Bodhi Yang, the 12-year-old NEPSA winner, fighting climate change through skiing
November 9, 2018
Living in Aspen, the fragile dance that has become winter is all too apparent. With climate change continuing to take away that joy, its future might be in the hands of a bunch of local children, led by Bodhi Yang.
"He really sees the connection between his passion for skiing and love of winter with climate and how it is changing," said Bodhi's mother, Ginny Yang.
Last winter, Bodhi, now 12, created a short film alongside local filmmaker Andy Curtis as part of his sixth-grade mentorship program. Last month, that film took home both the overall and the audience awards during Aspen Skiing Co.'s annual NEPSA Awards, part of The Meeting.
The film, which is just over five minutes long, features some of Bodhi's friends, including his younger sister, Alexa Yang, talking about their love of skiing and fear of climate change, along with plenty of on-mountain action.
"I was a little surprised, but that lasted two seconds. I was just so happy for him," Curtis said of Bodhi's film winning at NEPSA. "It's kind of a sobering thought when 12-year-olds and middle schoolers are thinking about even their children and having that forethought of not being able to ski and enjoy the mountains. It just shows how important it is to them and makes me feel good that they do have that sense of place."
The filming took place over a couple of days last winter. Curtis, who has won a NEPSA himself three times, maintains he had shockingly little to do with the film. Outside of providing some structure and technical support, as well as loaning out some camera equipment, the heart of the film all came from the mind of young Bodhi.
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"It was more profound than I thought when they were actually sitting down for the interviews and talking," Curtis said. "It was amazing to me because when I went to go help with the edits, he had basically the whole movie set up. But really, he just dove right in and he did a really great job. I'm proud of him."
There are no adults in the film. And what the children have to say about climate change is well beyond what is expected of anyone their age. Their passion for protecting what they love, which is winter and its recreational opportunities, is impossible to miss.
"When I learned a couple of facts about how the earth is changing and what the future might have, I became hooked on the idea," Bodhi said. "I made the film because I want winter to stay and for future generations to experience that, too. I just wanted to make something to show that kids also want winter. It's not all about the adults."
Both of Bodhi's parents have jobs related to the environment. Ginny Yang works for the Rocky Mountain Institute, while Bodhi's father, Pete Yang, is responsible for the environmental management system for Alpine Bank. Still, even they are a bit surprised by Bodhi's passion for climate change.
"I thought he was going to make a ski edit with just sick powder shots," Pete said. "But then having a message was super cool. A little deeper than just slaying pow."
Bodhi, like a handful of children in Aspen, usually turns down birthday presents and instead asks people to donate to Protect Our Winters, the nonprofit environmental organization founded by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones. The kids reference POW a few times in the film.
On top of being a budding filmmaker and environmentalist, Bodhi is quite the ripper. He is a big-mountain skier through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club's freestyle program and took second place in the U12 division in April at the national championships in Snowbird, Utah. He will move up to the 12-to-14 age division this winter.
"Bodhi is a really quiet kid, but he lets his skiing kind of speak for itself. He is so talented and passionate. Last winter at nationals it was really the accumulation of a lot of hard work and effort," said Emma Whitelande, who coaches the AVSC's big mountain devo team. "To see him be so passionate and find his voice through skiing to pursue another passion makes me really proud. … I don't know if they know how impactful their voice is. But it's pretty cool to see."
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