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The World We Ski Across Is Flat

Our Moments On The Slopes Are Linked To The Works Of Others On The Other Side Of The World

Ski season is upon us again for those living in the Rocky Mountains. In idyllic mountain towns, it doesn’t take much reflection to realize that we live in a bubble, yet we are dependent on the global economy that in many ways benefits us disproportionately.

Just take a look at your ski boots – the shell is made in Italy, the liner and insole in South Korea or Vietnam. Your skis themselves may be manufactured in Austria. Your shell pants are made in China. My daughter works for a Greater Yellowstone-based outdoor clothing company and they communicate daily with their factories in Asia.

As Thomas Friedman wrote in his book of the same name, the world is flat in terms of global trade, and so is the gear, equipment and technology that drives the U.S. downhill ski industry.  

Think about it. Where was your cell phone or computer screen on which you are reading these words made?  When you see a red hat whose slogan reads “Make America Great Again”, what exactly does that look like when a huge percentage of the things we use are at least partially made in another country?

I have assisted with the writing and printing of several fine art photography books. Working on the first book, 10 years ago, we were sending actual prints back and forth with our printer in China. We had to sign off on the color for each page of the book. Finally, the blue line came, the final version of the book. We had to read every line and check for errors. Any changes that were to be made later would be costly.

Three of us flew to China to be on press check for the actual printing of the book. The pages came off the printer 24 hours a day for 4 days. I caught catnaps, sleeping on the sofa in the conference room, in between pages. The printer who adjusted the color did not speak any English and I do not speak Mandarin. We did a lot of hand signals to get everything perfect.

What an experience to see the book materialize in the printing facility.  For the second book we got PDF’s via email, no need to be on press check. The edits could be made easily. The book arrived and the color was perfect.

The internet has made the world so small and interconnected but do we feel closer in these times or farther away? We date online, we Skype and text across the globe. Time seems to have less meaning when we are texting with someone 10,000 miles away but the time that speeds by, which keeps us alive and aware in moments, is the most important commodity we have.  Around the world, I interface with others via technology who are in the dark because it is night and I am in the dark because it is early morning, but we are still in the same day.

Many in mountain towns consider themselves cosmopolitan. We travel and have friends all over the world. On Facebook we know what everyone is doing, that is either bad or good. But the world, we are told, has shrunk.

Goods and services are not the only products that are global.  Carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere to make the stuff we wear and use might originate out of sight and mind yet it is affecting the snowpack now and for as long as we can see into the future.

Next time you put on your ski gear think about all the people that were involved in creating your clothes and equipment. Try to imagine and empathize with their lives. Try to devote just a second to reflecting on how we consume products to support our lives is affecting the very medium that we are gliding over beneath our feet. Think about companies that are doing right by the environment—find them out—and support them.
Next time you put on your ski gear think about all the people that were involved in creating your clothes and equipment. Try to imagine and empathize with their lives. Try to devote just a second to reflecting on how we consume products to support our lives is affecting the very medium that we are gliding over beneath our feet. Think about companies that are doing right by the environment—find them out—and support them.
The world and all of us living in it depends on each other. We must all work toward saving our planet, the wild places and wildlife, we must remember that we are all in it together even if we live half a world apart, speak different languages, live in the city or the country. We need them and they need us to be smarter and more conscientious.

Smile when you put on your fleece made in Sri Lanka but be grateful. You are wearing the fruits of their labor. To join you for just a single day on the slopes, it would take them a month’s wages to afford a lift ticket. By what we do in work and recreation, we are creating each other's world.
Sue Cedarholm
About Sue Cedarholm

Jackson Hole-based Sue Cedarholm is a multi-media artist—painter, photographer and maker of nature-themed, wearable apparel.  You can find all of the works in her ongoing series at Watercolor Diary.
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