Presented by: Protect Our Winters Canada & Smartwool
It’s spring on the coast. The snowpack is thawing, folks are dusting off their bikes, and excitement for longer days is lingering in the air.
We caught up with professional skier, Pemberton local, and POW Canada // Smartwool ambassador Ian McIntosh. He was pumped to join us for a ride and talk about all things climate.
Ian, his dog Cedar, and John from POW Canada went for a morning pedal around Pemberton’s famous trails and chatted about his recent adventures, from fatherhood to navigating the complex terrain of first descents and climate advocacy.
So Ian, tell us about your professional career so far and a little bit about life in Pemberton?
For 16 years as a professional skier, I've always been the style of skier that's not really fancy. I don't do tricks so much. I just ski fast and hard, and it's done me well.
I seem to be able to still find my niche within the sport, skiing bigger terrain aggressively. And, yeah, it's going well. I'm still psyched on what I'm doing and loving it. Sixteen years in, and I hope to do it for many more years to come. I think my career started primarily because I moved to the Whistler area, and that's just kind of where you could get the attention and do the freeski camps and get the videos. I moved to Pemberton only a few years after moving to Whistler.
I love Pemby. I love being here. I love the fact that we have such unbelievable access to the Coast Range, which are some of my favorite mountains in the world, and then there is amazing mountain biking right out my backdoor. Everything that you want is near Pemberton. The ocean is not far away, and so I find it to be—for me anyway—the perfect place.
What introduced you to POW Canada? How did you find it and how has that journey been for you so far?
Becoming an ambassador for POW Canada was pretty obvious to me. I have been an ambassador for POW since its inception…since Jeremy Jones started it. Jeremy Jones and I are friends. I knew he was gonna start this organization well before it was even ever formed in the USA. Being a Canadian, it was obvious for me to be a part of it.
Working with POW, I must say that doing the Hot Planet Cool Athletes presentations are always a highlight. Engaging the youth is so rewarding and they are very passionate about the issue. It's their future that's most at stake and I have no doubt that they will be the generation to really make a difference.
You deal with the criticism and scrutiny of being an advocate for climate. What has been your experience and how do you deal with it?
You know, you're gonna get scrutiny. It’s not without its challenges. I think people, you know, from the outside looking in, think as a POW ambassador, we have to be a one hundred percent perfect environmentalist in every way. But we're not. You know, I'm not. I'm not a perfect environmentalist. You're gonna get people that hate on you. And for me, it's all about you know, kill 'em with kindness first and foremost.
And then also just letting people know that I'm not perfect. I never said I was. I'm trying to push for a better world and we should all be doing that no matter what walk of life you're from; what you do, where you live, what you do for a living. We can all strive and push for a better world. And that's all this is about. It's not about being perfect.
We should not have to live up to that standard because we were all born into this fossil fuel intensive world. And we're just trying to make our way in it.
I'm just someone who cares deeply about the issue and, and feels like we need to do everything we can do to drive for change. But that doesn't mean I'm not gonna live my life. And so I think that's where the biggest challenge lies … is with people. They don't really see the correlation between it all. They just think, you know, if you're gonna be a POW ambassador, you should be one hundred percent perfect.
So between your winter and summer adventures in the Sea to Sky, what are the impacts you've seen from climate and climate change?
I mean, it's pretty noticeable what climate change is doing to this area. Even in the short time that I've lived here, I've noticed a dramatic change. Not only in how fast the glaciers are melting and all that sort of stuff, but, but the increase in forest fires.
Extreme weather events seem to be the most prevalent these days. From record breaking heat waves to record breaking fires and then record breaking rain and flood events. The winters are also erratic, from huge snowfall to spring conditions in the dead of winter. Climate change is directly linked to these extreme weather events and they have affected everyone in the Seas to Sky and across BC.
Pemberton's a pretty extreme weather environment and the weather's getting more extreme. The heat waves are more intense and the rain events are more intense. I think the weather and the climate are just getting crazier and crazier every year - it's kind of scary. I don't know what it holds for the future, but I just know that if we keep having summers and falls like last year, it's gonna become a really challenging place to live for anyone.
From your experience, what would be your recommendation to others who want to get involved in the climate movement and take action?
For me the biggest change comes from the top down which means engaging in politics. Sending letters and making phone calls to MP's can and does make a difference. Our leaders need to know that this is the number one issue for their potential supporters. Until we have leaders who actually put this issue at the top of their priority list then we'll get nowhere. So far all we get from our leaders is empty promises and a bunch of nice words with very little action. Obviously engaging in campaigns, volunteering and making changes in your own personal life is important too.
Using my voice and my platform. From being a professional skier and a member of the community that people are aware of. I know that Pemberton has started to think more broadly about where our role lies within the whole greater picture of climate change and how we can contribute to that. Certain things like helping more with reforestation, or doing better projects with the fisheries, with ecology, and forest fire prevention. Because we're in a very hot valley in the summer.
What’s your next adventure?
In the very short term, I plan on going camping with my family on the west coast. See if we can catch some waves. Next winter’s adventures are still just ideas at this point so nothing concrete yet. I’ll be getting out on some great sailing adventures this summer as well as some bike adventures up in the Chilcotins. We’ll see…
Writer: John Meisner / Photo credits: John Meisner