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Climate change is turning my sport upside down


Freestyle skier and devoted WWF supporter, Luke McCarthy got in touch with me back in 2013 with a simple but urgent question: “I’m worried about the future of my sport. How can I help you to spread the word about climate change?”

Today, he’s channeling his energy, enthusiasm and talent into creating a film about the impacts of global warming on snow sport. This is his story…

The mountains have been a huge part of my life since learning to ski at the age of five. My love for the sport has taken me down many different routes, firstly as an international ski racer and more recently as a sponsored freestyle skier. One thing that has never changed over my many years as a skier is my love for the mountains and a passion for everyone to be able to enjoy them in all their glory. This is a passion that is under threat by ever rising global temperatures.

Luke holding his skis © Luke McCarthyLuke holding his skis © Luke McCarthy

Skiing to me is not just a sport. It is a lifestyle – and one worth fighting to protect. Having spent much time emphasising the importance of global warming to my peers and the effects it is having on the mountains, I feel I must act. So I’m going to be using what I do best – freestyle skiing tricks – to create a film that can help reach out to the UK’s 1 million skiers about the threat of climate change. I recently travelled to the Alps to get started on the filming. Here’s how it went.

Les Deux Alpes (L2A)

L2A is one of the most popular ski destinations in Europe and renowned for its summer freestyle snow parks. A few friends and I took the 17hr journey to this mecca of skiing and headed up the glacier to film.

My first thoughts when we reached the base of the glacier were of the conditions… Having been summer training up glaciers most of my life, I have witnessed many changes to the mountains, but never before had I been on a T-bar (ski lift) with a stream running underneath my skis! Nevertheless the freestyle park looked amazing and the rail lines had plenty of options!

Luke making a jump on his skis © Luke McCarthyLuke making a jump on his skis © Luke McCarthy

Days up the glacier are short, we were on the first lift by 8am and finishing on the slopes by 1pm. During the week there was one night of snowfall. When we reached the top of the glacier (which had been predicted to shut) we were pleasantly greeted by empty slopes and 20cm of fresh powder! We even managed to get some decent laps through the rail line.

Unfortunately our next day up the mountain showed no signs of the recent snow fall… The sun was out in all of its glory and had melted away nearly all of the fresh snow. I have never seen such a rapid change in conditions during my 20 years of skiing.

One of our planned skiing days was forfeited due to high winds up the glacier. This appears to be a more regular phenomenon than I have been used to in the past. After speaking to some of the resort’s regulars, I was told that the jump line had actually been shut for the previous two weeks due to the lack of snow and high winds.

glove and mountains © Luke McCarthyglove and mountains © Luke McCarthy

Over the week I managed to get a good amount of clips filmed for the video. But the biggest struggle I found as a skier was with speed. With the temperature so warm and the snow turning to slush, it was difficult to get enough pace for the jumps. The rail lines however ran smoothly and I had a lot of fun on the features that were out. All in all I had another great ski trip, I just wonder how much longer my sport will be able to survive with the continuing changes. I hope that this video can help to spread awareness of climate change and ensure a long future for my sport.

Luke is currently editing his film for release in the autumn. Luke is a keen supporter of our ‘For the love of’ campaign which is urging politicians to take immediate action on climate change in the name of all the things we hold dear.

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