The Snowrider Project

Do you ever wonder what our planet's environment will be like 25, 50, or 100 years from now? Will we be able to breathe clean air, explore open territory, ride pristine mountains, or surf unpolluted water? At the rate we've been depleting Earth's natural resources, probably not. The condition of the future remains to be seen.

A few years ago, the Surfrider Foundation–a nonprofit environmental organization devoted to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves, and beaches–implemented a new component to the Respect the Beach educational program called the Snowrider Project. This segment of the program is designed to raise awareness of the ecological connection between the mountains' snow and the rivers, streams, and oceans below. The Snowrider Project is dedicated to empowering, enlightening, and educating “snow-riding” junkies everywhere about the intimate and powerful connection between the snow, land, and surf.

Oceans cover approximately 70 percent of the planet's surface and contain about 97 percent of all the water on Earth. Water changes from one form to another, and moves from one place to another: this is called the hydrologic cycle. Continually recycled from the oceans to the air through evaporation (85 percent of the vapor in the air comes from the sea), water descends from the air to the land through precipitation, and from the land back to the oceans through water seeping into the ground, which is then pulled by gravity back to its original source. Because of the hydrologic cycle, there is as much water on Earth as there ever was or ever will be; however, only one half of one percent is of drinkable quality, so it's imperative to keep our water uncontaminated–at all sources.

The Snowrider Project suggests ways you can help keep our water pure. Because unclean runoff is the number-one contributor to water pollution (44 percent), remember not to throw your lift ticket backings, cigarette butts, or wrappers into the snow. Keep all trash in your pocket until you find a trash can where you can dispose of it properly, and pick up other trash you see lying around. This includes food, too: don't throw your banana peels or the last bite of your energy bar off the chairlift and into the woods. When enjoying nature, you should always leave the area exactly as you found it.

Also, think before you squat. Human excrement is a potential health hazard and a source of pollution for humans and wildlife alike. Besides, you never know where you're going to land a faceplant. But, if you have to go, stay at least 200 yards away from obvious present and future water sources.

The next largest contributor to contaminated water is settled air pollution (33 percent). So, if you drive, help reduce the crap that comes out of the muffler by having your car routinely checked. Carpooling and/or using public transportation, and driving conservatively are important as well. The less gas you burn, the less toxic emissions you release into the atmosphere, and in turn the better we can breathe and longer we can snowboard.

Get your local mountain to become more “eco-aware”–encourage a recycling program and food containers more eco-friendly than Styrofoam. While you're at it, educate your lift-mates. The next time some idiot sitting next to you throws their trash into the snow, especially cigarette butts, tell him or her what you know about nature's water cycle and the importance of keeping the snow pure and clean–after all, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Pay attention to propositions regarding the environment and conservation, and if you're old enough to vote or sign a petition, do it. One voice does and can make a difference.

In Surfrider's latest efforts to preserve and protect the coast, specific chapters have taken the Snowrider Project a small stepp further by working with local resorts to place educational signs throughout resort areas, develop public-service announcements, and partner with groups such as the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA).

For the past year, the NSAA has been developing an Environmental Charter to guide snow resorts in operations, growth, education, and expansion. Input from the Surfrider Foundation in the charter development has been welcomed by the NSAA, U.S. Forest Service, Sierra Club, and many more. However, due to scope and possible conflicts, Surfrider decided it was not the time or place to officially join as a Charter partner. (The Environmental Charter will be covered with more detail in a future issue.)

So if you're at all concerned with the future health and well-being of this planet, keep your ears and eyes open for Surfrider's Snowrider Project, and do your part by following some of the aforementioned suggestions. After all, the snow, land, and surf must be preserved, protected, and restored in order for our environment to prosper and lifestyle to continue. As Surfrider says, “It's all water. Respect it.”

For more information about becoming a member of the Surfrider Foundation call 1-800-743-PURE, or check out the Web site at, where you can also find out more about the Snowrider Project.