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Conflicted Obsessions – Whistler Blackcomb’s Arthur De Jong Talks Nature, Skiing, and Bull Testicles

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Doglotion: Can skiers be environmentalists themselves without being flakey hypocrites? Can the ski industry sustain itself on its current trajectory?  If I buy a big deep freezer for my garage and stash snow in it, will I be helping save the planet or sucking it’s energy? And if the Pope shits in the woods, but nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Wait, is that how it goes?

Whistler Blackcomb just dropped ‘Conflicted Obsessions’, part 1 of their 4 part ‘The Big Picture’ documentary series, and they’re on a mission to answer those very questions. Especially the whole Pope in the woods thing. Die hard environmentalists might skim the video and write it off as some cheese-ball hypocritical marketing attempt, but any skier who cares about both the planet and their own health/enjoyment/well-being ought to watch it from start to finish.

Arthur DeJong (WB’s Environmental Planning and Resource Manager) is about as central to this debate as you can get. We quickly caught up with him to get the dirt on this conflicted obsessions. After all, there’s gotta be a way to ski our asses off from now until eternity, and still respect the planet while we’re at it. Ski celibacy isn’t my cup of tea.

Arthur: Personally I think the Pope is a one of our best  allies and a very cool human being   (given the job he has) and if he can get the 1 billion in his collective  congregation to do something about climate change – he is a game changer!

All what we are saying is we know we are part of the problem – increasingly we are trying our best to become part of the solution  

Doglotion: Arthur, as a guy who seems to care deeply about the environment, has ‘working for the man’ at a mega corporation ski resort all these years felt like a guilty living or more of an opportunity? Or occasionally both? 

Arthur: I will leave the guilt thing with the Pope – Here we are 2016 with a global commitment (Paris) to resolve climate change. Whistler Blackcomb is driven to reduce its operating footprint to as close  to zero as it can  and inspire other tourism operators to do the same.

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Doglotion: In the video you mentioned some upcoming opportunities to reduce WB’s fuel consumption and waste, are you on track to making it happen? You’re not just going to hire Australian ski bums to ‘manually groom, the whole mountain are you? 

Arthur: Aussies make good groomers especially ones from the farm and they never want to leave – nor does their accent.  

Yes we are on track – but this is not easy. I have very talented staff that do not take no for an answer

Doglotion: If we all started monoskiing, would that somehow help? Just trying to pitch in my two cents. 

Arthur: As long as you are having fun on our slopes!

Doglotion: You mentioned sharing past challenges or failures. How did that snow-making project go re saving Horstman Glacier? Still an ongoing project? 

Arthur: The test failed – it’s important that we share  the good – bad and ugly of our initiatives. The good part was we learned a lot. The bad and ugly sum up the test phase results. We have moved on to another approach on operating Horstman Glacier into the future.   

Oh look. Giant ice chunks. Better than no ice!

Oh look. Giant ice chunks. Better than no ice!

Doglotion: Longshot, but can you think of any examples of ski industry creativity that has directly inspired a bigger picture change outside the industry? Such as a new technology or waste treatment technique that might have found a home outside of skiing? 

Arthur: Many of the world’s key influencers ski or hang out in mountain resorts – we need to inspire them to be part of the change. We host Olympic games which gives us a huge audience to influence. Our recreational design is continually learning how to build recreational experiences inside ecosystems rather than changing them – learning how to integrate with nature rather than harming it!  

Doglotion: Do you ever just want to bail on the ski industry as a whole, ditch the conflicting industry that serves such a small group of humans, and tackle some even bigger environmental issues? Or might the mission to save/sustain the ski industry be the most relatable way to keep everyone’s heads in the game? 

Arthur: Tourism represents about 9 percent of the global economy and we are going to positively influence it!  If Whistler Blackcomb becomes fully sustainable we are really just bailing the Titanic with a tea spoon. However if we can influence 9 % of the global economy to redirect the boat – that will make a difference.   

Doglotion: Any deep thoughts on how Doglotion.com readers can take this bull by the balls and help save the planet? No pressure eh…

Arthur: Thanks Jamie – this was fun  – yes keep grabbing the bull. My lesson on the farm is to do it quick in a lateral motion (not from the rear) while  the bull is eating. 

Doglotion: Oh snap. Thanks for the tip. While I build up the courage to sneak up on my next bull, I hope that our readers are inspired by this new documentary (and by the series overall), so that we can all start etching away at influencing 9% of the global economy! Challenge accepted…

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