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Abma gets serious about climate change

Local skier holding fundraising event April 24 at Blake Jorgensen Gallery



A professional skier and Whistler resident is taking the future of ski resorts into his own hands.

Mark Abma, who has been riding the slopes for a living since 2001, has created an environmental advocacy group to help ski resorts and skiers reduce their carbon footprint while still encouraging people to enjoy mountain snow.

The charity, dubbed 1 STEP, was started last fall, but Abma is holding the kick-off party in Whistler on Friday, April 24, at the Blake Jorgensen Gallery.

"We will just be sharing some of Whistler's own initiatives to the community, because Whistler is making a lot of effort," said Abma about the event.

"And we'll be showcasing some other efforts made with bamboo skis and helmets and goggles made out of recycled medical plastic."

All proceeds from the evening will go towards the Whistler 2020 Energy Task Force.

Abma said he decided to start 1 STEP after visiting other ski resorts and seeing how easy it would be for places to reduce their carbon footprint.

You go into some cafeterias and there is no place to recycle when you finish eating your food, he said.

"We are pretty fortunate, living in Whistler, to have such an advanced resort with a lot of initiatives being made, but the majority of ski resorts out there are still pretty archaic in their ways," said Abma, who has lived in Whistler since 1998. "They are operating on 1970s-type systems."

Since 1 STEP is still a new organization, Abma said they are still figuring out what other initiatives they would like to tackle. Bio diesel snow cats and geothermal energy systems are two things he would like to focus on, though. Specifically, Abma talked about encouraging ski resort restaurants to donate the extra oil from their deep fryers to snow cats.

"Nelson is the only resort I have heard about right now that is reutilizing their waste veggie oil for their snow cats," said Abma, who still uses snow cats, snow mobiles and helicopters to access terrain.

"They have been doing it for six years, and they say the program is working well for them. They have really reduced how much diesel they have to buy just by reusing the oil from their deep fryers."

1 STEP will also promote sustainable ski gear.

Abma worked with Salomon recently to create a bamboo ski that helps eliminate some toxic materials from the product. He is also working with Dakine on more environmentally friendly gloves and backpacks.

And every project 1 STEP tackles, said Abma, will be about educating and assisting winter resorts and skiers.

"It is going to be an ever-evolving process because in the day and age we are living in there is always new technology evolving," said Abma.

"Ideally we would just like to be able to be a place where people can share their own ideas and initiatives with the rest of the ski community."

1 STEP's kick-off event will begin at the Blake Jorgensen Gallery before moving onto Buffalo Bills. Tickets are $50. Only 60 are available.

Items being auctioned include photos by Jorgensen, year long yoga passes, Lululemon gear, spa packages, skis, and Helly Hansen clothing