”

Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada’s largest outdoor products retailer, came on board two years ago, supplying the funds to get started. Erb and veteran professional skier Mike Douglas assembled a team and launched POW Canada in the fall of 2018, and since then, many other brands have partnered with POW.

While POW Canada’s mission is aligned with the U.S. organization, it has its own board of directors, which includes well-known snow sports athletes Douglas and Marie-France Roy. And like the U.S. organization, POW Canada partners with dozens of skiers, snowboarders and other outdoor athletes.

“Knowing that everyone in Canada experiences winter it just made sense to have our own organization.”

Outdoor athletes are a force ready to be harnessed – the fledgling organization already has more than 30 athlete ambassadors. They’re passionate about winter and many want an outlet to make positive change in a career that requires emissions-intensive travel and promoting consumer products. And the original branch of Protect Our Winters has shown that athletes are an effective way to influence those who look up to them.

While POW Canada urges personal action and sacrifice, it focuses on the political.

“There’s zero doubt that we all need to do our piece – we for sure do – but the scale of change that we need right now is so massive and it needs to happen so quickly that our actions, although they’re important, are not going to be enough,” Erb said. “Galvanizing people around a message of climate action and making sure that message is heard at the government level is our mission.”

Still in its first year, POW Canada is focused on building its membership. This spring POW athletes presented at schools in Vancouver, Banff and Canmore. The organization’s goal is to reach 10,000 students this year through assemblies and presentations. Reaching young people is important and even personal for Erb, who has his own two children who he regularly takes skiing.

“For me it’s kind of a legacy project – what can I do at this stage to spend my time in a way that leaves the planet not only in a habitable condition for our kids, but a condition that they can thrive and have some of the same experiences I had,” he said.

To learn more or become a member, visit protectourwinters.ca.