Unlike most professional athletes, Alison Gannett was an environmentalist before she became a world champion freeskier. Gannett has been researching global warming ever since she graduated from the University of Vermont with an environmental science degree 20 years ago. In the 90s she provided the action shots in Warren Miller films and won multiple World Cup Freeskiing Titles. She has since formed three nonprofits to fight climate change, including the Save Our Snow Foundation and the Office for Resource Efficiency, which offers free consultation for reducing carbon emissions in Colorado’s Gunnison Valley. A trainer for Al Gore’s Climate Project, Gannett also walks the talk. She lives in a straw bale house she built in Crested Butte, and on her Global Cooling tours, she drives around in the world’s first solar-powered SUV that gets over 100 miles per gallon.
Has climate change accelerated faster than you anticipated?
Every year the situation has become a little bit scarier. I call it global weirding, instead of global warming, because we really get such extremes. A common misconception is that we’re going to just get more floods or more droughts or less snow. The answer is we’re going to get it all. We’re going to have less precipitation when we need it and more when we don’t.
How have you taken action?
I’ve come up with a four-step framework to make solutions to climate change easier for people called C.R.O.P. It means calculating, reducing, and offsetting your carbon footprint, and producing your own power. It’s a simple framework that can be found on my website (alisongannett.com) that works on a personal level or on a larger scale for businesses or governments.
How did you get into extreme free skiing?
It was kind of by accident. I was skiing in Crested Butte on the Headwall when a Warren Miller crew saw me. They came up to me and said, “You should be in our movie. How’s next week?” I was a dedicated environmental scientist first. I never imagined I would be a professional extreme skier.
With all of these projects, how do you balance your time?
I do presentations for elementary schools and governments of entire countries. But I also get in a good amount of skiing, yoga, and riding my bike to recharge my batteries.
I have a big expedition planned in Greenland. There’s serious melting going on there—if half of Greenland melted, the sea level would rise 10 feet, putting the Southeast coast in serious jeopardy. I’m torn, because my traveling emits carbon. I have to balance my low-carbon lifestyle at home with my desire to get out and advocate for solutions to global warming.