Bullfrog Founders Club
It is one of the most memorable moments of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Midway through the six-lap team sprint race, Canadian cross country skier Sara Renner broke a pole. Just when it appeared that her medal hopes were slipping away, Norwegian coach Bjoernar Haakensmoen stepped from the sidelines to hand her a replacement pole. Renner and teammate Beckie Scott went on to win a silver medal.
Along with that lofty achievement, Renner is the first Canadian cross country skier to ever win a medal at the World Championships, with a bronze in the sprint in 2005. She was also among the first people in Alberta to become bullfrogpowered.
When did you start skiing?
I was born into a skiing family. My father was a heli-ski guide and my mother was a cook for ski trip operators. My parents ran their own business, which was 28 kilometres from the nearest road. So, I really learned to ski out of necessity. We did everything on skis.
Why did you decide to get into competitive skiing?
I was in Jackrabbits—a club for young skiers—as a child. But it was when the Winter Olympics came to my hometown of Canmore in 1998 that I became hooked on competitive skiing.
How has your time out-of-doors impacted your relationship with the environment?
When you spend as much time as I do training and skiing through large tracts of wilderness, you become extremely connected to the environment. You can’t help but fall in love with it.
As a winter athlete, what is your take on climate change? Have you seen a difference in the length of the seasons or in the snow quantity?
I’ve seen significant change over the past couple of years—it’s happening faster than a blink. Winter is such an important part of a cross country skier’s life. It’s becoming more and more challenging to predict when the snow will come and how long it will stay. That makes it hard to know where and when to train. It’s also become a challenge, even with snowmaking, to hold a stable racing series from one season to the next. There are more and more cancellations and postponed races.
What is your perspective on climate change and the threat it poses?
I think the implications will be life altering, especially for Canadians. In Canmore, a mountain town that relies heavily on tourism dollars, the implications are huge. Along with lifestyle and livelihood, we’re losing our sense of history. It’s already happened in the Alps. But I don’t like to dwell on the negative. The important thing is to focus on what we can do to make a difference.
Why did you decide to bullfrogpower your home with green electricity?
I became part of an initiative with the David Suzuki Foundation called Play it Cool, which promotes carbon neutrality for athletes and air travel. Elite athletes are among some of the biggest personal emitters because they travel so much. The next step was to make a change in my home life, which is why we support Bullfrog.
What other things have you done in your personal life to reduce your environmental footprint?
We try to be extremely aware of our consumption habits. I convinced my husband to abandon his pickup and stick to a small car. We also have a small house. We try to always make educated purchases or cut back on purchases altogether. We use cloth diapers, we line dry our clothes in the summer and we recycle.
Competition and training have taken you all over the world. Is Canada ahead or behind when it comes to our concern for the environment? Would we win gold, silver or bronze?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Scandinavia where they tend to live a simpler life. They have a saying— “I don’t want to stand out like a tall tulip”—or something like that. In North America, we take the opposite approach. Everyone wants an SUV and a big house. I think we’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’d say we get a bronze.
You were part of one of the more memorable moments from the 2006 Turino Winter Olympics, when a Norwegian coach handed you a replacement ski pole after you dropped yours. Is there a parallel for this kind of international cooperation in terms of fighting climate change?
I think so. We’re all in this together and implications aren’t localized to individual countries. Canada will be in the world spotlight at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. That’s an excellent opportunity to play an important role in terms of leadership and in setting an example for others to follow.