Outdoor News and Notes for the California Region
Clif Bar responds to controversy
In early November Clif Bar announced they were dropping sponsorship support of Alex Honnold, Dean Potter, Steph Davis, Cedar Wright, and Timmy O’Neill due to their decision to no longer support those who free solo, BASE jump or highline. What followed was a spirited debate on social media filled with strong opinions on both sides of the issue.
On the ASJ Facebook page, some felt that Clif Bar was completely hypocritical for “drawing a line in the sand” and marginalizing people like Honnold—who has been on the cover of National Geographic—when their brand identity is so closely aligned with climbing. After all, they noted, there is a climber on the package of most Clif Bar products, albeit a roped climber.
Others felt that Clif Bar was standing up for what’s right and making the difficult decision to distance themselves from reckless and inherently dangerous behavior.
A week later, Clif Bar issued the following statement on their Facebook page:
“Climbing has been a part of our company’s DNA from the beginning. Over a year ago, we started having conversations internally about our concerns with B.A.S.E. jumping, highlining and free-soloing. We concluded that these forms of the sport are pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go. We understand that some climbers feel these forms of climbing are pushing the sport to new frontiers. But we no longer feel good about benefitting from the amount of risk certain athletes are taking in areas of the sport where there is no margin for error; where there is no safety net.
As such, going forward we will not be sponsoring climbers who are primarily recognized for free-soloing, B.A.S.E. jumping and highlining. This change in sponsorship approach did not come without great debate.”
In response Honnold wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times a couple of weeks later. In typical fashion, he was very diplomatic:
“If sponsors back away from risky behaviors, it may well slowly mold climbing into a safer, more sterile version of what it is today. But I tend to think that whether sponsors support such behavior or not shouldn’t really have any bearing on our motivations. I know that when I’m standing alone below a thousand-foot wall, looking up and considering a climb, my sponsors are the furthest thing from my mind. If I’m going to take risks they are going to be for myself—not for any company.”
Some commenters on the ASJ Facebook page thought Clif Bar was protecting themselves from a potential lawsuit by dropping free soloists and BASE jumpers, while others thought the decision was arbitrary and contrived.
While it’s hard to find fault with Clif Bar, it’s clear they will continue to benefit from their former athletes, especially Alex Honnold. While his chosen passion may be extreme, he will continue to be a media magnet and draw attention to the sport of climbing and all brands associated with climbing.
Patagonia and partner to invest millions in solar for Hawaii
In October Patagonia announced a $13 million tax equity investment in solar power for Hawai‘i— joining with local solar finance company Kina‘ole Capital Partners, LLC to create a new fund that will purchase more than 1,000 rooftop solar energy systems in Hawai‘i, where homeowners currently pay three times the U.S. average price for electricity.
Patagonia’s investment comes through its $20 Million & Change fund, launched in 2013 to help innovative, like-minded startup companies bring about solutions to the environmental crisis and other positive change through business. Or, in the words of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, to help entrepreneurs and innovators succeed in “working with nature rather than using it up.”
“This is smart business for Patagonia and good news for homeowners in Hawai‘i, who pay way too much for dirty electricity,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. “I hope other companies see how this strategy can bring strong returns and think seriously about doing the same thing. Business is in a unique position to accelerate the creation of renewable energy infrastructure.”
Renewable energy currently accounts for just 10 percent of Hawai‘i’s overall consumption. Over the life of the solar energy systems purchased by the fund, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 153,000 tons of CO2—equivalent to 323,000 barrels of oil, 75,000 tons of coal or taking 29,000 passenger vehicles off the road. Installation will provide jobs for hundreds of people in Hawai‘i’s solar industry, including employees of Patagonia surf ambassador Kohl Christensen’s solar installation company, based on Oahu.
For more information check out patagonia.com/us/environmentalism.
Backcountry skiing via snowcat comes to Homewood
Homewood Mountain Resort will ferry adventurous skiers and boarders to the top of Ellis Peak with a 12-person Bombardier snowcat this winter.
Pending approval from the U.S. Forest Service, Homewood Snowcat Adventures will debut this winter on backcountry terrain on the flanks of Ellis Peak, above the resort’s traditional ski area boundary. Once transported to the summit, groups of up to 10 skiers and riders will enjoy guided access to a wide variety of terrain options—from perfectly-spaced tree runs to steeps, powder bowls and intermediate-level glades—all leading guests back to the in-bounds terrain at the resort.
“Backcountry skiers and our resort staff have long known that the terrain behind the resort off Ellis Peak offers truly amazing skiing and riding,” said Kevin Mitchell, general manager of Homewood Mountain Resort. “We are very excited to be able to offer our customers guided snowcat access to this new mountain playground during this upcoming winter.”
All-day packages with Homewood Snowcat Adventures will feature small group sizes (10 skiers/riders max) and a fully guided experience—with guides trained by the North American Ski Training Center—in the out-of-bounds terrain accessed by the snowcat. Guests will enjoy laps from the 8,740-foot summit of Ellis Peak—where panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the Desolation Wilderness await—to the bottom of the Old Homewood Express chairlift.
Tahoe Donner hires Ted Tank as ski patrol director
Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area welcomes Ted Tank as the new ski patrol director. With over 25 winters as a professional ski patroller, including 15 years in ski patrol management at Homewood Mountain Resort, Tank brings immense knowledge and expertise to the Tahoe Donner team.
In addition to gaining an expert patroller, Tahoe Donner also greets their newest patrol dog, Tucker. Tucker is a 10-year-old golden retriever who loves people and snow. He also helps on patrols and assists in educating the public with live safety demonstrations.
“Safety should be everyone’s goal at a ski area,” said Tank. “Guests and staff should always ski/ride in control and to their abilities. I look forward to creating the safest skiing and riding environment possible at Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area.”
Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood employees pitch in for sustainability
This fall Vail Resorts, the parent company for Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, announced EpicPromise, a company-wide sustainability effort.
To do their part, Heavenly and Kirkwood employees (and family) did trail and signage-work on the Tahoe Mountain Trail with the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association (TAMBA) and also planted Sugar Pines throughout the Angora Fire Burn Area with the Sugar Pine Foundation. On the North Shore, Northstar employees participated in planting and painting projects at local schools with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, along with trail maintenance on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
“The launch of EpicPromise is just the first step as we look forward to implementing new programs and efforts in the coming months that build on our sustainability leadership,” said Beth Ganz, Vice President of Public Affairs and Sustainability. “From our commitment to sustainable operations to inspiring our guests to make their own impact, we want to be a company known for taking action.”