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We Live in Total Overconsumption

On the hunt for the best line, Eva Walkner, two-time winner of the Freeride World Tour and filmmaker, regularly jetted halfway around the world herself. Today, the former professional athlete struggles with her own past and rediscovers the local mountains for herself.


Are you still active as a freeride athlete or have you completely withdrawn from the big competition stages of the world?
I actually do everything that happens off the Freeride World Tour (FWT). But I want to finally grow up.

So family planning is next?
No no, I meant a real job in addition to my work as an athlete to challenge myself in another direction. I am studying business administration and am currently writing my bachelor thesis on sustainability in the outdoor clothing industry. A very, very exciting topic!

But you've started producing ski movies like »Evolution of Dreams"?
Yes, but in the end there is not really much left of the small budget that you collect from various sponsors. If you compare the expenditure with the financial output, then of course it is not profitable. But I was never interested in making a profit and earning money with my films. It's about producing a beautiful film and implementing my ideas.

Also interesting: High Noon in the East - A week on a ski tour in Georgia

So filmmaking is no longer an option for your professional future?
I've been making movies over and over again for 15 years now and it's partly a full-time job. And although you put all your time into the project, in the end there is little or nothing left to live on. That's why many Europeans participate in the FWT, just like I did until two years ago. In this country it is the best way to get sponsorship deals or to be able to live the sport professionally, while it is completely different in America. The freeriders get into the big film productions through their sponsors, who buy the riders from the films, and can thus professionally practice the sport. Almost all of them have the goal to participate in a big and well-known production at some point.

If I had been offered a job by MSP or TGR [both are big ski movie production companies, editor's note] during my active time in FWT, I would certainly have turned my back on the World Tour, just like Angel Collinson and Cody Townsend did when they got an offer to film. In Europe you're a successful freeride athlete if you have a FWT title or if you're in the lead, in America the title doesn't matter much, there you're a superstar if you're in one of the big movies by the likes of MSP, TGR or Sherpas Cinema.

Are you currently looking for a way out or within the ski industry?
I have the feeling that I also want to do something different, something new, and not just ski or make ski films. Skiing will of course always be my biggest passion, but I need new challenges, such as my Bachelor's degree in business administration. It takes more than just that: »Yeah, it snowed, let's go powder«. I'm looking for a new task that I enjoy very much and that challenges me in another direction and broadens my horizon.

Eva Walkner at ISPO Munich 2020
Eva Walkner at ISPO Munich 2020
Image credit: Munich Trade Fair Centre GmbH

Do you think there will be fundamental changes in skiing? Felix Neureuther called for a renewed focus on local competitions and more sustainability recently at ISPO Munich?
That is certainly true, but it's not really a new insight. Years ago, I was once asked if I wanted to join a well-known organization as an ambassador that promotes more sustainability in our business. I thought about it for a long time and finally cancelled. Why? Because I couldn't reconcile it with my conscience that on the one hand I am a freeride athlete in the FWT, jetting around half the world and participating in heli-skiing. And then on the other hand to raise the index finger as ambassador of this organization. Somehow, for me personally, that doesn't quite add up.

What specifically does not fit together?
My CO2 footprint is or has in the past certainly been above average. I have to be that honest, and I am well aware of that. As a freeskier who shoots ski movies or takes part in the FWT, you are on the road all year round, often heliskiing to ski and film your lines and chasing the best powder by plane. Some Ambassadors brag about being in Canada today and on the other side of the world tomorrow - always true to the motto #skierslife and #producerlife. Sure, that's our job, and I don't want to be left out at this point either. But then to stand up and tell other "normal winter sports enthusiasts" that you are not allowed to do that anymore due to climate change, that was and is simply not justifiable for me personally. First of all, I want to start with myself and find meaningful ways for me to reduce my footprint.

You can't film an entire winter with two helicopters on the mountain, drive a fat pick-up truck that takes your snow mobile up to the pass, fly halfway around the world for a shooting, and then act as a role model for a more sustainable world.

Would projects like Jeremy Jones' charitable POW initiative be hypocritical to you per se?

No, not at all. There are many ski and snowboard athletes who are really serious about it and who are completely behind the required climate protection goals, as for example the filmmaker Elias Elhardt does. POW Switzerland is very well positioned here and they really take this topic seriously. But there are also many of them - at least I have the feeling - whose lives are exactly the opposite of sustainable. You can't film an entire winter with two helicopters on the mountain, drive a fat pick-up truck that takes your snow mobile up to the pass, fly halfway around the world for a shooting, and then act as a role model for a more sustainable world.

When it comes to restricting and having to give up, many people are not prepared to do so or very quickly find excuses why we have to do this now or why it is somehow justifiable again. I also find it very difficult at this point, as most of us probably do. We should talk less, but rather convince through action. Several projects have already proven that it is possible to produce a good ski film without a helicopter and without having to travel around the world. Max Kroneck and Jochen Mesle have shown with "Ice and Palms" that it works and that this kind of film is even better received than the usual ski films. The two of them are a great inspiration even for me that things can be done differently.

Image credit: Hans-Martin Kudlinski / https://www.instagram.com/hmkphotog/
Eva Walkner in her element: white powder snow. But today the Austrian looks at the freeride scene in a more differentiated way
Image credit: Hans-Martin Kudlinski / https://www.instagram.com/hmkphotog/

And what do you do yourself to reduce your own carbon footprint or at least keep it as small as possible?
I have personally reached a point where I just can't go much further anymore with all this traveling and the ski porn industry. This is also one of the main reasons why I am no longer with the FWT or want to fly halfway around the world for a ski film. After all, I have the best playground in the world right on my doorstep. In Austria or rather the Alps there are so many gullies, awesome slopes, endless possibilities for ski tours and if I want to, also ski lifts to get up somewhere. Then I just ask myself the question, why do I have to fly to Canada now to get good shots? But of course, I have travelled a lot and have seen everything and done everything, so I am making it easy for myself here now, of course.

But that does not make your life as a freeskier more sustainable!?
Well, I have found my own, MY way to contribute. I don't want to make a radical cut and never get on a plane again. It is important for me to find a good measure, to act in a more considered way and to change many things in my everyday life in such a way that a more sustainable life starts right here on site and is automated.

I try to shop as locally and seasonally as possible. So I would never reach for an apple from South Africa or strawberries in winter in the shop. I haven't bought a plastic bottle for at least two years now, when I travel I always keep my 5 litre Hydroflask canister in my car and fill my water bottle with it and I generally pay more attention to quality and sustainably produced, durable products. I make purchasing decisions in a completely different way and much more consciously than ten years ago. In the end, however, everyone has to find a way for themselves to pollute the environment as little as possible.

A path that you seem to have found quite late in the game.
With regard to my own past, this is definitely a topic that has been on my mind for some years now. As an active professional athlete, I've been playing a lot of tricks with our environment and sometimes I've had a bad conscience. That's exactly why I wouldn't stand up and forbid other people to do anything or at least to swing the moral club in some way. But it is much more important not always to just fix the world the way we would like it to be. We live in total over-consumption.

We need more electricity: no problem, we clear the forests, destroy the habitat of the animals and simply build a few new power lines - a current topic here in Salzburg - we need faster internet, we need more and even more modern ski lifts, we need more collections per year, and so on. Zara alone brings 24 collections a year to the shops. But does the consumer really need or want this?

Nowadays it is always about having more and how we can make our life more comfortable and beautiful. Companies are encouraged to grow more and more. But is this idea sustainable? We consumers have to rethink and become more conscious in our purchasing decisions and act. The Overshoot Day in Austria was 2019 on April 9th, we Austrians have already used up the resources that the earth provides us at the beginning of April. In the 1970s, the Earth Overshoot Day in Austria was in December. More than ever, the time has long since come to adapt to this world and not the other way around.

Image credit: Hans-Martin Kudlinski / https://www.instagram.com/hmkphotog/

All action pics are by Hans-Martin Kudlinski. Follow him on Instagram