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Alta states

The Canary in the mine shaft — a trip to the Australian Alps



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He pauses. Takes a deep breath. "That's why the government invited me down in the first place. They were worried that members of the industry there didn't fully appreciate the threat of climate change."

So that was it. He was assigned the job of Chicken Little back in 2006?

Precisely, he says. One can only assume, however, that his "sky is falling" message was well received.

"I think it was a wake-up call for many in the industry," he admits. And laughs. "Maybe that's why they invited me back in 2010..."

The keynote speaker at this year's conference ("this time," he says, " I got to address the full sustainability issue, not just climate change"), DeJong was amazed at the evolution that had occurred in the intervening four years.

"While Australian ski-resort managers might not have appreciated the threat back in 2006, that's certainly not the case today. There's a real sense of urgency now. People are definitely energized."

DeJong's popularity with Australian ski area operators (despite his gloomy message) may be in large part due to his role back home. "I'm an operations guy," he says. "I'm not a scientist nor an engineer nor a politician. I think that's why my message goes over well there. It's coming from a working man. And they get that. After all, it's big part of the Australian character."

That's all fine and good, you say, but what does DeJong's spring jaunt down to Australia have to do with Whistler? Funny you should ask...

"Once again," says de Jong, "I was struck by how much we're all connected. We talk and talk about a global economy, but I'm not sure we always know what we're talking about. Well here's a perfect example." He takes a breath. "What would happen if global warming killed the Australian ski business? Simple. Whistler would not only lose a passionate group of consumers, but also a very vital workforce!"

Think about it. How many guest workers come up from Australia to spend a winter or two living their dreams while working in Whistler? If the ski business were to die Down Under, that source of young skiers and snowboarders would eventually dry up and die too.

"We have to accept that globalization is here," adds DeJong. "What happens in the rest of the world has an impact on us. Interdependence is a reality." He pauses. Sighs. "That's why there is great value in the teaching and exchanging of ideas within our industry. And