FISU conference to address climate change, winter sports

Mirror Lake is seen here on Dec. 13. The night before, the lake froze for the first time this winter. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The FISU World Conference, scheduled to coincide with the opening week of the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games, will feature athletes, advocates, authors, innovators and environmental leaders in both the private sector and government, and researchers, focusing on the Intersection of Climate Change and Winter Sports.

Esteemed author, environmentalist, journalist and activist Bill McKibben, Nathan Chen, the reigning men’s Olympic figure skating gold medalist, and national wilderness activist Aaron Mair headline the list of speakers at the conference, powered by Hydro-Quebec. Topics will include alternative energy, farming, forestry, food activism, the science of ice and snow and diversity in the outdoors.

“Winter sporting communities and athletes alike are seeing first-hand the impact of climate change on winter sport,” said Ashley Walden, Adirondack Sports Council executive director, the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games’ Organizing Committee. “It’s an incredible honor that so many experts and industry leaders have agreed to join us in Lake Placid this winter to educate and advocate on this critical topic.”

McKibben, called “probably America’s most important environmentalist” by the Boston Globe, is the co-founder and senior advisor at 350.org, the first planetwide, grassroots climate change movement. McKibben is a distinguished scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College who has organized 20,000 rallies worldwide, led the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline and launched the fossil fuel divestment movement.

Last February, Chen became just the seventh American figure skater to capture Olympic gold in the men’s individual competition. Chen is currently attending Yale University, where he’s majoring in statistics and data science. In 2021, he joined Team Panasonic, and now promotes the “Panasonic Green Impact” initiative which strives to achieve carbon neutrality together with society, by creating impacts from actions that reduce CO2 emissions. He works alongside the company as they continue to create technologies making an impact and effecting positive change.

Mair currently serves as the Adirondack Wilderness campaign director for the Adirondack Council. He was the 57th president of the Sierra Club. Mair also founded Albany’s Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Corporation and Albany’s W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center.

Other speakers will include athlete-activists and filmmakers from Protect our Winters, Kitty Calhoun and Graham Zimmerman; Earthday.org president Kathleen Rogers; author Kristin Kimball; and Players for the Planet co-founder Chris Dickerson.

Climate and environmental experts from state agencies, including the Olympic Regional Development Authority, based in Lake Placid, will discuss New York’s efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable infrastructure that will continue to support winter sports.

Academic experts and researchers from Paul Smith’s College, Clarkson University and Texas A&M University, will be joined by representatives from Canadian universities Wilfrid Laurier and the University of Waterloo. Additional speakers and panelists will be added.

The FISU World Conference will be held in conjunction with the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games, a winter multisport event and educational festival for collegiate athletes aged 17-25, set for Jan. 12 to 22. Athletes will compete in 12 winter sports and 86 medal events throughout the Adirondack region, with competitions held in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, North Creek, Wilmington, Canton, and Potsdam.

“The Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games represents the first time that sustainability is a major theme in an international collegiate multisport event and is designed to be a model for future FISU Games,” said Karlan Jessen, Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games’ head of legacy and sustainability. “It’s especially great since we are able to offer this conference at little or no cost to anyone who chooses to attend, with a special focus on attracting students.”

Other events during conference week include the special “A Night at the Wild Center” in Tupper Lake on Saturday, Jan. 14, and a film festival Sunday, Jan. 15 that will showcase short films on sports and the environment.

“A Night at the Wild Center” has limited reservations for $25 and includes a light seasonal dinner, a special guest speaker, docent tours of the center’s Climate Solutions exhibit, and walking tours of the Wild Lights Exhibit. The film festival and other conference sessions are free and open to the public with limited seating. Conference content will also be available virtually during and after the event.

Reservations are now being accepted by visiting the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games’ official website, lakeplacid2023.com/save-winter.

Questions about the Conference can be directed to: savewinter@lakeplacid2023.com.

The Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games’ Save Winter campaign is powered by Hydro-Quebec and supported by ESPN, Microplus, Panasonic and Karbon. The movement is designed to unite all who love winter to work as one toward saving “the season of snow.”

“The FISU World University Games in Lake Placid connects winter sports to the imperative of fighting climate change. As the Official Sponsor of the Save Winter initiative, we recognize the urgency to act collectively and the strong personal connection that doing so through sports provides,” said Serge Abergel, Hydro-Quebec Energy Services chief operating officer.

For more information about the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games or to purchase tickets, visit www.lakeplacid2023.com.

Starting at $1.44/week.

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