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Short film aims to raise community awareness about climate change

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | January 25, 2023 1:00 AM

A new 11-minute film shines a light on how the effects of climate change, if left unchecked, may redefine the Whitefish lifestyle, from skiing to hunting and fishing.

Last year, Explore Whitefish and Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR) joined forces with Protect Our Winters (POW) to advance climate advocacy on behalf of a whole community.

The partnership’s purpose is to raise awareness about climate change, promote solutions to reduce emissions and empower people to protect their communities, lifestyles and livelihoods from a warming planet.

This winter, as Whitefish Mountain Resort marks its 75th anniversary, the resort joined forces with Explore Whitefish and POW to create “75 Years,” a short film that presents facts about climate change in a heartfelt and personal way.

The film features three-time Olympian and X Games gold medalist Maggie Voisin, as well as highly-acclaimed scientists and community leaders. It spotlights the loss of glaciers in Glacier National Park, trends for wildfire and snow loss that affect the ski season.

“Climate change is, 100%, affecting our sport,” says Voisin, the first voice heard in the film. “The three Winter Olympic sites that I competed at won't be able to host another Winter Olympics by the end of the century.”

Not only will Voisin’s three venues in Russia, South Korea and China experience climate changes that will cause them to lack snow, but if global emissions continue on their current trajectory, 20 of the 21 previous hosts of the Olympic Winter Games won’t be viable locations for safe, fair competition by the end of the century, according to the filmmakers’ press release.

They add that the Rocky Mountains are warming twice as fast as the global average and if that trend continues, winter here in Whitefish could nearly disappear 75 years from now.

Douglas Chadwick, Wildlife Biologist, correspondent for National Geographic and founder of Vital Ground Foundation said he likes to live here, in Montana, because of the wildlife — the grizzly, ptarmigans, mountain goats and wolverines.

“All of which depend on the great high country we have around here and cool temperatures and the lingering snow pack,” said Chadwick. But because of global warming, “they‘re all under pressure.”

In addition to the ski season and wildlife habitat, fishing in Montana’s world-renowned trout streams is also at risk. Wildlife Biologist Jim Williams said the trout streams in the area are experiencing higher temperatures that begin earlier in the summer and last longer, thus causing stress for several fish species. Because of that, he said it is likely Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will have to institute the closures of some streams.

“Climate’s kind of a funny term and it can evoke a lot of emotions. You hear about global warming, long-term drought, climate change — regardless of the adjective, the reality is annual conditions, temperature and precip are changing,” said Williams.

THE IDEA FOR the film is credited to Dylan Deane-Boyle, the former executive director of Explore Whitefish. Brian Schott, who is contracted with Explore Whitefish for communications and sustainability initiatives, was in charge of arranging all of the interviews in the film.

“I worked really hard to find people with significant credentials to talk about the issues,” Schott said. “I served as the lead writer and producer on the project with a lot of help from Dan Hansen, marketing and sales manager at Explore Whitefish.”

Schott added that Chad Sokol, public relations manager at Whitefish Mountain Resort assisted and that Justin Kauffman, the film and video editor, “deserves a ton of credit for his amazing video and editing work.”

The team spent 10 months working on the film, and began by getting the footage of Voisin in March of last year.

“Our goal is to begin to elevate the discussions about climate within our community and continue to take actionable steps towards reducing emissions,” said Schott.

Two such efforts that are well underway locally include the restoration of whitebark pine in the high alpine, especially on the Big Mountain, and the adoption of zero-waste initiatives by the farmers market and other event coordinators.

“The community solar project that the City of Whitefish and Flathead Electric are moving toward making a reality is the next step in our community,” Schott said. “Flathead Electric Cooperative already provides clean energy through water-generated electricity but expansion of the grid in terms of solar is super positive.”

Dan Fagre, Ph.D., a research scientist, sums up the outlook for Whitefish in the film, saying that in 75 years, winters will look much different here unless the community takes action. He cites a study in Global Environmental Change that shows many ski resorts have lost a substantial number of ski days.

He says Whitefish Mountain Resort currently has about 120 operating days per year and could, in one scenario, have only 56 by the year 2050. By 2090, that number drops to 15 days.

The film ends as it began, with Voisin speaking from her heart about the effects of climate change.

“It’s heartbreaking and it’s happening,” she says. “I really hope people are opening up their eyes to what’s happening because it’s obvious and it’s here and we need to make a change.”

To view the film, go to: https://youtu.be/HgWXZGWoKzk

photo

Behind the scenes filming Whitefish's Maggie Voisin's interview for the short film, "75 Years". (Photo courtesy of Brian Schott)

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