Reaching summits with sustainable energy

Revelstoke ski mountaineer Greg Hill talks us through the steps he’s taken to reduce his environmental footprint and enjoy greener adventures

Greg Hill capturing powder. Photo: Angela Percival/Arc’teryx

This article first appeared in print in the January 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. It was part of our January Green Issue supplement, which featured stories with an environmental focus.

The slopes have been Greg Hill’s natural habitat for the past twenty years. So far, the professional skier and alpine-adventurer has summited over 200 mountains, has skied 50,000 vertical feet in one day, and was named “Adventurer of the Year” by National Geographic in 2006. More recently, Greg is a known for advocating renewable energy solutions through his use of electric cars and sleds, as well as for his involvement in Protect Our Winters (POW) Canada. So, what’s the next step for this seasoned pro? A lighter footprint, Greg tells us. Painfully aware of the paradoxical nature of his lifestyle, he is eager to find a solution to accessing and enjoying nature responsibly. We’re curious to know what that journey of discovery entails…

Revelstoke-based ski mountaineer Greg Hill has embraced a low-greenhouse-gas-emission lifestyle, in part due to his involvement with the new Canadian chapter of Protect Our Winters. Photo: Angela Percival/Arc’teryx

Revelstoke Mountaineer: How did you first get involved in the Protect Our Winters (POW) movement? What was it about the project that captured your interest?

Greg Hill: My eco-anxiety has been growing for many years, the hypocrisy of being a lover of nature — while being a huge polluter — has been eating away at my conscience. Something needed to change, and that change had to start on a personal level. So, I quit heli-ski guiding, sold my F-350, let my snowmobile rust, and limited my flights to business trips and important events. It was time to ditch the fossil-fueled fun and start looking in my own backyard for the next adventure. I’ve also become a weekday vegetarian (meat is only enjoyed on the weekends). I knew I couldn’t be perfect, but I could be better.

Greg Hill laps up the powder. Photo: Angela Percival/Arc’teryx

Once my personal footprint was being worked on, I began to wonder how to effect change on a larger scale— something I hadn’t previously considered. During the past eleven years, since its inception, POW (USA) has gained a great momentum and developed a voice for the outdoor community. To the point where they visit the White House and talk with Senators to push for various environmental protections. Seeing their successes, I started envisioning a plan for POW Canada.

RM: POW has recently opened a Canadian chapter. Can you tell us about any developments or events happening locally?

GH: When Dave Erb took-over the reins a year ago, I handed over my pieces to the puzzle, and we were finally able to launch POW, Canada. The objective of POW is to unite the outdoor industry to address climate change. We believe that our love of adventure in nature demands our participation in the fight to save and protect it. We were able to meet and engage with hundreds of enthusiasts at our launch events: in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Chris Rubens, a local ambassador, helped with two launches.

POW works by leveraging amazing athletes, creating conversation and a commitment to the cause. So far, Revelstoke-based athletes such as Kim Vinet, Casey Brown, Bruno Long, Anna Segal, and Nat Segal are involved in the POW Canada movement. Gaining members strengthens our collective voice, so we’re able to speak-up to our government about the importance of a sustainable future. There’s also a program called Hot Planet Cool Athletes, in which we go to schools and educate and inspire the youth to speak up about the futures they want. By next year we’re hoping to have some local events that are pertinent to the people here.

RM: As well as being a POW ambassador, a backcountry guide and a professional skier, you’re also a known advocate for renewal energy solutions. Is it difficult to juggle these projects, or do they complement one another?

GH: These are all complementary facets of who I am. I love being a ski guide and taking people out into the mountains, embracing the experience and enjoying nature with them. Being a POW ambassador and raising my voice to protect these experiences simply makes sense.

As a professional athlete, the stories I create can influence people, so now I work on stories that resonate with what I believe in. My latest electric adventures prove that there are other ways that we can reach our trail heads and that we can live an adventurous life with less of an impact. Much like I break trail into a new zone, I am venturing down a new path that others will ideally follow and enjoy.

Renewable energy, in my eyes, make sense because it provides long-term solutions. Now that there are viable options, I must explore them. The electric car has been fantastic, super fun and convenient, though I cannot wait for a SUV or small truck. In the future, I would like to install solar cells on my house to see about generating my own electricity.

RM: Moving forward, what are your goals for 2019?

GH: As a father of two, I want to ensure my kids have an appreciation for adventure and for the environment, as well an understanding of the lifestyle I impose on them. I wish to stimulate their desires to aim for a better future.

In my own adventurous life, I have summited fifty-nine mountains electrically, and hope to hit one-hundred mountain-tops by May. Next, the plan is to craft a film-festival worthy piece — one that addresses the internal conflict surrounding my own lifestyle. The common criticism of myself, “leasing an electric car trying to make my conscience feel better, while I selfishly ski around the mountains,” is one that clarifies that there is always more we can do. We must continue to strive for progress, not perfection.