Terry’s Climate Story

Guys’ Ski Trips

SkiGuysOne of the things that many Minnesotans of a certain age may identify with is the development of cross country skiing. In the early 70s it consisted of tramping through the woods on wide wooden skis, stopping occasionally to apply wax and take a swig from a leather wineskin. There were few groomed trails. There were no hi-tech skis, bindings, or clothing. And the snow was deep! By the end of the day everyone was exhausted… and very few miles were covered. Eventually groomed trails, night lighting, and ski passes became part of a growing industry, and finding a place to ski was as simple as a day trip to a local park.

For many years, I was part of a group of guys who would gather annually for a 3-4 day ski trip, usually based at a lodge or cabin. Sometimes it would be on the Gunflint trail or the UP of Michigan; often it was much closer to the Twin Cities region where most of us lived. Big meals, card games, conviviality, and a little beer were the main ingredients—and of course, skiing.

At first, planning a time for the trip was based on schedules and available locations. Anytime between November and March would work. Over the years, however, the reliability of snow cover became an issue. After a couple trips where the skis never came off the cars, the attraction of 4 days in a cabin with cranky men wore thin. Membership declined, and eventually the annual event was cancelled—partly for reasons involving growing families and changing lives—partly because consistent quality snow became unreliable.

Today, cross country skiing doesn’t happen for me without significant planning, considerable travel, and a lot of luck. And that is likely how it will be for a very long time, due primarily to the changing climate. It may seem like a small thing (after all there are some advantages to having less snow) but for me I miss the easy opportunity to gather with friends, step onto skinny boards, and glide across fields and through the woods. It is something that is simply not part of many Minnesotans’ lives anymore, especially those in the southern part of the state.

Although I know that we can no longer rely on cross country skiing from November to March, there are many other things that haven’t been lost yet in Minnesota. Whether affecting our natural or built environment, climate change has varied consequences, and there are many things that we still can do to mitigate and limit the effects.

The primary cause of climate change is the greenhouse gasses emitted by the burning of fossil fuels—mainly to heat, cool, and operate buildings. In my job in the State Energy Office, I work to persuade people to participate in energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy options. Whether adding insulation to our homes, changing to LED lighting, buying high efficiency appliances, or encouraging elected officials to look at energy investments in the same way they look at stock and bond investments, there are several things that we can do to address the problems created by climate change.

The paybacks for many of these efforts are tangible and real: lower utility bills, environmental improvements, saving tax dollars, job growth in certain sectors. But for me, an additional goal is to try to stabilize our climate enough so that my grandchildren won’t need to talk about something they used to value—but no longer experience because of climate change.

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