How to Ski Volcanoes With A Smaller Carbon Footprint

New film from Greg Hill and Chris Rubens positions electric cars as the adventure vehicle for skiers

“Everyone knows an electric vehicle can commute, but can it adventure?” Or so goes the tagline of the latest film project, Electric Adventures, from skiers Greg Hill and Chris Rubens. Last spring, the pair opted out of flying halfway around the world in search of snow and instead set their eyes on an objective closer to home.

Eric Hjorleifson skis off the summit of Mount Baker, the first of six volcanoes skied by Greg Hill and Chris Rubens last spring. PHOTO: Chris Rubens

Driving an electric Nissan Leaf (which has a battery-only range of 107 miles and gets 100-plus miles per gallon), Hill and Rubens traveled 3,000 miles in three weeks to climb and ski the premier volcanoes of the West: Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Shasta, and Mount Adams. Their goal was to demonstrate that if an electric car can work for skiers living in small mountain towns, then it can work for anybody, anywhere.

For Greg Hill and Chris Rubens, electric car life is the better option over van life or heli life. PHOTO: Chris Rubens

"As outdoorsy people, we are those that appreciate nature the most yet also are those that destroy it in our search for it," says Hill. "There are many ways to access our trailheads without having a massive carbon footprint. The funny thing about driving this electric car is this guilt-free pleasure in knowing that I'm part of the solution versus the problem. It's not perfect, but it’s one of the better options. We are still wearing plastic clothing, and using a bike made of carbon, but it's trying to look at what we can do and doing it."

Chris Rubens skinning up Mount Rainier with Mount Adams in the background. PHOTO: Greg Hill

A few years ago, Hill opted to spend a month biking to the summits he skied from. While it was a rewarding experience, it often limited who he could ski with and where. Ultimately, biking to ski as an every day practice wasn't a sustainable way to live. (Hill, who worked for years as a tree-planter in Revelstoke, is no stranger to self-propelled activities. There’s a reason he’s known as the 2 Million Man.)

Yet after seeing the movie Guilt Trip last winter, the Switchback Entertainment film which won Best Documentary at the 2016 Powder Awards, Hill was even more motivated to reduce his carbon footprint as a skier.

The film follows a group of skiers in Greenland who partner with a scientist to do environmental research on climate change. Their trip demanded the skiers skin many miles to set up camp, and they saw firsthand the effects of a melting icecap.

A guiltless rip down Mount Baker, thanks to a lighter footprint. PHOTO: Greg Hill

"At the end of the movie, I started thinking about what things I do and what I could do differently," says Hill. "I sent Chris down a wicked spiral of shame and I went with him. We had to make some changes."

In addition to their volcano project, Rubens and Hill made a number of lifestyle changes, including eliminating meat from their diet Monday through Friday (what Hill calls "weekday vegetarianism"). Hill gave up heli guiding and traded his F-350 for a Chevrolet Bolt. Rubens flew to ski less than he ever has. This winter, Hill is also working on an electric snowmobile to make accessing the backcountry as convenient as possible without spewing fuel all over the mountains he loves.

"I realized that if we individuals do not change our ways than there is no reason that governments will change or people’s perceptions will change," says Hill. "As skiers we are used to sacrificing and suffering to achieve something. We understand that we can persevere and remain positive regardless of the circumstances."