Eric Larsen

#016 Lindsay Bourgoine of Protect Our Winters Talks Education and Advocacy

Hey everyone, Doug Stetzer here, and thanks for tuning in to Colorado.FM – The Colorado Podcast.

Well the journey down the climate science wormhole continues.

This episode was again inspired by my earlier conversation with Eric Larsen the polar explorer whose last trip to the North Pole is likely to be the last.

Eric is a member of Protect Our Winters, an environmental activist and awareness organization founded by legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones.  In fact, when Eric came over to record his podcast, he had literally just returned from a trip to Washington DC with Protect Our Winters where he was rooming with Jeremy as they spent a few days meeting with representatives and talking about climate change.

Of course, all of us who are passionate about our winter sports need to be very concerned with what’s going on relative to the climate, and POW takes a very interesting approach by talking about the financial implications of this change on the outdoor industry, tourism, and livelihoods that are produced by these industries.

Unfortunately, our government really listens better when it comes to talking dollars and cents, so this approach can be effective at opening doors and ears.

So I reached out to POW who recently relocated their headquarters to Boulder, right down the street from me actually, and was able to sit down to talk with Lindsay Bourgoine, their Manager of Advocacy and Campaigns.

Lindsay joined POW in 2016 and has a real solid background in environmental advocacy and conservation.

We get into what inspired Jeremy Jones to start POW, some of their key initiatives and where they are seeing success, upcoming leadership changes, and of course a really amazing story of how Lindsay came to be part of the organization.

Online, you can find POW at protectourwinters.org and on Facebook and Instagram @protectourwinters.

 


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Show Notes

[02:45] Visiting the POW offices in Boulder

[03:25] What inspired Jeremy Jones to start Protect Our Winters

[06:00] Aligning with industry; The $887 billion outdoor recreation industry throws its weight

[09:00] After 10 years, what’s working

[11:45]  Politics: A wake up call in 2016 – Colorado votes for new Gov in 2018

[15:40] New Executive Director

[17:00] How Lindsay joined POW (Read: How ski bumming can be good for your career!)

[22:00] Why POW relocated to Boulder

[25:00] Making climate science wonkery accessible

[27:45] Helping people get involved

 


Relevant Links

Protect Our Winters

Jones Snowboards

Eric Larsen

Outdoor Industry Association

Climate Reality Project

Alliance for Climate Education

Appalachian Mountain Club

Jim White – CU Boulder

Luis Benitez

Burton Sustainability

 


Related Episodes

A Life of Adventure and Polar Exploration with Eric Larsen

Jon Miller of Backcountry United Educates About Public Land Access

 


Transcript

 

Lindsay thank you so much for having me over to Protect Our Winters office to do this talk and take a little time to tell us what you’re all about.

Absolutely welcome.

As people are starting to get used to the format that I use I like to ask people at the end of the show who they like to have on the podcast. And you know one of my previous guests Eric Larsen, who had just returned from a Protect Our Winters event or campaign up in D.C. He really kind of turned me on to you guys so I really appreciate that we were able to connect.

Absolutely we’re excited that Eric was on the guest as well as he’s one of our favorite athletes don’t tell the rest of them.

So let’s just talk a little bit I guess historically about Protect Our Winters. Founded in 2007 by Jeremy Jones as many of us know and are fans of. So ten years like ten year anniversary. I know you’ve been here since like 2016 but historically do you know what was kind of in his mind at that time. What was lacking in, you know the kind of the .org world as far as climate change that really made him want to start his own.

Yeah for sure. So Jeremy actually took a trip snowboarding. Obviously that’s what he does and when he came back he was really feeling like he saw a lot of different changes in the mountains. You know whether it’s glacial recession or reduced snowpack and he was really concerned about that as an athlete obviously that’s really changing the game in his sport and changing the lives of many of his friends.

And so when he came back from that trip he really wanted to give a financial donation to an organization that would fight climate change on behalf of outdoor enthusiasts so he did a bunch of research he was online. To make a really long story short he didn’t find one and realized pretty quickly that if you know we needed a single issue organization to represent outdoor enthusiasts and this snow sports industry to fight climate that he was going to have to found one.

So that’s exactly what he did. And you know he worked with our first Executive Director Chris Duncamp to start 501c3 and follows paperworks through the IRS and get everything going and then obviously ten years later we have five full time staff in the offices to Boulder and have a lot of success stories under our belts.

Yeah. So it’s definitely one of those kind of scratch your own itch.

Yes foundation stories exactly like if there isn’t anyone doing this. Yes. I mean has taken on and I really commend him for doing that because I think a lot of professional athletes might just say hey that’s really scary starting a nonprofit or a cause. And you know he just attacked it head on.

Well not all professional athletes also kind of have his business side of his experience and usually that’s where people tend to start getting hung up. Hey let’s do this idea. Oh I have to register with the state. Oh I’ve got to get separate bank accounts. Oh I forgot to do that and the organisational side is what kills you.

The experience running Jones snowboards and having a little experience there as a CEO.

Well that’s interesting. You mentioned there in what I read on the web site about not only just having a desire to find an organization about climate change but about representing the outdoor athlete enthusiasts. You know that’s a really much narrower and a very clear mission statement and having an idea crystallize like that in your mind really makes it a little bit easier also.

Sometimes one is too broad it’s hard. But at the same time the more I started researching this the more it made sense to me because there’s a lot of power in speaking for and aligning with industry. As opposed to just saying hey I’m a snowboarder and I’m worried about the snow. Right. When you start bringing on Burton, North Face other corporations that are organized. So from your experience you know is that what makes this organization either different or is that’s what’s leading to success. Because we all know that when you go in and you speak to government in terms of impact on industry your voices may be heard a little bit louder.

Yeah for sure. I think the way I like to explain it is I’m definitely come from a background of you know wonky environmental non-profit world. And you know we talk about organizing and organizing people. We talk about grassroots so you know regular everyday citizens have me organize their voices and have them be heard and then kind of the opposite side of the is grass tops.

So who are those business leaders who are those professional athletes and I think that’s where POW really excels and that’s kind of our formula is how do we use a grass tops voice to lead our grassroots community. So how do we have Jeremy Jones speak on behalf of snowboarders everywhere and I think when you saw it right after the 2016 presidential election he did a Facebook Live about how he was feeling and saying you know I’m going to stand up and and you know continue to go to D.C. and voice my opinion and when we post a picture of him in D.C. it’s like that’s our most liked image because people feel that he’s representing them.

You know, he’s their voice on this issue.

And so I think by bringing CEOs in ski resorts those are other grass top leaders obviously have more of a sway with their political leaders. But you’re absolutely right about business bottom line like if we compare this to every other industry the outdoor industry is huge it’s in $887 billion dollar industry. And so when we look at oil and gas you know it’s bigger than that. And when you think about how many lobbyists they have in D.C. working on their special interests you know no wonder they are succeeding and so we have this really cool opportunity to leverage that.

But I think a lot of groups in the past few years have been really good at bringing that out and talking about the size of the industry. And I think we’re just at the beginning of seeing that power like when you look at the public lands fight it’s like oh there’s a lot of force behind our industry and it’s only just beginning.

And like you said that voice maybe there was there before but maybe it wasn’t just organized and organization is just such a big part of having success.

So you referenced 10 years and a lot of successes. What are some of your favorite successes the success stories are real good campaigns and then you know what are your goals for the next 10 years. What are you guys talking about saying hey this is where we’d like to be.

Yeah absolutely. So I think in terms of successes you know I think about POWs mission in terms of engaging sports in the broader outdoor community in climate change. It’s really we do it through two things – education and advocacy.  So I think when we look back at our successes one of our key programs is called hot planet cool athletes. And basically what we do is we work with our professional athletes and we bring them into schools and to talk about climate change to kids and to give a better perspective.

So or I shouldn’t say a better a different perspective than maybe their science teacher you know says when they’re talking about climate change and it’s a way to say hey this is what I’m seeing in the field and this is what I’m concerned about and if you love winter and if you love outdoor recreation you should really be concerned too.

You know we’ve reached so many kids through schools and bringing professional athletes and I think you know obviously many of our athletes are incredible public speakers and so it’s just been a really fun way to engage. And you know obviously that’s that’s kids are impressionable and that’s when we have you know some of the best conversations.

And I think also the exciting part to me is a lot of kids get it. You know it makes sense it’s about the changes that they’re seeing in the world like when Eric Larsen just went with us to D.C.

When we got to D.C. It’s like OK we’ve just had two major hurricanes we have you know the West is on fire. It’s raining ash in Seattle and Portland it’s kind of hard to ignore what’s happening in the world right now.

So I think that’s been a big successive on the education side. And then in terms of advocacy I think POW has just really perfected this you know niche in the specialty of making climate action cool. We joke about that all the time around the office. But the reality is like that’s what we want to do is figure out how to take this like really wonky complicated stuff that feels intangible right because it’s like OK as is happening down the road I don’t you know I don’t feel the impacts day to day.

So how do you encourage them to take action on that. If it doesn’t feel real and I think that’s something Protect Our Winter really perfected and in the last couple of years we did a partnership with Ben and Jerry’s in New Belgium Brewing. So we would go to places and have people write letters about the Clean Power Plan and about where their power is coming from.

But they’re at a happy hour. They’re drinking beer they’re eating ice cream and they’re writing their you know elected officials at the same time. And so it’s like OK that’s that’s fun. That’s cool. And that’s not you know this really you’re not getting 20 e-mails a day being like write this letter to your senator you have to do this give us money.

It’s just kind of a different niche and I think that’s why we’ve been effective in advocacy. And I think to your question about where are we headed. I think we’ve realized you know 2016 was a wake up call to us. You know we put somebody in the White House who thinks that climate change is B.S. and that’s obviously not going to farewell for our agenda in terms of trying to get solutions passed.

I think the good thing is that even though that feels like a really big roadblock there are things like clean energy that just make economic sense. And so I think there are a lot of ways. You know you see that the Trump administration really working on promoting coal you know coal plants are being shut down regardless of what the new administration is doing it isn’t cost efficient.

He saw and you know coal plants are closing in Michigan in Texas. It doesn’t matter kind of you know political aspect of where those places are so you know that’s the good news. But I think the bad news is you know we have a lot of elected officials that think climate change is a hoax and it’s really sad to us because you know they US Republican Party is one of the it actually is the only conservative party in the world that thinks climate change is real.

So it’s not it’s not just this conservative ideal it’s it’s really tied back to the fossil fuel industry and how much money is going into that. And so I think we realized that we need to step up politically and we’re really want to play significantly more in the 2014 midterm elections. And yeah really talk to people about the fact that there is really low voter turnout in midterm years especially among millennials which is our kind of consumer base and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get people to really think about climate change when they vote.

Yeah and you know it’s interesting that you brought that up. I knew it was going to be something that’s a big part of your strategy for the next year. Not only the midterms in Congress as a huge event and then just to kind of tie it back in to Colorado. We have gubernatorial race and the incumbent is up for his term limit so he will be changing. And you’re up there already forecasting that this is going to be one of the biggest most heavily spent state elections ever. Yeah and you’re already starting to see the people line up and there’s actually quite a few candidates I’m not first enough to know if there’s any favorites really at this point but I’m sure that’s something locally that will be interesting.

And that’s definitely something we’ve been watching and I think it will be an election that we play pay close attention to. In addition we’re also really interested in Maine and Michigan and Nevada also have the same situation as Colorado where they have an open seat election.

Governor that’s termed out and we feel like those four states are really crucial in terms of having climate leaders and maybe in the past some of those states have had you know people that have not been great on crime at all and so it’s an opportunity to elect somebody that’s really going to step up and obviously for Colorado.

You know we think about our outdoor industry and think about the importance of climates like we need somebody in Denver that’s really going to pay attention to that. And this seems like.

If anywhere is a place where this message of tying the advocacy with the industry where that is very powerful. You would think that Colorado is the place right.

Yeah we especially when talk about the ski industry it’s such a focus of the economy here and not only that but also the outer RECA economy. You know you think about we have the outdoor industry association right here in Boulder. We have Luis Benítez in the governor’s office focusing on outdoor recreation and we have so many incredible you know from Australia’s smart will become businesses all over the state that are huge and depend on this and you know that’s that’s one of the best allies we have in terms of folks like that that are like this is a business bottom line issue. You know if there aren’t places to play you know if wildfires are burning down our forests that then our products don’t sell it’s kind of like thinking of it like why would you sell a tent if there’s no place to camp, or you know same with skis obviously there’s no snow that it’s it’s pretty easy to tie back to business bottom line.

Sure and 2018 will be interesting for you guys also with this new executive director coming in. Yeah. And so know what’s exciting about having kind of a new a new person coming like that.

How you he and you director his name is Mario Molina and he starts with us November 1st so we’re looking forward to that just around the corner and he comes from the Climate Reality Project which is another national climate nonprofit. I think his passion for the topic and his you know lifelong commitment that he’s really made to effecting change in climate I think will be immensely helpful for us.

Before that he worked at a group called the Alliance for Climate Education are really thinking about how we talk about climate. And I think one of the benefits that he’ll bring to power there is you know how do we effectively message climate change and how do we talk about it in these complex situations where we have people of all different political parties. And I think his background in terms of education will help with that.

And then beyond that he’s spent a lot of time abroad and has done a lot of work internationally and I think that will also really help us think for 2018 2017. We’re really focusing on on U.S. elections and we have a lot of incredible international chapters and people that are doing great work and I think we wish we had more time and energy to help but we’re also like Look who’s in the White House. We have a lot of work to do here in the U.S. So that’s kind of where we’re focusing but I think over the long term Mario will bring a much more international scope to power to you.

Well that makes sense.

And he lives in Nederland and he’s a snowboarder so.

Well welcome to the only player that holds the check boxes are all being ticked off.

And speaking of coming to work for power let’s hear a little bit about your story and your background because you’re manager of advocacy and campaigns in the you know that will play into all of these efforts significantly in in the coming year as well and motivating.

So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you know of all the organizations that are out there and how you ended up with Protect our Winters and what you’re focusing on for the day.

Yeah I started so I grew up in Maine and I worked for my first environmental policy group a group called the Appalachian Mountain Club in the state of Maine. And while I was there I worked in the state house and I had this this bill that just wasn’t getting through and it was on state park funding and I was super frustrated I was meeting with you know grassroots folks and trying to get them to come and testify at the State House and working with businesses. And just really couldn’t get anything done and started to really think about OK how do we get you know a large business to say something in this.

And so I started working with L.L. Bean and they decided to speak out on the issue and say hey you know we need state parks and L.L. Bean is one of the largest employers in Maine.

And after they spoke up the issue was moot.

And I said that’s exactly what I to do is work for for that because as we talked about the beginning of this show it’s businesses have immense power when it comes to political clout and you know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing that people listen to business in terms of you know obviously they have economic weight to throw around.

That’s the reality. And I’m a realist and a pragmatist and I’m like OK that’s you know it was exciting so I kind of ventured down this path of you know what is this balance between environmental advocacy and our industry. And with that ended up at the Outdoor Industry Association here in Boulder. Get a job with them in 2013 and road trip down from Maine a little U-Haul and moved to Boulder at the weekend of the floods.

So I showed up at my house and signed a lease on Craigslist and my roommate who I wasn’t actually sure if he was my roommate or not because are like 12 people camping out there were like grab this shovel like this trench is about to burst your neighborhood and we’re going to dig it. And it was like OK here we are.

Welcome to Boulder so wow. It was funny though. People say it wasn’t that awful time to move but I actually think you know what an incredible time to see a community come together and you know from day one to be a part of something so yes spend time here working for the Outdoor Industry Association went to grad school after that just decided that it was time to study up a little bit and worked on a Masters of environmental law and policy to kind of really curtail this whole policy thing.

My undergrad degree is in geology. So you know I think at some point you’re like I haven’t actually learned what I’m doing in an academic setting. I think that’s important as much as experience too. So did that wrapped up and didn’t have a job and decided you know if there was one thing that I wanted to do when I didn’t have a real job it was ski bum.

And so I moved from grad school to Lake Tahoe and they coached alpine racing at Squaw Valley and I met this guy there named Jeremy Jones and some point on the lift. I actually did some kind of behind the scenes networking and was able to connect with Protect Our Winters and start in in Boulder shortly after.

And it’s kind of funny now because if I think about going back and you know being unemployed and if anybody had told me that working at Squaw would actually help me in the long run with my resume to get to power that would have been kind of funny because here I was taking a minimum wage job just for fun.

But yeah and obviously for me this was a dream. I mean I work on really wonky environmental policy stuff that I love. But I also do it in an industry that I love to and it’s kind of you know this really there are few of us I think that are that lucky to tie our professional passion with our personal ones.

Right. It’s an honor. Now that’s super fun. One of the things that I’m noticing about this podcast by reaching out to people is I’m starting to meet a lot of people like you who are able to tell you their passion with their profession and it’s absolutely inspiring.

And that’s something new with Colorado to just kind of the people that it draws we’re talking about this earlier about just people that love the outdoors and spend time outdoors and maybe there’s a everybody here works harder to connect that to their day job too.

Sure. Well we’re also talking about how I haven’t posted this yet but I did have a chance to honor Erik Larson’s recommendation go meet with Dr. Mark Serreze who’s the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center here in Boulder. And we were kind of talking about this earlier but in his interview. He talks about how Boulder basically is the ground zero for global climate research. And you know we get into a lot of the technical aspects of of why that’s the case and some of the other organizations in town.

But I was curious is that what brought you guys to Boulder or was it other things? why boulder of all places?

Yeah it was definitely an aspect of that we have about a 12 person board and seven of our board members are from Colorado so there were certainly a push to move from California to be like hey this is this is this day and this is the place. But you know obviously there’s a lot of organizations here that are connected in one of the ways that we work with the science community is through a program that we have called our science alliance and basically we have scientific advisers within the university community around the country and around the globe actually.

And our goal is to really communicate the research that they’re doing out to our constituency because we know they’re seeing incredible things in the field and you know some very unfortunate changes in the field and a lot of times you know it can be hard to distill that information from a scientific report.

So how can we do interviews with athletes and scientists and so we work a lot with Jim White who’s actually now the dean C.U. but he was formerly the director of instar the Alpine and Arctic Research Program at C.U. and a very well respected scientist. I really think you know how having that accessibility to just walk down the block and interview Jim is incredible.

I’m sure you talked about NCAR and Kevin Trenberth is another one of our advisers there you know and it’s a pretty cool opportunity to be able to take those folks to ski resorts or to you know some of our riders athletes training programs and have those people present. But I think I think you’re absolutely right. Like the front range is full of you know all kinds of different institutions that are looking at this.

One of the ones I actually was going to recommend if you want to know who I would love to hear from is the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden. I don’t really know much about them. I think you know I’d be really cool for the Protect our Winters community to connect with the research that they’re doing because I think it’s you know obviously on the front lines of where’s renewable energy technology going.

But that’s right down the road to you can see the windmills kind of turning in the distance up on the hill over there. I’ll definitely look them up. That would be a great conversation for sure. Now that’s Boulder’s just like really interesting it’s you know it’s got all the outdoorsy stuff but it’s got so much science and technology in town here that it’s you that that’s part of really what makes it pretty special. So.

You spoke about the science alliance and you know I was looking on your Web site it’s just really very clear. We are also speaking about how the NSIDC they’re doing the same thing they’re trying to make the data and all of the you know all this really wonky terminology more accessible because part of it is just flying over people’s heads and you’re trying to address a younger audience.

So I think that that’s you know really resonates as far as a really concerted effort to make that you know information and kind of really you know educational aspect available and I saw that on your website a lot love it it’s just the way it’s laid out.

If you click on any topic it’s kind of got you know here’s the purpose here is that people who are involved in here’s if you want to learn more. And it was labeled like like a ski slopes like a green dot or something he really like the blues or if you really want to dive deep there’s like a double black diamond. I guess if you can’t sleep at night that that’ll that’ll take care of that. I thought that was really interesting how you know education is such a part of it. You speak about influencers these days and a lot of times it’s just you know how many Instagram followers you have or something like that.

But I love the Riders Alliance. In the guys going out and speaking in schools and you know these these athletes they really do have a lot of influence over young kids. You know when one of these explorers or athletes shows up at a junior high or high school I’m sure you know kids are actually paying attention.

Yes definitely a different way to communicate and I think you know it’s kind of funny because you see the same like awe inspiring look on a kid’s face in whatever educational programs that you do when you walk into a congressional office and it’s like at the end of the day we’re all inspired by people that you know that push the limits and push the boundaries and do these incredible physical feats.

And you know we had a few of our athletes on our lobby trip in September were Olympians and brought their medals and you know we joke again about how that opens doors but it really does like people are so excited to hear about you know experience and I think the other thing that power really tries to do as your team to effectively communicate is talk about it in terms of experience like we don’t have a climate scientist on staff and I don’t like when people say well I’m not a scientist but because that’s like way over used but the reality is we connect through experience.

It’s like I testified at a hearing in Denver earlier this year and there was a senator on the panel who was a climate denier and kind of you know talked about how carbon dioxide is really good for plants and went off on that tangent and I just said him whats different than when you were a kid and he’s like oh yeah. And you know just dives right into it and it’s like it’s not about talking about that experience and we don’t have to you know get into.

I think we really do a disservice when we start debating science because there isn’t science to debate. We have a consensus like End of story let’s move on and just kind of you know talk about experience right.

And a big part of that experience with her organization is advocacy and really speaking of education really walking people through how to get involved including Hey click here. Here’s a script for what to say to your local representative. Here’s some of these ideas. Here’s how to get a hold of these people it’s really he was pretty impressed because I think there’s plenty of roadblocks in between saying hey call your representative and that message actually getting across including who is my representative.

Like where do I find this person. Can I really just call these people and you know there’s just a lot of hesitancy there and so your Web site is really amazing and you can see where the priorities are because when you look at the. When you log on to the Web site there’s only like four tabs at the top and the first one is take action. And here’s how. Yes. So that seems really important.

Yeah and we definitely try to break down those barriers because you’re right it is. I think you know a lot of nonprofits do say you know call your senators it’s like OK great. Where do I find their number. Who are they like what do I say.

And that’s been one of our goals is to kind of break down those barriers and you know we do assume that with our constituency in terms of sports industry and the outdoor industry you know not necessarily everybody is members of 20 nonprofits and has gone through that process before and so how do we break that down for the beginner and even the expert to to make sure that it’s easy and clear and we felt really fortunate because we have an awesome advocacy tool that we use called phone to action but it’s actually gotten it’s so precise that we can actually have people text a keyword to a number and it will send them a link that will connect them with all of this information.

So we just really think about how do you break down these barriers so if you’re if you said the burned us open this winter and we want you to send a letter to your senator you can literally just text a number and take care of it right on the spot and not have you know this big barrier. And that actually kind of reminds me of another one of our favorite success stories is we actually built a phone booth. I’m not sure if you saw outside of her office down there.

But we take that to ski areas and you know literally while people are waiting in line to go skiing to help the chairlift you can actually just make a quick call your senator and you have a list of what you should stay in there and in kind of you know how this issue relates to climate change in their number.

And it’s like just take three minutes make a call hop the left and I think a lot of people don’t realize how easy it is and I think a lot of people also think that someone’s going to pick up the phone and maybe debate them back. And the reality is it’s like a message machine you call in there say OK what would you like to pass on to the senator. And it’s really you know it’s OK to read one of those scripts and no one’s going to say what you think that like. Take that back. This is wrong. It’s you know it’s really it’s a message machine. And so it’s really cool to be able to teach people that it’s not that complicated and it feels pretty good afterwards to be like OK I’m an active citizen.

And it is a bit of a numbers game right. We all know that we have these really low rates of turnout in elections and has really skewed towards older generations and. It has no effect. I mean the numbers are skewed in a lot of different ways but a lot of it’s just getting people to kind of show up. I mean that’s just historically that’s where you know the retired associations are great at getting people to show up and the people who know the 18 enough crowd they 18 to 30 or whatever. You know there we just don’t show up.

Right. And it’s all the organization I think a lot of people get you know not to get into something too political. People get frustrated about gun control and why isn’t legislation changing or passing in the NRA is an incredible organizing entity and they’ve done an incredible job at that. And you know we’ve heard things like ratios of people that care about gun control.

You know call about that ten times to as to one call of somebody else’s and it’s like that’s you know there is a staffer sitting in that congressional office taking a toll of how many calls are about this and how many calls her about that. And the reality is we have a lot of work to do to get to a place where you know people are like OK there were you know 50 calls today about climate change.

Right. But like you said it is just about making that call it’s not you’re not going to be have to put up a PowerPoint presentation and argue the science.

Yes exactly. And it’s also again counting backward to what we said earlier just your experience like hey I’m a skier and I’m really concerned about the future and you know we always say to that if we don’t have powder days that’s that’s the least of our concerns. We obviously know there are going to be significant impacts and a lot of you know pretty terrible human suffering and you know with the expense of climate change and I think you know we definitely know that and it’s you know you don’t need to go into the depths of that you can talk about the changes that you’re seeing in your backyard and what your concern is going to bring on.

Right. Well you know I think if there’s is there anything else that you want to make sure that we’re mentioning to the audience before we sign off that. No I say I really appreciate the time tonight. Like I said I always ask who you want on there. And you know we’ll go to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to see we can find unless you can also think of somebody else.

But yeah I would also just say you know you know join us. Check us out at protector Winters dot org and also you know as we talked about we really do break down the barriers to take action. And so if that’s something that you’re you know as a listener interested in doing you know will help you figure that out.

And I think the other thing is you know in the past when Jeremy started POW you know we are protect our winters and we have traditionally been about snow sports in the last few years we’ve really moved to the broader outer industry and are starting to get a lot of outreach from from five fishermen from climber’s saying hey this is impacting me too.

It’s not just about our winter sports it’s about you know how much snowpack was there that led into our streams and our streams navigable by kayaks or boats or are these rivers too hot to fly fish or is it a rock too hot to go rock climbing like these are actually all real issues so it’s not we’re not just a skier and snowboarding club where we’re all of the above and actually stay tuned for some pretty cool research that will talk about impacts of each kind of sport that we think of when we think about spending time outside.

Oh so there’s some good stuff coming in. You’ll have to definitely share it with me when you get it. Absolutely. Please. You know I’m happy to come back anytime. If you if you guys ever want to talk about what’s kind of the latest and greatest for sure. Yeah

I would also recommend Jim White who is on our Science Alliance but he’s just an incredibly well-spoken scientist and have been really impressed by his ability to communicate with the masses about what he’s seeing in the field and is obviously spent a ton of time and in the Arctic and traveling so he’ll be a good.

He’s right here in Boulder and these guys can literally talk about what they’ve seen with their own eyes it’s it’s amazing. So Lindsay thanks again so much. I really appreciate it. Great to learn more about what you guys are up to and kind of connect with you guys and hope we can do it again sometime. All right thank you. Thanks.

Hard everyone. Thanks for listening. And I hope you enjoyed this conversation. As we mentioned in the intro you can find the links to any related content in the show. Note to this podcast episode. If you’re enjoying this podcast.

Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we will see you next time.

Please subscribe over on iTunes or Apple podcasts at it is now known as leave a review. If you have a few moments if you prefer to get our updates via e-mail or use a podcast service other than iTunes such as stitcher or Android you can learn more at Colorado.FM/subscribe on how to hook up with these services.

 

#007 A Life of Adventure and Polar Exploration with Eric Larsen

Colorado.FM Interview with Eric Larsen

“Adventure really strips bare the person that you are.”

Thanks for tuning in to this really special episode of the Colorado.FM podcast.

Photo Credit: Sam Bricker

In this episode, it was my privilege to speak with world renowned adventurer and polar explorer Eric Larsen.  Eric is included in Men’s Journal’s list of ‘The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years.’ and coverage of his exploits have appeared in Time Magazine, Outside Magazine, the NY Times and many other publications.

North Pole expeditions are widely considered to be the most difficult adventures on the planet. Eric has been to the North Pole three times, with the first being in 2006.  The next time in 2010 was part of his Save the Poles expedition in which Eric became the first person to make it to the North Pole, South Pole and top of Mt Everest in a single year.

Finally, Eric’s 2014 North Pole expedition was documented and can be seen in the series titled ‘Melting: The Last Race to the Pole’ on Animal Planet and can be read about in his book On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic.

Have Fun, Do Good

Our conversation ranges from Eric’s activity in groups that are working to bring attention to climate change issues, such as Protect Our Winters, to why his expedition was very likely to be the last time anyone stands on the North Pole.

I can’t recommend watching the documentary enough.  It is truly amazing to see what it takes to make this kind of feat a success and what is happening to our planet in places that are rarely seen. I was totally gripped.

Online, you can find Eric at EricLarsenExplore.com and on instagram @elexplore.

And, of course, we’ll be sure to put any relevant links find Eric and all the related content, videos, his book, and group’s Eric supports in the show notes below.

 


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Selected Links from the Episode

Connect with Eric:

Web: EricLarsenExplore.com

Instagram: @elexplore

Facebook: @EricLarsenExplore

Twitter: @ELexplore

Others: YouTube & Flickr

 

Books, Articles, Video by Eric Larsen:

Documentary: Melting: The Last Race to the Pole – Animal Planet

Book: On Thin Ice: An Epic Final Quest into the Melting Arctic – Eric Larsen

In Praise of an Unforgiving Arctic – Outside

Alone on the Ice – Outside

How to Weather a Storm – Outside

 

Other Media:

Listen to a phone call from the North Pole – Redbull.com

This guy goes to the coldest places on Earth so you don’t have to – Time

The 25 Most Adventurous Men of the Past 25 Years – Men’s Journal

Will this man be the last to trek to the North Pole? – Outside

This is the most difficult expedition on the planet – Great Big Story (Video)

Follow the explorer who tackled both poles and Everest in one year – CNTraveler

 

Other References:

RyanWaters.net

Protect Our Winters

Big City Mountaineers

Skratch Labs

National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

 


Show Notes:

[2:35] Protect Our Winters:  Just back from Washington DC

[6:00] Growing up in the Larsen household in Wisconsin

[9:30] Connecting the dots – The path to a career in adventure

[10:30] What brought Eric to Colorado

[14:00] The supportive adventure community in Boulder

[16:30] The expeditions – Because they might not be there in the future

[17:30] Seeing climate change first hand

[23:00] Recording the most difficult on the planet

[24:30] Choosing the right expedition partner – Expedition partner newlywed game

[29:00] Doing one thing for 2 months

[30:30] Needs vs wants – How adventure clarifies decisions

[32:00] The ongoing process of digesting lessons from adventure

[33:15] Life between expeditions

[38:30] Coloradothon!  What’s next…

[42:15] Favorite spots and activities in Colorado

[45:50] Wrap up – Who Eric wants to hear on the podcast!

 


Related Episodes:

Lindsay Bourgoine of Protect Our Winters

Jon Miller of Backcountry United

 


Transcript:

 

Hey Eric Thanks for swinging by. Really appreciate you taking the time out of your pretty busy travel schedule to be on the show of course. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. That’s really kind of a real Explorer here I must say it’s something I was hoping would happen on this podcast. I didn’t know when or how soon. So again I appreciate it. You just flew in from Washington D.C. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing up there.

Yes so I you know I work with a lot of different nonprofits. You know realistically bigger answer. Most of my expeditions are really platforms to talk about ideas and issues that are just bigger than myself and as someone who’s been focused on cold places for nearly all my life. A huge part of what I want to do is protect those places and so I work with a lot of climate change based organizations on a variety of initiatives and one of those is Protect Our Winters which is also based in Boulder.

And so there is a bunch of us who are kind of athletes ambassadors and the snowsports industries that were in Washington D.C. just kind of knocking on Congress doors and saying hey what are you doing about climate change. What legislations are you working on and how can we move the needle on on kind of the things that are going on in Congress that are going to facilitate clean energy renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions.

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Yeah it was funny. I just totally coincidentally saw I guess Gretchen Bleiler. Yeah and post about a silver medalist and I think half pipe is. Yeah I think so. And you know she was mentioning some attempts to kind of go across the aisle like was that was it. Were you feeling anything from yeah.

You know I think I think everybody who was there I mean there was like a list of like pretty impressive winter athletes from like Gretchen to Alex Deeble who is like a bronze medalist in in border cross and a bunch of big mountain skiers and Jeremy Jones and Matt Segal who is a climber based in Boulder as well.

So there’s a bunch kind of heavy hitters in the outdoor space and I think all of us were were definitely impressed with our ability to one just have a conversation and also kind of like be direct about you know asking those legislators What are they doing. Can they get more involved and I think a lot of people you know Republicans were really interested in in you know trying to find a path into that arena so to speak.

So I think it was a super positive outcome for all of us. We were everybody was really pleased and I think the other thing is in terms of the auto industry and kind of that idea of activism through adventure I think an association with Protect Our Winters I think a lot of us are kind of as a group starting to find our collective voice. You know there’s a lot of influence that exists there through social media and otherwise and I think you know being able to flex those muscles to help kind of protect the places that we recreate and play I think is really important. Right

Well that was definitely something unexpected that you know we were able to just chat about since that just happened. Yeah right. I guess yesterday I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning got on plane and on here.

Right. Awesome. So let’s kind of back up and get into your story a little bit. I was really curious what was life like in the Larsen household growing up as is everybody and explorers everybody climb and you know it was just craziness. I don’t know if you have siblings or or you kind of the black sheep when it comes to this stuff.

Yeah it’s interesting you know I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I am the way I am and I’m not totally sure that I have the answer. But I do think my background and my upbringing has a lot to do with it. You know I grew up in a in a house that was very focused on being outside and you know we went to a lot of family trips as kids like camping trips. You know we would never stay in a hotel at any stretch.

And my dad was actually very much involved in just environmental issues he was the director of a nature center. So I grew up as a kid like collecting prairie seeds and and banning birds and like my friends and one of my friends were like What are you doing. Like they had no idea and it was actually as a kid it was pretty awkward for me.

My parents were very focused on that and that natural aspect of the environment and I was very much drawn to the your side just as as on an individual level. And so I had a lot of support in that arena. But you know back then in Wisconsin there isn’t this bigger network of adventure and it’s always fun for me or funny I guess to compare like the world now versus back then and we just didn’t have this bigger perspective that a lot of people can really get through.

You know Internet media social media today. And so I didn’t know I knew that I like to do these kind of outdoor trips. And I was just trying to find my way to adventure and whatever I could you know like when I was in eighth grade I got a paper and saved up enough money and got a bicycle you know and then I was just able to go.

That was like I allowed me to go out and just explore on my own because that’s what I wanted to do. So I would grab a map and I would write 60 70 80 miles you know and stop at a bar and grab a Coke and you know keep riding I mean this was this as a 12 year old kid you know. Sure. And so that was like me kind of like trying to discover the world for myself. And it kind of progress in there. But like I said in Wisconsin there was no kind of infrastructure set up for somebody like myself to be able to kind of get more in those skills and so I just kind of did it on my own.

You know I was lucky enough to be involved in a few kind of youth groups that were doing adventure trips and you know I was able to get a taste of some of these things and then just started kind of planning my own trips from there with friends and you know we would make up adventure in any way we could we would like canoe down the river in our town we’d portage down a canoe down main street in my small little town you know and then keep going just because we wanted to do a fun adventure.

We’d you know take our bikes and go somewhere or whatever it was so we were just trying to find adventure and whatever way we could. And it just kind of went outward from there.

Sure. I mean now everybody like you said they have so much influence to things like this you look on Instagram and people are out there campaign and posting pictures and everything I guess. When we were kids. It was more about having those old National Geographics laying around and things like that.

Yeah. That was literally it. And there was no like path.

Like a career. So for somebody who’s passionate about nearly anything today if your passion a rock climber there’s there are people that are professional rock climbers and you can see that. So there’s a line that you can connect and even in a lot more abstract careers you just have access that information you understand that you know you could be interested in photography and potentially be a you know professional photographer.

But you know I just those those avenues weren’t all open or didn’t exist. And we and a lot of those careers didn’t exist at that time. So for somebody like myself who was really passionate about the outdoors I always say I wanted to be a professional camper. Like I just loved camping but that job didn’t exist at all no. You know it still does. But it was it was kind of what my goal was and you know I was lucky enough that I just kind of believed in that idea for whatever reason long enough that it was able to come to fruition.

Sure. So where does Colorado kind of come into the picture of what what brought you here was you know and you know when kind of in your life would you like I’ve got to get to Colorado. That’s where I need to be to keep this exploration career going. Or was that kind of a decision or was it just you know to be in the mountains of you know kind of take.

Yeah well you know the funny thing about growing up in the Midwest is is that Midwest is very focused on the Midwest and I love being from that area. A lot of great friends there’s a lot of great things about the Midwest. And as a kid I remember seeing a Colorado license plate and just being like you know just the license plate alone like you know the Green Mountains it’s so different than any other license plate in in our country and very emblematic of the state as well.

And to me that represented just the ultimate wilderness and realistically for my entire life you know I’d read a lot of historical exploration books and I was just fascinated by this idea wilderness. And so I had that idea of Colorado being one of those really iconic wild places and when I graduated college roommate of mine had a job as a whitewater canoe guide out here and I had been up in Alaska at that time and doing a few other trips.

And and he’s like come on out. I think I can get you a job and without any certainty of a job I you know loaded up my 1985 Subaru Geo wagon and you know drove out I-70 for 17 hours and landed in Denver and lucky enough just kind of like talked my way into packing food for those trips and then getting on the trips and eventually guiding those that summer and that was way back in the day like 95.

So I spent a couple of summers guiding those Whitewater trips here in Colorado and just through various work left and kind of settled in a remote area of northern Minnesota and was kind of going about my thing but as I started planning for my trip in 2010 to the North Pole South Pole Mount Everest I realized like I don’t really know anything about mountains.

You know I had kind of set this goal of climbing Mt. Everest with doing this trip to both poles and being from the Midwest. Again we don’t really know much about mountains and while I had been out in Colorado previously I you know I hadn’t been on the water most of the time. And so I was like OK I think I think I need to be in a place where I can be at altitude where I can train and concurrently had also met my now wife. And so a lot of factors just kind of came into play. I’ll say it’s for my wife but it’s also just as important just for mountains. Sure.

And it was a great trip. It was a great transition for me. I’ve been living in northern Minnesota a place that I really love but it’s very again I kind of I didn’t realize it at the time but for someone who was involved in adventure there just wasn’t that bigger community. I mean there’s a lot of I had a lot of friends that we did find trips but there wasn’t this bigger community of people who were really involved in like leading edge expeditions. And so for me to come out to Boulder was a really eye opening experience and a lot of levels in it. And quite honestly it opened a lot of doors and facilitated me basically being where I am today.

Right. And I. I get that feedback from a lot of the people that I’ve spoken with in totally different areas that you’re one of the things that’s really you know Colorado is kind of on fire right now and one of the things that’s making it great in that way is obviously people are moving here for lifestyle but they’re getting real support professionally in all sorts of different fields it’s just a very open kind of collaborative environment. And so you know you’re not the first person who’s who’s mentioned that. And again everything from obviously tech type things going on here food and it’s a place to be for professional adventuring.

Oh yeah.

I mean you look at I mean just Boulder alone. It’s crazy. I do a lot of biking. So my game that I always play when I’m biking when I see somebody else bike and I just go pro or not pro you know because there’s so many professional athletes that are very professional bicyclists you get triathletes runners climbers skiers snowboarders you know you name it. And so and that’s just in the sporting community. And obviously you have all these other industries that are here too but from an adventure perspective you know there’s world class rock climbing here and you’ve got access to world class skiing out an open air mountaineering as well. And you know Alpine environments and so it and there’s good access in and out. So a lot of today a lot of modern adventurers do a lot of traveling. And so like I was telling you earlier you know I arrived in the airport today and fly out tonight.

That adds a lot you know like we’re coming and going. A lot of people are coming and going and so being able to get to the airport you know as much as those are a part of my actual adventure it’s it’s a facet of life the life as it stands right now.

Sure. Nothing like being able to get good access hopefully even a direct flight it saves on time every day. You know we all are looking for that and I love how you mentioned the license plate because I remember when I moved here and got my license plates transferred and they were like well which ones do you want because they have all these options down like I just want the green and lights. Yeah. You

know that’s why whenever I see one whenever I see the white ones I’m like What are you doing. Hi Green. There’s only one license plate that you should get. Exactly

Exactly. That’s amazing. So like kind of getting into your expeditions. The I was doing research and you know one of the things that you’ve been saying you know so George Mallory said you know famously about why are you going to climb Mt. Everest because it’s there. You know what you’re the message you’re kind of getting across now with your expeditions especially in the Arctic is that you’re doing it not because it’s there but because it it might not be there in the future. Do you have some really unique perspective like your first North Pole expedition was in late 2006 I believe and then the most recent one was in 2014 and there’s a lot of arguments why.

You know you’ve stated why it might be the last one. Yeah. And so I guess the documentary that you were able to let me watch which I appreciate it was amazing I’m yelling at my computer screen and I was watching it. It’s on Animal Planet I believe.

Yeah it was on Animal Planet and Discovery.

And it’s actually still playing globally on Discovery channel so I every once in awhile get like an email from Argentina or Japan or whatever. Like oh we just saw the documentary so it’s cool that it’s still cycling through right and getting shown.

So so for for people who haven’t seen it though like walk us through you know what had changed in in those years since when you first started going and now. And you know some of the I guess no obvious climate and technical reasons why that 24 expedition might be the last one.

Yeah yeah. I mean just taking a step back. You know I kind of arrived early at this love of adventure but also as someone who really likes to be outside just the love of our environment. And I also you know really like winter. And so it seemed like a pretty direct step to use my adventures as an advocacy tool as well as well as you know ultimately like back in the day it was just like firsthand observations you know because so often we were you know getting questions about you know is this is the melting really happening like they say it is.

And so it was just kind of bearing witness to those places. But also you know Arctic in Antarctica and a lot of cool voices are really abstract to people. And so you know we don’t have much of a connection to those places.

And so for me a lot of my adventures were really important to be to put a human experience to kind of overlay that physical journey in that emotional kind of journey as well that we’re going through to build that connection to what that place is like versus It’s just an abstract place that if it melts it doesn’t matter. And I like it if it’s two degrees warmer I want to put on you know snow pants in the winter.

So that’s kind of like the background of where things are at. And I’ve been kind of on this like mission for a long time and you know a lot of my wife and all my differences like why are you going back to the north pole so I first Mannatech for 2005 we reach the North Pole and in summer in 2006 and it was a it was an incredible journey.

It was very unique a world record and to me that kind of just solidified how this adventure component can really work in to telling this bigger story. And so I kept trying to go back and reach more people because I. Because you know politically that I odd ideologically in our country we kept having this conversation that was kind of cycling around. Is this science real. Is it really melting.

And so as this conversation is still spiral with no real action taking place I’m observing that and trying to figure out how I can get people to notice this place that because I’ve been there and spent a lot of time there and am seeing these changes firsthand. And so that’s kind of the thing that kept me coming back. And ultimately you know between 2006 and 2014 the character and the nature of the CIA is very different you know.

So from our summer expedition we had big sheets of ice that we could ski across for several hours. And in 2006 in 2014 where it’s just a surface of rough ice much thinner ice and much more sporadic movements of the ice to the point now where the ice is so unstable that the that you know the real limiting factor of North Pole expeditions isn’t so much the ice although that’s changing dramatically it’s the logistics network that’s shutting down so the ability to get a plane in and land safely no longer exists. So in reality know our 2014 North Pole expedition will be the last human powered land to North Pole expedition history right.

Yeah because you otherwise have to be able to go out and back.

Yeah there is.

There’s logistically it’s it’s like almost impossible the conditions are changing so much. You know we have overall the temperatures are warmer in the Arctic now which kind of makes things easy but you have this kind of type of ice it’s much different and so it’s and it’s a really difficult. And for me it’s probably one of the most unique expeditions on our planet.

And so that’s another reason why I kept going back up because it’s an amazing challenge and you can you can do that journey you know every year and it’s going to be different every time because the ice is constantly changing not only just year to year but minute to minute because there’s all these drift patterns and currents that break up and and fracture the ice.

Right. Yeah and that’s you know what you pick up from watching that documentary. There’s just so many things and you know I don’t want to give it away to people. They should watch it. It’s amazing.

I was totally gripped I was actually traveling last weekend when you sent it to me and I was in my hotel room and I pulled up on my laptop I was like let me just check this thing out for like you know I got to watch like five minutes. But you know I wanted to kind of get outside wander around because I was you know having fun in Chicago and it was an hour and a half and I couldn’t stop. I had to sit there and watch the entire thing and like I said by the end of the thing I was just like lose my mind.

Yeah it was. It was hard.

I mean that was it’s I called the most difficult expedition. It’s a really hard trip and people have a hard time understanding why that’s the case. But it’s a really hostile environment. And and for that to ever feel like it felt like everything was stacked against us. Well those ice conditions logistics pullovers our food you know you name it.

And yeah it’s hard. And I and I feel very lucky that we were able to record that. It took a lot of effort in a very real way. You know like I’m kind of on an anti fluff campaign overall in terms of you know we live in this world where we’re where we’re constantly barraged by these like ideal moments. And it’s very easy in adventure to want to put. Or as you’re talking about things that put your best foot forward.

And that’s just not how life works. You know like we’re not always our best people and you know the really unique thing about adventures is it really stripped bare the person that you are. And at a certain point there you are. And so that’s really unique I think it’s compelling for people. It’s that emotional connection that I have and try.

But the hard part is trying to film that in that moment when you’re like worried about almost getting in by a polar bear. Do you really want to get the camera out or would you just like Wanda leaving. Get out of there. And so our inclination is to get out of there or versus film. Right

And then what you’re mentioning right there really leads perfectly into another question. I really wanted to ask which was you in that movie leading up to this moment and having that human side of things. How do you find the right partner for an expedition like that. I mean when you say I want to do an unsupported trip to the North Pole how many people are raising their hands and how do you know that if there’s only a handful you know that you’ve got the right guy because I would imagine you know there’s not that many people who want to do it. But you need them. You know it obviously is an important dynamic when you see like the psychological side of an adventure like that.

Yeah that’s a good question. You know the team aspect there what I view is really important you know I always say like I’m just completely average person like average height average or below the average intelligence and intelligence. So I rely a lot on other people to help me achieve these things. And you know for our 2014 trip there is and I was just talking to Ryan about this the other day as like you know I we couldn’t have done that trip without one another. You know I had a lot more experience than Ryan did and I was able to kind of step up from navigational and just overall planning perspective and but at a certain point like everything becomes non-important when it’s so difficult.

And I think Ryan’s focus and Dr. help me out because I serve what I’m like. I’ve already been an oracle Why am I out here suffering in a life threatening situation I got it at that time I wanted to have a kid like that something like doing an expedition isn’t the most important thing.

Being a dad is the most important thing. And Ryan’s focus really helped me out. But the team the team member thing is interesting actually. I just did a funny thing. We did a live video Ryan and I just had this idea and we did what I call expedition partner Newlywed Game.

So we were just like we put all these questions in the hat and we just pulled them out.

And because we spent so much time together on expeditions that it’s like you know it’s like a marriage almost. Sure. And so we you know we were kind of asking each other like who knew more about you know whatever it is favorite food or you know and it was kind of fun but the teammate thing is hard. You know I do think there’s a lot of people who would be interested in the trips I do. I always say be careful what you wish for because it might come true.

That said like the skills required for these big types of trips we just lose a lot of people that have them and not that they’re impossible to learn. But to step into an environment like the Arctic Ocean with no prior experiences that’s a that’s a that’s a big ask of someone and you know.

So there’s a lot of different things for me. I think the priority is personality. We need to have compatible personalities. We don’t necessarily need to have the exact same skill sets because I don’t think that’s necessarily the most effective. But we want to have complementary skill sets and Ryan and I have absolutely complementary Ryons much more home in the mountains. I’m much more home in the poorer environments.

I’m a little better on the fundraising side. You know Ryan’s got this kind of steadfastness that works out really well you know it’s crazy we have been doing adventures together for I don’t know like eight years or something and we’re still great friends. You know he just texted me before I came over here so and I’m just working on this other project where we’re I have a videographer friend of mine and I was literally Also driving over here on like what is it that makes the perfect partner.

28:13 Because it’s hard. And the rewards are so abstract that you have to have this in this more individual motivation. So there’s a lot I mean I could talk for like 10 hours on this thing but I think about it a lot. And

28:29 like I said just today and you know it’s it’s interesting just because you know life today is so crazy and there’s so many different facets and so for me focus on these adventures 100 percent and then trying to get somebody who has that equal opportunity that like stop what they’re doing go away for two months or two weeks or whatever it is like. That’s just that’s just not necessarily the easiest thing for anybody to imagine. And then you’ve got this other issue for the bigger trips. You’re doing one thing for two and a half months.

 


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28:59 I mean that doesn’t happen at all. I imagine in your life where you wake up and you don’t see anybody else and you go to sleep. You don’t see anybody else and not just for a day or a week but nearly two months. I mean that’s like old school acceleration where they were gone for three years. I mean we’re like a day without getting a text. You know if you text somebody they don’t text you back in an hour you think they’re dead. Right. So and not that I don’t I mean I don’t I don’t I sound like a Luddite like I love modern life. You know I don’t want to go back in time but that’s the cool thing about these adventures and I’m kind of getting off subject but they offer this unique perspective on our planet that we don’t get as much anymore. And I think that has a lot of value. No

29:38 I mean there’s definitely some aspects of your life as an adventurer that embody what people are really trying really hard to achieve right now is thinking about this earlier. Unplugging is definitely one of them. Your

29:52 unplugged when you go on these things I mean more or less is surprisingly we’re actually pretty connected right.

29:57 But from her you know.

30:00 But you’ve got 12 hours on the ice at least where you’re just walking along. And then that idea that you know people are finally starting to wrap their brains around the idea of prioritizing experiences over over things. Right. And that’s definitely what adventure is all about. By

30:16 definition basically totally.

30:19 So I always say the best way to determine what’s important to yourself is to remove everything in your life. And that’s exactly what these adventures do because you’re stripped down of everything and very quickly you get to understand what you need and what you want right. And it becomes very clear and that’s why the expedition to heart because at a certain point somebody determines that and say and they see that this adventure doesn’t matter. And that’s a hard point but it’s also a good realization for them. Or you say yes this matters but there’s these other things. And so you come back from those trips like really forever changed and you have this really clear understanding of priorities in life. And it goes to a resource side as well because if you look at it like we’re self-contained for nearly two months everything that we need is and that is in that slot.

31:13 So that’s another need versus want you look at you know and I’m the same way. I mean I love photographers are a bunch of cameras bikes over a couple bikes you know and this is a great shirt or whatever and everything that we have for two months is in that slot. And you know it’s uncomfortable at times but for the most part we’re making it happen. Right. So those are some lessons that you just can’t help but learn. Right.

31:36 And you know that’s I think one of the one of the many beautiful aspects of of adventure when it sounds to me was interesting that you know you mentioned right there that you were catching up with Ryan and still kind of going over what you got out of this expedition a few years later you’re still I mean are you still kind of.

31:57 Oh yes. I just yeah I mean these are a lot yeah.

32:01 And the lessons I think like they’re ongoing right now. And you know there’s definitely like some immediate takeaways and then there’s the things that just you know happen over time and and there’s also just with Ryan there’s a shared experience like we went through a really hard time. You know one of my newlywed questions around was like who cries more. And because you know we’ve seen each other at our worst our lowest and our most like kind of bear so to speak. So you know I think the lessons are ongoing and you know again sometimes it takes me a while to catch up on things. But there there are those moments where you’re like oh yeah this is what this is or you’re in your life situation you know doing you know washing the dishes. And you kind of remember that one moment and how that applies to the situation or whatever.

32:50 So it’s it’s kind of an ongoing process and I wouldn’t say like on this completely change person. It’s just kind of this continual thing and you know some of the lessons that I have learned that 150 50 times and something sometimes like oh yeah I’ve never realized that before. Right.

33:05 Like getting in the shower you’re like water on your shoulder. Seriously. That’s exactly it.

33:12 That’s amazing. So what’s life like in between expeditions like that. I know it evolves as your family is kind of changing and it’s changed even since that documentary came out. Is it always kind of planning the next thing or do you always have the next adventure kind of in mind or sometimes are you waiting for the light to go off and then start planning around that or.

33:36 Yeah it’s a lot of things you know it’s constantly on my mind. You know I always say when I’m on an expedition all I can think about is being home with my family and when I’m home I just am thinking about trips. Funny enough I was just saying what Jeremy Jones were in D.C. and I was talking to him about some of my early trips and we were kind of just exchange stories and I was said you know back then I was just like an animal for stuff like I would wouldn’t let anything get in my way. You know no risk was too big. And I just I don’t know if it was blind ambition or what it was but it was this sense of this is where I want to go and I’m going there no matter what. And I remember one of my expeditions partners asking me Eric when is it going to be enough for you.

34:27 And I said I don’t know. You know like I don’t know what is going to be enough but I’m so going. And that perspective has changed a lot for me. You know having kids I never really thought much about being a dad prior and when we kind of started having discussions about having kids as I go you know we’ll see what happens. Is like an expedition. We’re like we’re right and I just go up there and see what happens. And I am uncomfortable with unknown’s. And but it’s been easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life I love being a dad. I love taking care of my kids. I love you know seeing the world through their eyes and you know taking them on adventures and trying to facilitate their interest not just mine but see what they’re interested in.

35:12 Try to find ways that they can you know meet the world or whatever. So it’s it’s and it’s harder now to be gone awry and I were in Nepal 2015 we’re on this ridge line going up and to nowhere where nobody had been before and things down like this one hundreds and hundreds of feet. And I’m just like I shouldn’t be here you know but I still have that drive to do adventures and I have kind of these ideas that are that are kind of far reaching. I have a list officer’s adventures I want to do for the next four or five years and then and then but then it takes a while to get the passion about it. So it’s just kind of like sitting on things and I’m kind of at that point again now and it seems to be on that for the big trips is kind of like a two year cycle or whatever.

36:02 And then the other part is like you know there’s a lot of logistics and planning and fundraising goes. The big polar trips and some of his other ones. And financially that’s a huge burden and it’s a scary one. And so if you kind of throw it out there. My thing is like you got to do it and you’ve got to make it happen and so that’s whole lot of stuff that goes into that. And you know there’s a lot of sacrifices that come along and you know with the family it’s a little harder to think about some of those sacrifices words like I don’t mind if I eat ramen noodles for two months you know because I don’t have any money.

36:37 But the kids might.

36:39 Although my son does love ramen so that’s hopeful. That’s you know that’s the business side of that career right. Yeah. Fund fundraising and things like that. Not every you know kind of getting back to what we were saying about the Instagram world not everybody is you know Red Bull sponsored guy who’s got they don’t have you know the helicopter shows up when they need it and there’s nothing like that a lot of you know for a lot of different sports and a lot of the most different realities is that a lot of work to put all those resource.

37:12 Yeah I think even the Red Bull guys you know how a lot have a lot of work to do there’s obviously a bigger sport now or you know it’s easier now than what it was.

37:20 There’s a lot of the same structure. I have a bunch of great companies that I work with that support me and have for many many years I’ve built up a lot of great relationships so it’s not the hardest thing but it’s it’s a challenge because you know you’re still doing big budgets and you know for a company to back a trip that has an uncertain outcome. It’s a risk and you know they’re on tight budgets. Everybody there is working hard. It’s it’s it’s but it’s a fun puzzle that I like. I mean I love the adventures but the the nice thing about what I do now is I like all the other parts too. So I like trying to find those pieces I like trying to you know tell my story unique ways I like trying to take a really good picture that has an emotional side to it. You know I like writing something that explains my perspective a little bit more relates to something that I’ve done so a lot of it is all fun. It just is constant and and it’s a hustle but life.

38:22 Well one of the things you mentioned was making some of these adventures be a little closer to home. So what are your next ones I think is this Colorado triathlon is that.

38:32 Yeah.

38:33 So I was I was I’ve been thinking about this all morning we’re we’re trying to figure out the name and I think it’s going to be called the Colorado a thon.

38:41 I don’t know if I’m necessarily the branding guy for this stuff but you know I often wonder if I’m really change or if I’m just the same person I think I might be just the same person because I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of these things forever and back in the day. You know I live in the Midwest I was just trying to have adventures and I was trying to be original. And and I.

39:06 And in that sense we would you know get our mountain bikes and we would mountain bike and then we would get to a lake and we brought you know we got these inner tubes and we’d inflate the inner tubes and we’d put the bikes on there stripped down swim across the lake and then keep biking and you know and just trying to put these arbitrary parameters on things just so we could have a fun time. And so we could you know it wasn’t any sort of world record. We

39:31 just wanted to have an adventure we wanted the challenge we wanted to kind of push our physical limits a little bit in not this crazy way. And so we would just do those things. Not not for any greater reason than it was fun and you know sometimes we got really cold and sometimes you know we got lost or whatever. But that’s what it was and I think not that adventure has strayed away from there but I think it’s important for us to remember that adventure can be whatever we want and we also have this ability to do these unique things we don’t have to follow everybody else. And so that’s kind of the mindset that I’ve been in recently and this idea of like how can I do that in Colorado this place that I really love where we kind of set some of these arbitrary parameters that are a little more severe. So

40:18 I thought wow I really love biking. I love backpacking and I you know haven’t been in whitewater canoe got. I like being on the. I love water. And I grew up in canoes and whatnot so I had this idea of kind of traveling across the state of Colorado on this human powered way with these arbitrary parameters of biking from the eastern border up through the Rocky Mountains and then getting over towards crumbling and switching to backpacks and back into the flatout wilderness and then getting down near a rifle and then having some pack rafts and inflating those and then and then paddling towards the Utah border just as this idea of adventure and I feel like I’m drawn to these kind of expeditions and adventures that have these bigger themes to them because I feel like I’ve gotten so lucky from the things that I have learned from this event so I want to pass along some insights not like you need to do it this way but the like hey here’s something you may not have realized like you could be in Boulder and you could you know bike up to Brainerd lake or something or you could swim somewhere.

41:24 Who knows what you know like I just think there’s a real opportunity and we’re in a really unique time to do fun things that can also challenge us but that are also unique to each person. And so that’s where that idea came from. And and you know I have this other big philosophy which is like have fun do good. So with any of my bigger trips I think we all have a responsibility to kind of leave the world a better place in whatever way and I’ve gotten so many great gifts out of wilderness experiences that I thought for this trip and this conversation about adventure we could work with the big city mountaineers and on a fund raising because they’re big city Mountaineers which is based in gold and is really focused on wilderness programs for disadvantaged youth.

42:07 So being able to give some of those other people experiences that I’ve had because I feel like I’ve gotten so much out of those wilderness adventures throughout my life.

42:17 So what say you know when you’re not on a big adventure and I love that idea of just like what’s in your backyard and you know that’s where you are kind of day to day and that’s what you choose to live in a place like this where some of these things are right in your backyard and you know it doesn’t again it doesn’t have to be the hugest thing or the craziest thing. You know just going for a hike. You never know where it’ll lead you totally never know when you’re going to come across a snake in the path or you know anything that gets to your heart kind of going. So when you’re not a you know off somewhere else like where where in Colorado you know what are some favorite spots like what are you kind of doing.

42:56 Yeah I mean I have a lot of responses and we’re pretty lucky because we were able to spend the summer across the butte and I love that town. I

43:05 love that area and it seems like every day I’m there I’m discovering a new place like we were just a Blue Mesa reservoir with our kids and it was like we call a beach day because there’s you know you wouldn’t expect to be able to have them in Colorado but we did and the kids loved it but I love Crested Butte for its access to wilderness. I’ve been a bicyclist forever so I love road biking the mountain biking and so the mountain biking in Crested Butte is ridiculous as is just like I do a lot of photography so being able to just get out and snap a couple of pictures just for fun. So that whole Ganesan Valley to me is like one of my favorite places in Colorado living in Boulder. Obviously we’re right here at the front range. I’m in North Boulder so I tend to stay that direction.

43:53 But you know honestly one of my favorite things to do is hike up Cinny this lake. I love the hike up and eat this because you can literally just walk out your back door and hike up that mountain and I love that. And there’s a lot of times when nobody is up there you know if you hit it in the right time or I go up there a lot in the wintertime when I’m training I put a pack full rocks and I just hike up serious. And there’s been a lot of times where it’s just like you know it’s like 20 degrees and everybody’s like in all their clothes or whatever and you’re the only the only person up there even like you can head an evening or morning or just sometimes. And you’re the only person up there you can kind of hear the buzz the traffic and you just look out at that flat plane you can see the flat irons Either way it’s a beautiful spot and it’s so accessible you know in town I think that’s one of my favorite things to do and I do a lot of road biking so I’m up and down the front range and Left-Hand canyon right up toward peak to peak like I could do that every day.

44:53 You know it’s just I just love it. I never get tired of looking at it. All those things.

44:57 Yeah it’s it’s real special. And that’s the news because I’m on the same side of town as you know and when people are in town that’s the first thing you do is you take them right there. So it’s right out of the backyard and then you can end up right in town grabbing a beer afterwards. So we were very fortunate. I definitely think so.

45:18 Yeah I mean Colorado is amazing because you know you kind of like as an outsider you think of the Rocky Mountains as just being the Rocky Mountains.

45:26 But each little area has a super unique personality. You know and even like from Crestview to Telluride I mean those are two completely different sets of mountains. And so to me it’s fun to like get to know a warm place but also kind of reach out and find a bunch of others as well. Right right.

45:46 And the last question I’d like to ask people when they’re when they’re on the podcast. Who would you like to hear on this. Who do you think our audience would just you know get a great story out of here.

45:56 I mean like there’s there’s a huge list of people in Boulder you know obviously I’m more connected in the outdoor world. And so as well as like a lot of my partners are here I mean there’s the guy from scratch labs that are that are based in Boulder. I’ve got a good friend. He’s he’s a little on the periphery but he’s doing a really cool archaeological work down in Peru His name is Preston Sol. he’s a great guy. I feel like I would be really interested as well as a bicyclist to know a little bit more about kind of living and training here in the front range from either pro biker I know Taylor Phinney and lives here right. Or any of the triathletes that are here. I mean I feel like that that perspective of like training here on that level to me is really interesting.

46:49 I mean I’m involved in it. I don’t necessarily equate myself with like a pro bike racer who’s got a you know an exponentially level higher of discipline that I do. So and then you know there’s some amazing scientists here that I think are really interesting you know like I’ve done some work with NSIDC the National Snow and Ice Data Center and that is another unique aspect of all of that I think sometimes gets overlooked is like all the science that goes on here. You know from like there’s guys that see you that are like working with NASA and there’s like any car that’s doing this incredible you know Atmospheric Research and Environmental Research and the ice guys that I see and this I do see I mean I can make a list like. Hunter is long. Right. So but those are the things that I’m personally interested and I would love to to hear more about for sure.

47:43 Yeah. When I first moved here you know I knew about the outdoors the stuff from the high level. It’s a great place to be outdoors. Very accessible. I didn’t know that all of these awesome science labs were here and things like that so that was something that I just wasn’t on my radar. You know the people who are living here and having access the outdoors and you know the brainiacs are just going crazy in these science labs it’s amazing.

48:10 Totally yeah. I have a friend ironically who’s from my hometown who I hadn’t seen in like 15 years and I was up at Luckies market one day a bunch years ago and there he was standing and he was like almost my neighbor. Ironically I just ran him to the airport today. Come coming in and he has a funny phrase he’s like you know East Coast he’s like people there with the biggest pocketbook wins. He says Colorado it’s the best lifestyle that wins. And you know I tell people that a lot of out here it’s like people work very hard and are very focused on their careers and and their families. But it’s not up to us. Nobody is willing to sacrifice their lifestyles.

 


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48:52 Well and I think I think you know kind of going on with their discussion what adventures and lessons I think and an idea of being connected to the environment and outside I think that’s one of the beautiful things about Colorado and I think obviously while a lot of people are here.

49:08 Right. But I think that sums it up. And I think we can leave it on that note again I really appreciate you being here. It’s really fascinating to meet you and we’ll try to get some of these other people on the podcast as well. But thanks a lot thanks for your time. Awesome. Thank you. Appreciate it. All.

All right thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Eric Larson on Colorado.FM, the Colorado podcast.  as you can imagine it was a real treat for me to have the opportunity to sit down with him as we mentioned in the intro.

You can find the links to connect with Eric to find any related articles or content the show notes is up to if you enjoyed it please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave review if you have a few moments. It really helps get the podcast and of course I learn a lot from your feedback if you prefer to get our updates email or use a podcast service of stitcher or Android. You can learn more at Colorado.FM/Subscribe. Thanks again. I really hope you enjoyed this episode and we’ll see you next time.