What: Donny Roth: Unskied Lines in the Andes
When: Thursday, Dec. 6, 8 p.m.
Where: Neptune Mountaineering
More info: http://neptunemountaineering.com/events.aspx
P rofessional skier and adventure guide Donny Roth is back in the Front Range after spending a few years living in different parts of the world. He's building a house in Nederland and planning trips to Alaska and Europe this winter.
"I'm going to a bunch of places with a lot of snow," Roth said, laughing, while working on a pair of alpine touring skis one Tuesday evening at Boulder Nordic Sport. He's been helping the store grow its alpine touring knowledge base by working on skis, working the floor and talking to folks who want more information about the sport.
Roth will share the story of his most recent trip to South America at Neptune Mountaineering on Thursday evening.
What are your thoughts on the lack of snow? Fed up yet?
It's getting frustrating. The fact that we are even worried about skiing conditions proves we are more privileged than most. I think it's important to look at the big picture. Yeah, it's a bummer, but the fact there's forest fires in Estes Park in December -- that's really scary. This is three seasons in a row in South America where in the northern part of Chile it's been really dry.
This is two seasons in a row here. The verdict is still out here, but it doesn't look good. The long-range forecast is dry. We're supposed to see a slight shift in the weather patterns, it's going to get colder but it doesn't have a lot of moisture to it. We'll see.
Is this global warming?
It just makes you think, what if this thing that we thought would take a long time, climate change, what if it happened? What if? What do you do then? And honestly my job is I'm a pro skier and a guide, so that affects me, but at the same time, that I can work out. I've positioned myself in a really good place. I'm much more concerned about my community. It really hits home when it's going to be the middle of December here soon and we won't have skied yet. I was supposed to teach an avalanche course this weekend and we canceled it because there's not enough snow to do it, not even close. There's basically none.
We're in Boulder, a pretty 'green' community. What more can people here do to protect the environment?
It's really easy to blame everybody else. It's the guy with the SUV or the guy with the 6,000 square foot house that's causing the problem. The reality is, you have to look at yourself and say, "how come it's OK that I have a new pair of skis every year?" Because I use it outside and because I don't use a chair lift or a helicopter, is that what makes it OK? We all have to reduce.
I guess I just take it personally, like personal responsibility to say, "OK, what's my part in this? And what can I do better?" That's all I can change. I can't change anybody else's perspective or idea. I used to be a helicopter ski guide and the consumptive piece of that was crazy. To watch a gas gauge go "schoop," just empty, run after run after run, filling up with this really expensive fuel over and over and over again. People are just like "more, more, more." It got to me, and now I'm a human-powered skier. I'm kind of tired of battling other people or blaming other people for the things that affect us. The only choice I have is to look at what I'm doing. Skiing is not essential to life, so it's a real privilege that I've been able to do this. I'm 37 years old. It's a privilege for sure, and I don't think that I should say I deserve it for any reason.
What do you plan to speak about at Neptune?
The story is based on this man that we met (in South America) that we had dinner with twice. He has been there for about 70 years. He's 82. He's seen the changes in this area. He worked in the mines first and then the hydroelectric facilities. (Maule) river valley produces 50 percent of all of Chile's energy, so the power plants have completely changed the valley. He was able to tell us stories about when the river was 600 meters wide, and now it's a trickle. It took five days to walk from Talca to where he lives now. It takes us an hour and a half in a car now. It's a paved road the whole way.
His name is Fosorito and it means "little match," like phosphorous. He was the little guy that got sent into the coalmines where the adults couldn't go. So he came out every day with a charred face from all the coal. If he took off his shirt, he looked like a little match. He was 12.
As you mentioned, you've been skiing a long time. Is there anything you've learned you'd like to share?
Skiing is really just a medium to me; it's not the goal. It's not just about skiing anymore. It's about these adventures we get to have and the people we meet and the places we go and the cultural experiences.
If you think about it, if it's just about skiing it's really limiting, and also it's not very different. Skiing powder in Japan or skiing powder in Alaska, it's slightly different, but really when you're in the snow, snow is snow. It covers so much of the world and when you go to those corners you find out the differences lie in the people that are there.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.