POW student alliance taking root at SNU

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Brennan Lagasse and professional snowboarder and founder of Protect Our Winters, Jeremy Jones. Photo credit: Ming Poon

Maggie Galloway, Editor

All 20 students tuned into Sierra Nevada University professor Brennan Lagasse’s climate change class over Zoom anticipating a guest speaker. Lagasse was so stoked about the guest speaker, he even invited his Arctic Refuge class to tune in. It’s not every day you open up your Zoom conference call to snowboarding legend and founder of Protect Our Winters, Jeremy Jones.

Jones grew up riding in the northeast U.S. and became a professional snowboarder in 1991. Jones is known for his never-ending exploration in the backcountry, riding in some of the most gnarly and unknown places. He is also a big player in the snow sports industry as founder and CEO of Truckee-based Jones Snowboards.

Jones decided to use his platform by uniting skiers and snowboarders to fight against climate change by founding POW in 2007.

“I’ve known about Jeremy since I was young, considering he’s a legend, and I always noticed him in snowboard movies,” said Lagasse. “With ski guiding, I’ve gotten to travel to some pretty amazing places around the world. I met Jeremy in Antarctica when I was helping Warren Miller film a ski movie. Jeremy and Xavier de Le Rue ended up being my neighbors across the hallway. Jeremy and I got to know each other more through our connected friends in Tahoe and having a passion for saving the Earth.”

POW helps passionate outdoor people protect the places and lifestyles they love from climate change. It is a community of athletes, scientists, creatives, and business leaders advancing non-partisan environmental policies. During the class, the subject of creating a student-community alliance came up.

“Jeremy took the time out of his day to drop into our class and ask about the students’ opinions on what he was doing right, wrong, or what he could do better with POW,” said Lagasse. “I brought up the idea of establishing a POW club on campus and Jeremy mentioned the idea of the POW student alliance. In my head, I was kicking myself that we weren’t already a part of this student alliance, but it turns out, we were the ones to come up with the idea of it. It’s a super cool opportunity to work on a project like this, with Jeremy, in a classroom setting where SNU is going to have the first established student alliance group. It’s going to be really cool to get other schools involved across the country and internationally. It gives students the opportunity to talk about climate change and understand it better and to be a part of solving the problem.”

SNU is known for having a student body full of adventurous rock climbers, skiers, snowboarders, surfers and more. Brayden Stephenson, an SNU sophomore from Southern California, spends his days outside snowboarding and surfing.

“It feels super good to be a part of this community at SNU that’s focusing on this,” said Stephenson. “It’s so easy to feel helpless when it comes to issues like climate change but with an organization like POW, you can be a part of change and action. I’m so stoked to see how the student alliance takes action.”

SNU plans to spread the word about the POW student alliance to other schools through social media and just by making new friends in the outdoors.

“I think it’d be rad and effective to get groups from other schools to meet up and ride together with a focus on POW’s mission,” said Stephenson. “I’m also super into how journalism and telling stories can create a great chain of communication and inspire others to get on board. I’d just love to see what we at SNU can do, I know it’ll be great. It’d also be rad to see if other schools can start their own chapters.”

Snowboarder and graduating senior at SNU, Nathan Turley, is also stoked to get behind the movement.

“Climate change is something I am passionate about and I would like to help POW in their efforts of combatting climate change,” he said. “I’m stoked to establish myself with POW because I stand behind what they are doing and believe in.”

“Those public lands are some of the most beautiful places on this Earth,” said Turley. “If I have kids one day, I want to create a sustainable lifestyle for them and I hope they do the same for their kids.”

Lagasse sees potential for SNU’s connection to POW through a student alliance.

“Honestly it’s the craziest thing,” said Lagasse. “I just assumed the POW student alliance was already established and to hear that it doesn’t exist yet creates a whole new opportunity for students to connect and find a sense of community and do it around a crazy issue that affects all life in this world and to be able to do something about it.”

Attempts to contact Jones for this story were not successful. For more information, visit Protect Our Winters at https://protectourwinters.org/