GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Today's high school students can be the change they want to see in their world, and with their Rocky Mountain winters.
That's the message promoted by the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) and Protect Our Winters (POW), as they reach out to area high school students this week.
The groups are sponsoring visits to schools in the Roaring Fork School District and elsewhere by Winter X Games athletes leading up to this week's games in Aspen. The athletes are talking about climate change, its effect on seasonal snowfall and what students can do to find solutions.
"You are the generation that can do something about it," professional freeskier Nick Martini of Breckenridge told a gathering of freshmen and sophomore students at Glenwood Springs High School Thursday afternoon.
In his travels around the world to ski in places like Iceland and Europe, and even in his native New England, Martini said the effects of climate change on winter weather are evident.
"We're seeing less and less snow and shorter winters every year," he said. "On the East Coast, they pretty much rely on snowmaking all the time now, because there's not as much natural snow as there used to be."
Martini emphasized that the erratic weather patterns in recent decades are a concern for all generations, especially in winter resort areas such as Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley, because it ultimately affects the economy.
"If there's no snow, there's a lack of jobs and a lack of recreation for the people that live here," he said.
Martini is part of a group of winter sports athletes who help ACE and POW educate students about climate change and its impacts through their "Hot Planet/Cool Athletes" presentations in schools.
On Wednesday, snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler of Aspen, a four-time X Games gold medalist and Olympic silver medalist, spoke to students at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. Today, X Games silver medalist Devin Logan is slated to visit Basalt High School.
Martini is sitting out this year's X Games due to a knee injury, but is still in town for the event, "just hanging out" and filming the athletes.
Joining Martini was ACE's JD Prater, who provided a scientific explanation of how an increase in greenhouse gases in recent decades has contributed to climate change around the globe.
"As we use up more and more resources, we're taking away a lot of what the Earth needs to clean and replenish itself," Prater informed the gathering of Glenwood students.
As is the Roaring Fork School District's policy, student participation in any remotely controversial assembly topic requires a parent waiver to be signed.
Prater did note that a handful of scientists remain skeptical about climate change, and whether human actions related to the burning of fossil fuels are causing it.
"But 97 percent of scientists do say it's real and that humans are contributing to it," Prater said.
To do nothing about it is to take risk, he said.
Prater urged the students to get involved in programs to reduce energy use in their schools, homes and other buildings, and to "build habits that can last a lifetime."
That can include simple things like keeping the thermostat down, switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, shortening shower times, carpooling to the ski mountain and other places, and even using ski or snowboard gear one extra year before buying new gear, Prater said.
POW will also be presenting at the 2013 SIA Snow Show at the Denver Convention Center Feb. 2, including presentations by North Face athletes Martini, Logan and David Carrier-Porcheron.