Photo by Gina Greco
9-12 grade students raise their hands to ask questions.

By GINA GRECO
Express Staff

Biathlete Maddie Phaneuf visited Town of Webb school to talk to the students about the importance of climate control and what each person can do to make a difference in their every day lifestyles on Wednesday, March 22.
Maddie is apart of the Protect Our Winters (POW) and Hot Planet/Cool Athletes (HPCA) programs.
POW was started by professional snowboarder, Jeremy Jones in 2007, according to Maddie.
“One of our biggest initiatives is a program we run in conjunction with The North Face called Hot Planet/Cool Athletes (HPCA). In fact, our HPCA assembly program was recognized by the previous White House administration as one of the most innovative approaches to tackle climate change through sports,” she said.
“We have an alliance of dedicated professional snowboarders, alpine skiers, nordic skiers and mountaineers, devoted to bringing awareness to climate change and education on how young individuals can make a difference,” Maddie said.
Maddie said they take these athletes into schools across the country.
“We host 45 minute-long assemblies (20 minutes of which is a film we’ve produced) focusing on what’s causing climate change, why we’re personally invested in fighting it, and how kids can get involved to make the world a better place for all,” she said.
Maddie contacted Principal John Swick last month about coming and presenting to her home town school. Because of Maddie’s love for winter sports, she is extremely passionate about informing people about the impacts of climate change.
“I think teaching people about it is a great way to give back to the community. I feel like it can be a topic that is brushed aside, and I figured since I have this platform as an athlete that people in Old Forge have heard about, why not use that spotlight to bring up this important conversation,” she said. “Showing the students that they are the future for our planet and they can either sit there and do nothing and watch our earth slowly get worse every year, or they can do something about it and create a better planet for future generations,” she added.

Photo by Gina Greco Maddie Phaneuf with one of her biathlon bibs, skis and rifle.

Photo by Gina Greco
Maddie Phaneuf with one of her biathlon bibs, skis and rifle.

She presented four assemblies to all of the students, and some of the Webb staff.
Maddie used a simpler presentation for the younger kids.
“It was more questions and answers rather than video to keep then engaged, but generally I had the same message and ideas with every grade,” she said.
Maddie said that the younger kids had some of the best questions.
“One kid asked ‘Wait…if climate change is really as bad as it sounds, why are there still some people in the world that don’t want to do anything to help?’ That one really stood out to me, and was a tough question to answer,” she said.
Some other questions that were asked were:
“So if we don’t do anything to fight climate change, will the entire planet be under water?”
“If the icebergs are melting, does that mean the polar bears won’t have a home anymore?”
“If we’re supposed to be riding our bikes instead of driving cars then how will we get to Utica?!”
Not only did the assembly talk about changes in the climate but it also taught everyone a little bit about Maddie’s sport and how she lives.
One of the many things she spoke about how hard it is to go from skiing to laying down and shooting at a very tiny target.
“Your heart is racing—its very intense,” she said.
Maddie said she thinks the goal of her presentation was achieved.
“I think most kids care about the planet and when you discuss climate change, its effects, they begin to realize how serious this issue really is. Even if a fraction of these kids got something out of the assembly, that’s better than none,” she said. “The outcome of the assembly was leaving kids with the knowledge of climate change, and an impression that will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their lives. You never know, some of these kids could become the next scientists, politicians, or activists fighting for clean energy and a better planet for future generations! Also, every kid should know what the sport of biathlon is now,” she added.
Maddie said she hopes she made an impact on the kids.
“Everybody seemed interested and I got a ton of questions during the assemblies. I think I definitely changed their perspective on what they can do to help our planet,” she said.
Maddie is currently living and training in Lake Placid. She hopes to go to the Olympics next season.
“I won’t know for sure until January 2018, right before the Olympics kick off. The US Biathlon Team will take five women and right now I am ranked fourth in the country, so the chances are looking promising. My fingers are crossed, and I’m excited to start up the training season again,” she concluded.
For more information on climate change, POW and HPCA and what you can do to help, visit protectourwinters.org/