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SHIFTING REALITY shows how protecting our winters is more than just a seasonal affair. Written by Anne-Fred Grenier & Cassidy Grimes

It's pretty obvious—we're big winter lovers. But our commitment to this organization’s mission doesn’t end on March 20th. While ripping fresh corduroy or slashing fluffy powder with friends is high on our list, we’re outdoor enthusiasts first, and we look forward to each season bringing its own adventures. Whether it’s trail running, biking, climbing, hiking, a warming world has profound implications for outdoor recreation year-round. The seasons are shifting, and so is our reality. 

This year is a prime example. During some trail maintenance in North Vancouver this winter, I hit dry dirt in the middle of February—in a so-called rainforest. With a record low snowpack and a dry spring, we’re already experiencing the repercussions of not “protecting our winters.” 

Wildfires, extreme heat, landslides, floods, and erosion are all climate-related impacts which are going to affect our access to recreational areas, threaten our health and impact our overall experiences in the places we love.



The impacts of climate change mentioned above are all preventing us from fully enjoying the great outdoors. For example, take Wood Buffalo National Park, spanning the Alberta-Northwest Territories border. As Canada's largest national park, it offers a plethora of activities, from camping and hiking to paddling and wildlife viewing. However, due to significant changes in the landscape caused by the 2023 wildfire season, all recreation trails are closed for the 2024 season. And it doesn’t end there, the current status of the fire danger in Wood Buffalo National Park is once again extreme. 



We outdoors people have greater health risks when we are out enjoying the trails due to climate change. Here are some examples of how climate change is impacting our health: 

  • With higher temperatures, the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke increases, especially during those hot summer months. 
  • Climate change can exacerbate air pollution through factors like increased wildfires and higher ground-ozone levels. Poor air quality can worsen respiratory conditions like asthma and allergies, making it harder for us to breathe while we are hiking or biking. Sometimes it is even recommended to not go outdoors at all when the air quality, due to forest fire smoke, reaches a certain level.
  • Warmer temperatures can expand the habitat range of disease-carrying insects like ticks which can lead to a higher prevalence of diseases like Lyme disease. 



Climate change is also impacting our experiences in the outdoors. As certain outdoor destinations become less accessible due to wildfires, floods or other climate-related events, there may be more crowding in the remaining areas leading to overcrowded trails and parking lots. This can diminish the solitude and tranquility that we seek in nature. Climate change can also result in the loss of iconic natural features and landmarks that attract us to the outdoors. For example, melting glaciers, shrinking lakes, vanishing waterfalls, and receding coastlines can diminish the aesthetic and scenic value affecting your overall experience. 

To learn more about the impact of climate change on trail sports, check out this report from our friends at POW US.

As outdoor enthusiasts, we have a vested interest in preserving the natural environments that provide us with endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. But we don’t have to do this alone… Just like the exhilarating energy you feel out on your bike, when you are a big group of friends going down your favorite flowy trail. There's a unique power when a group moves together. When we rally, our influence is far greater than we realize. Collective action does move the needle.

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