Episode 3 of the POWcast features adventurer and changer-maker, Huw Kingston.

Huw has spent his life embarking on epic expeditions, exploring the world on skis, by boat, bike, and on-foot, often in support of social and environmental issues. Huw has never shied away from a challenge, and is one to take matters into his own hands when he sees a part of our world that needs fixing. He is a writer, a guide, parliamentary candidate, business owner, speaker and entrepreneur. Huw is currently preparing for the upcoming tour of his film, Alpine Odyssey, which tells the story of his 2022 winter traverse through the Australian Alps, visiting all the mainland resorts. Tickets are available here.

Catch it on on Youtube:

In this episode, we discuss how Huw discovered skiing while on a working holiday in the Australian Alps, and what it is that made him fall in love with the backcountry. Huw tells us about how he began embarking upon longer journeys around the world, including when he first traversed the Australian Alps in 1997.

We discuss the reasons behind adventure, and how it can be a tool to fight for a greater purpose. Huw tells us how he used his circumnavigation of the Mediterranean to raise money for Save The Child in the wake of the Syrian civil war.

Huw also shares the highlights of his most recent journey through the Australian Alps, how the environment and snow has transformed at the hands of climate change since his first traverse, and how he also used it as a platform to raise funds for Our Yarning, supporting Indigenous children’s authors.

We chat about how Huw spearheaded an initiative to make his hometown free from bottled water, driving change within a community. We talk about the ski industry’s lack of action on climate change, how the ski community can better address climate change and how Huw’s frustration at politics led him to run as an independent in the 2019 federal election.

Finally, we discuss the upcoming film and Huw’s adventures ahead.

This episode is hosted by James Worsfold and Alastair McLeod

Music by Aleksey Chistilin from Pixabay

Listen on Spotify:

POWcast Episode 3 Transcript

Sam Quirke: [00:00:00] This podcast was recorded on the lands of the Wurundjeri people in Melbourne.

James Worsfold: Welcome to the POWcast, a podcast from Protect Our Winters Australia, where we chat to folks about their love of the mountains and our shared journey to protect them. I am James Worsfold and I’m joined here today by POW Australia’s head of operations, Alastair McLeod.

Al, why did you get involved with POW?

Alastair McLeod: Thanks, James. I’ve been involved with POW for a few years now, and, For me, it’s a pretty natural progression because as a child I grew up on the Great Barrier Reef. I spent a lot of time in nature and that’s always been a really important part of my life. And once I moved down to Victoria, I spent a lot of time in the mountains and doing snow sports.

So for me, seeing the change that’s happened in my lifetime between when I was a small child to now on the Great Barrier Reef, the impact is quite massive. And now we’re seeing the same thing happen in the mountains. We’re seeing, [00:01:00] um, you know, climate change really having an impact and anyone who spends a lot of time out there can see it.

So, uh, yeah, a few years ago I put my hand up, um, wanted to get involved with POW and a few years later, yeah, I’m, I’m a director I’m the head of operations and I oversee And we’re going to be making, uh, the machine a well oiled one to get what we need to do done.

James Worsfold: All right, let’s introduce today’s guest.

Alastair McLeod: Yeah, so I finally got to meet Huw Kingston at the Victorian Backcountry Festival last year. Uh, he’s a really interesting guy. His sense of adventure is infectious. Um, and he’s been a longtime supporter of POW and what we’re trying to do. So hearing about all of the things that he has done in his life is quite inspiring.

And And, uh, in 2022, he undertook the Australian Alpine Traverse in winter. Uh, he did that previously, 25 years prior, and, um, on the journey in 2022, he made a film about it. The film [00:02:00] tour is kicking off very shortly. It’s the Alpine Odyssey film tour, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that.

James Worsfold: Yeah, Huw’s certainly done a lot in his life.

He’s explored the world on skis, by boat, bike, and on foot, often in support of social and environmental issues. He’s a writer, a guide, parliamentary candidate, change maker, speaker, and entrepreneur. And importantly, Huw is a great man to talk to. So let’s find out how he fell in love with the Australian Alps.

Huw Kingston: I’m a proud Welshman. Who wasn’t born in Wales, came over to Australia in about 30 odd years ago. Fell in love with the place after I’d come over in 1986. Firstly, on a working holiday visa and, uh, and actually learned to ski. I’d never skied before I came to Australia. So I learned to ski at Charlotte Pass.

Charlotte Pass. I worked a season at Charlotte Pass in the winter of 1986. And that was [00:03:00] undoubtedly what, uh, began my passion for the Australian Alps and the snowy mountains. So your skiing has absolutely rocketed since then. Well, I tell you, after 1986, my first season being in Australia, my second season was in the Himalayas.

During that first winter of, uh, skiing in Australia, in Charlotte Pass, uh, a, uh, a guy turned up, a guy called Glenn Tempest. Towards the end of the season, he was actually skiing the length of the Alps, and we got, uh, chatting when he got to Charlotte Pass. And he said, what are you doing at the end of your year in Australia?

I said, well, I don’t know, I’ll go back to the UK. And he said, well, do you want to come skiing in India? So I thought, well, learn to ski in Australia. Uh, I must be an expert now. So I’ll, uh, I’ll head off to the Himalaya for my second season. So a few months later, I ended up in, uh, in, in the Himalaya and, uh, did some pretty funky ski touring on some, uh, very ancient ex hire skis that I’d actually picked up in Melbourne.

Uh, and some leather [00:04:00] boots. And, uh, that then began, uh, a 15 year or so passion for. skiing the mountains, the mighty mountains of India in the Himalaya, and ultimately doing what were at the time some pioneering long journeys through the mountains in winter, including what was then the longest ski journey done in the Himalaya from Uh, from Kashmir in India, uh, for about 600 kilometers, 35 days through to, uh, to the Kulu Valley.

So, uh, yeah, so I had a real love, uh, for India, for, for skiing and, uh, it all began in Sharla Pass.

James Worsfold: That’s a very quick turnaround from doing your first season to doing some trailblazing back country. What was it about skiing and the mountains that made you want to pursue this?

Huw Kingston: Look, I think, you know, before I came to Oz and in that year that I was here, you know, I’d got into [00:05:00] climbing, I’d got into some, some, some kayaking and, and, and just general trekking, bushwalking, but yeah, that just that, I think in the snowies, it was, for me, it was a combination of The clarity of the air, the coldness of the air, you know, all the things that we love about the white stuff, the white powder or the white slush or whatever we happen to get, uh, you know, and just that movement on skis.

I mean, whilst I was enjoying the downhill stuff on the resorts. I soon fell for the main range and was heading out there on my days off from Charlottes and just, you know, to be able to, to, to, to ski uphill, uh, get to the top of a maintain and then find your way down, whether in any, uh, particularly stylish fashion at the beginning, uh, maybe not, but just, just that, it just gave a real buzz to me.

And I certainly know that Of all those [00:06:00] activities, and I’m very much the Jack of all trades and master of none when it comes to the outdoors, you know, in terms of kayaking and mountain biking and, uh, uh, skiing and whatever. But there’s absolutely no doubt that I’ve been reduced to tears of joy. more times, many more times by skiing than I have by those other activities, much as I love them, but there’s something about skiing that is, that just grabbed me, uh, when I almost immediately.

James Worsfold: How did you make that jump to some of these longer form journeys?

Huw Kingston: Yeah, it was really, I suppose, you know, the long, the longer journeys for me came in, in, in the year or two after I’d, I’d been in Australia as being with, and I, I went off and did, uh, climbing expedition in, in central Africa, in, in Uganda. Uh, it was quite a long period of time.

And then by the time that I’d, you know, done that and I’d, I’d developed this love, as I say, for skiing in India. And that’s probably where the long journey thing really started. You know, I [00:07:00] just had this thought, well, you know, here’s a, a map and they were basically just line drawings. They weren’t detailed maps of, of the Himalayan.

It’s like, could you start You know, in this region, Zanskar and finish in this region, uh, you know, Kashmir and, and, and just, you know, there’s a high pass of 5, 000 meters, five and a half thousand meters, and just started linking that together. And I, as I was developing that love of, of long ski tours in India, I then, you know, moved to Australia and, you know, I was already feeling the, the, the, the joy of the rhythm of the journey.

And I think that’s the number one thing for me is just that, that, that. You know, after two weeks, three weeks, four weeks on a trip, you just get into a beautiful, almost meditative rhythm. Uh, you know, you get up, you have your brekkie, you pack up the tent, you walk, you paddle, you ski, whatever you’re doing, you eat, you stop.

And just day after day after day, [00:08:00] uh, the physical challenge, obviously. And so, you know, that was, that developed through that, that, that, that love of skiing, I think, through India. And then crossed over into, uh, when I actually decided to ski the, the length of the Australian Alps in 1997. I thought, and I was going to be around for, I knew I was going to be around for winter.

I’d just come back from, from a solo ski trip in Pakistan. And I thought, I’m going to be in Australia all winter. I’d love to ski the length of our Alps. And, and that started that, you know, that planning in my mind. But then I thought, well, hang on, why not just, why just not ski the length of the Alps? Why not start at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne and finish at the Sydney Opera House?

Transcribed include the ski of the Alps, but interlink that with, with some mountain biking, some hiking, some paddling. And so that journey in 1997 from Melbourne to Sydney, uh, which included, you know, [00:09:00] that, that block in the middle of skiing, the length of the Alps sort of cemented that, that sort of, again, that love of longer journeys.

And I got, Two thirds of the way through that journey and thought, you know, what a bloody great way to see Australia, you know, as a, as a relatively recent immigrant of five or six years in Australia. What a great way to link each of the state capitals by the most interesting and challenging human POWed route.

So what started as an idea to ski the length of the Alps that became Melbourne to Sydney, then became a series of seven journeys, Melbourne to Adelaide. Perth to Adelaide, Brisbane to Darwin, Melbourne to Hobart. So 25, 000 kilometers of following the most interesting and challenging human POWed route through the deserts, through the mountains, rivers, along the ocean, uh, by bike, by foot, by ski, by kayak.

And so that became quite a big, you know, a major part of, of those long journeys. And so, yeah, so it just sort of formed over, [00:10:00] over a period of time. Those ones still going to places like India and elsewhere. And I suppose ultimately culminated in my decision 10 years ago to circumnavigate the Mediterranean Sea.

Uh, and again, I can’t, people often say, why did you decide on the Mediterranean? I’m like, I, I think. I’d done a continent, Australia, maybe it was about doing a sea. Maybe it was about returning to an element of my roots in Europe. Uh, but generally it’s probably related to a bottle of red wine, uh, and an idea and a map and, uh, and some craziness.

And, you know, that became a very special journey when I started at Anzac Cove, uh, the day after Anzac Day, 2014, and 363 days later, I returned, [00:11:00] uh, back to Gallipoli, uh, two days before the centenary of, of, of, of the Gallipoli landing in 2015. So, so yeah, and so it is, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s. It’s the rhythm of the journey, it’s the transition from different styles of, of, of modes of transport, if you like.

Uh, that gets me more than just a sharp fix of a, a ski, a particular ski run or a two kilometer run down a river in big white water or a one rock climb or something like that. I’m just this, uh, slow diesel engine that chugs along some might say fairly high emissions. old diesel that just chugs along for week after week, month after month.

James Worsfold: For you, was it as simple as coming up with this idea and just saying, I’m going to do it? Or did you require some more external motivation or [00:12:00] anything else that pushed you there?

Huw Kingston: In the early days, it was just, you know, pretty much a personal desire to do those things. And once I’d had the bottle of red wine, and once I’d opened the manila folder, it would, you know, the thing would take off.

Uh, As I got older, I suppose, and, uh, it, it, you know, there was the realization that some of these things are useful, not just for me personally, but for raising the profile of causes or raising finances for, for causes with, with the Mediterranean, uh, there’s no way. I just wanted to do that for Huw Kingston.

I was asking my family, my beautiful wife, you know, can I be away for 12 months and, you know, I had to have more than just. a selfish reason to do that or because I wanted to write some articles or write a book. So, uh, you know, I, I, that’s when I ended up partnering with Save the Children. Uh, at the time in the Mediterranean was the desperate tragedy of the [00:13:00] Syrian civil war and tens of thousands of people were dying on the Mediterranean, drowning, trying to escape this horror in Syria.

And, and, uh, And so I, I decided to, to, to partner with Save the Children there and raise money for the, the, the children affected by war and conflict in the Mediterranean. And that developed a very long relationship with, you know, with Save the Children and work as an ambassador for them now, uh, and different fundraising, uh, exploits, you know, with, with, with that.

And, uh, yeah, so it’s, it’s fairly important for me now to have more than just a, a Huw Kingston, uh, I want to do this sort of, uh, idea.

James Worsfold: The term adventure or explorer kind of evokes this image of this white bloke going off and exploring new lands and has connotations of like conquest and colonisation. It seems that you’ve turned it on its head a bit.

What does the term adventure mean to you? How do you define it? [00:14:00]

Huw Kingston: That’s a really good question. Uh, for me personally, and I, I don’t want to sound elitist, but there’s, there’s a lot of people who now dumbed down adventure. There’s a, there’s a whole industry now that exists to provide adventure, which, you know, for, for some people might be sitting on the edge of an infinity pool.

Uh, you know, after, uh, after a little stroll up to this rather luxurious mountain top, uh, spa or whatever, I think personally, the adventure has to have some element of unknown and it has to have some element of, and a reasonable element of physical exertion, uh, in there, I don’t think you have to be scared.

You certainly don’t have to be pushing the extremes, but I think you need to be, you need to be exerting yourself. Uh, there needs to be some difficulty and there needs to be an element of, you know, uncertainty, uh, both perhaps about you [00:15:00] psychologically achieving your goal, physically achieving your goal, uh, or the elements ranging against you, the blizzard coming in, the, the river being too high, too low, whatever it happens to be.

James Worsfold: Yeah, Al, that’s really interesting how Huw thinks the definition of adventure has sort of been. Watered down. What do you think of this approach and how do you see adventure?

Alastair McLeod: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I don’t think adventure is something that should come easily necessarily. Um, and for everyone at POW, all of us tend to have a pretty strong passion for, you know, the outdoors and getting out there for adventure.

Um, I think that’s pretty undeniable because when you spend more time in the environment. Actually, you know, challenging yourself. You form these very strong bonds and feelings with these places and you want to do whatever you can to protect them.

James Worsfold: Yeah. I’ve [00:16:00] been enjoying the Australian Alps since I was very little and I want a future where I’m able to experience this and share it with other people.

So that’s why I got involved with POW. So Al, for all those people out there who love the mountains and want to do something to protect them, how can they get involved?

Alastair McLeod: Yeah, so it’s really easy to get involved with POW. Um, basically you just have to visit our website. There’s a page called Get Involved.

Uh, we have a whole bunch of volunteer roles online. Um, and we update that pretty regularly with what sort of people we need and what skill sets. And otherwise we’re setting up local alliances in the key Alpine communities. We already have a well established one in Jindabyne. So definitely get in touch and try and tee up something with your local alliance as well.

James Worsfold: So we talked about your journey back in 97 through the Australian Alps that you turned into a nationwide journey and you’ve done many epic adventures since. Why did you choose [00:17:00] to return to the Australian Alps on your alpine odyssey?

Huw Kingston: Yeah, well, back in there before the winter of 2022, I’d actually, uh, been, uh, I was commissioned to write a book on Australian adventures and the whole of the year of 2022 was going to be taken up by that particular book and, uh, but towards the end of 2021, I actually realized that the publisher was starting to move the goalposts and we talked a little bit earlier about the definition of adventure and their definition of adventure was including ziplining and ziplining.

Uh, jet boating and, uh, things like that. And I was starting to feel a little bit uncomfortable saying I’m not the man for, for that particular book. So I actually pulled out of the contract and suddenly 2022 presented itself to me as a, as an open year almost. Uh, and early in the, early in the year, I think it was sort of January 2022.

I was just thinking, okay, well, I’ve got [00:18:00] the year ahead. It’s 25 years since I last skied the length of the Australian Alps. There’s a lot of ski time under my boots in that period of time. There’s quite a lot of changes that I’ve witnessed in the Alps in that period of time. Uh, so let’s, let’s have a go again, but let’s do it now.

With a purpose. Ah, and, uh, you know, to to to as a fundraiser, which I which I ended up doing, but also this time to to ski it. Each of the mainland snow resorts, the 12, uh, there’s the two in Tassie, but each of the mainland snow resorts along the way. So it was a slight difference to what I did in 97, but it was about seeing the changes in the Alps, perhaps seeing some of the changes in me, you know, 25 years older.

Uh, and, uh, yeah, so that was, that was pretty much it just to, uh, [00:19:00] just to sort of compare the two and, and having this window of opportunity suddenly opened to me for the, uh, for the year. What changes have you seen to the Australian Alps? Undoubtedly, you know, if you look now, it’s 35 years since I first skied in the Alps.

And the most noticeable thing without doubt is, is, is the, is the rising of the snow level. Uh, and, you know, that’s, that’s borne out by the facts as well. But, you know, through my own eyes, you know, and I, when I think about areas that were generally Covered by snow lower down, you know, say, in New South Wales around the 1500 1600 meter mark, uh, which are now green much more often when I look at them in the winter months, uh, that the rivers that were very, uh, slow flowing in winter because the headwaters were frozen and now running faster in the winter months.

So I think that’s the most [00:20:00] obvious physical change I’ve seen. Is that the snow has crept up the hillside, uh, over the period of time that I’ve been enjoying the amazing Alpine country.

James Worsfold: To what extent were you able to enjoy this journey when you had this background thought of this place I love is changing?

Huw Kingston: Oh, very much still able to enjoy it. And I was able to enjoy it for a number of reasons. A, because I was still in the mountains. Uh, I, I, it was, I was able to enjoy it because I’d had such a wonderful 25 years and longer enjoying and all these amazing experiences through the Alps. So I had that history of, of, of that.

I was on this occasion because I was skiing at the resorts. You know, it was that whole element of, of being welcomed to the resorts and that they all, you know, got involved in the, uh, in the journey and the fundraising and the fundraising element. So, you know, I’ve felt I was doing something positive, uh, for our yarning, which no doubt we’ll talk about.

But, uh, [00:21:00] So, you know, there was lots of reasons to enjoy the journey, but always in the back of the head, not just in that journey, but in these more recent years, is this is not quite the place that I remember. It’s not, certainly not the place if you look at the history and the photographs of skiing 50, 60, 100 years ago.

And you go, geez, surely there wasn’t that much snow in those places that often, but that was the reality. So there was always that element of, you know, this is disappointing. Uh, but, uh, and then sort of projecting that forward to the younger generations, because I’ve had the fun. I’ve had the enjoyment.

I’ve seen it, you know, in its best. Uh, but I just want younger generations, future generations, my grandkids, younger generations. to still be able to have those sort of experiences and to see that amazing country under the white blanket.

James Worsfold: So along your alpine [00:22:00] odyssey, you spent a lot of time alone. You spent some time visiting people in resorts.

What were some of the highs and lows? The,

Huw Kingston: the highs. People always ask about journeys. I mean, I think the thing with the long journey, it’s ultimately all a big high because the lows become high because they’re part of the metronome, if you like, of the journey. A high would be the day going from the Bogong High Plains to the summit of Mount Bogong.

It was a stunning day after a rotten, miserable day from Falls Creek the day before. Uh, a beautiful cloud sea that stayed beneath our feet all day, uh, all the way through this unbelievable orange sunset as we went up to the summit just before dark, uh, and camped up there. So that was pretty special. It was also pretty special because I’d, [00:23:00] between the high plains and Bogong, I’d, I’d come down to the big river, And, and, and, and cross that.

And when I did my first Alpine traversing in, in 97, I almost lost my life crossing the big river. So it was a sort of get up the monkey off your back. Uh, I got myself into a bit of strife, uh, almost drained. And so it was, uh, it was nice to get across the big river. Uh, and I was with some good friends then, and it was just one of those perfect, one of those perfect Alpine days.

So that was very much a high. Uh, Lowe’s, uh, you know, I don’t, I’m not at all embarrassed to say I’m, you know, I can get lost as good as the next man or woman. Uh, I, I, I got myself badly bushwhacked one night, uh, up near the knobs in the Victorian Alps and, uh, Found myself scrubbing around in the dark, uh, lost my compass, uh, and [00:24:00] was, you know, bush bashing with these skis on my pack, uh, lost the little thin trail that I was on.

That was pretty, pretty miserable. Uh, but that was a time for focus and just, you know, just keep on going. You know, there’s a track there somewhere, follow the bearing. I did have a spare compass. Uh, and, uh, possibly. For me, a low point or maybe the most scary point was, was crossing the Black River on a very slippery log that I walked across.

And if I thought about it, I wouldn’t have walked across it. I’d have stopped and thought this is nuts. The river was in flood below and I got on top of this log and I didn’t sit down and sort of ride it like a horse. So I I walked across it, and I’m no gymnast, uh, and walking across this log, and thinking what the hell am I doing up here, my feet were slipping, I’m looking down at this [00:25:00] fast moving, muddy water, deep water beneath me, and, you know, I thought, I’m a goner in the river, uh, but I managed somehow to slip and slide my way across that log and get to the other side, so that was a, uh, It was certainly a fairly low down where I was on the Black River, but yeah, a bit of a low point, but also a pretty scary point for me.

James Worsfold: Over the course of your Alpine Odyssey journey, you’ve raised over 65, 000 for an organisation called Al Yarning. Why did you choose to support this organisation, and how does it connect to your journey through the mountains?

Huw Kingston: Uh, I, Mentioned earlier, my relationship with Save the Children and I’ve been casting around with them just as I often do about, you know, different projects, you know, where, you know, that I might be able to assist with, whether fundraising or profile raising or whatever.

And I came across this wonderful project, [00:26:00] Our Yarning. Which is essentially indigenous authors and illustrators writing their stories in their way for in book form for indigenous primary school age kids, and I just like this. You know, the sound of that. I realized the importance of stories, uh, not just, you know, indigenous people telling their own stories to their their Children.

But I mean, ultimately, for us all in Australia to have a bit more knowledge about our First Nations people and the stories, the amazing stories cultures and richnesses of the oral story tradition, uh, for all of us to learn a lot more. And, you know, from, from the perspective of the Alps, I hadn’t really had, and I still don’t have a huge understanding of the, the different traditional owner groups across the Alps, but I did do a fair bit of research and learning because of that journey and because of our yarning.

And I wanted as much as possible to connect with some of those groups. And I did, far from as [00:27:00] much as I would have liked to have done. Uh, I was, you know, I was, I was very honored to have had this amazing smoking ceremony at, at the beginning at Lake Mountain, uh, with the Uncle Shane from the Tongarong Nation.

Uh, you know, so it was, it was, it was, it was, it was good for me to try and learn some things too about, the indigenous, uh, activity across the Alps and link that, you know, I had this indigenous fundraising thing as well. So, so they were probably the, the, the, the key reasons and, and, you know, it was, it was something that, that really did hit a chord, I think as well with people.

And as I, when I put that out, I was surprised at the, the generosity of, of many people. I, you know, I, I set a target, a random target of 50, 000. Yeah. As you say, I ended up with about 65, 000. dollars for that. And, uh, yeah, with thanks to the generosity of many in the Alpine community, you know, not just skiers, but the resorts themselves.

Many put in, I actually [00:28:00] sold, you could buy a resort for our Yarny, you could buy Hawthorne or Falls Creek or Thredbo or Perisher or whatever. Uh, some of the resorts even bought themselves. They didn’t want anyone else to buy them. Uh, so there was a lot of, you know, stuff like that went on. And so it meant immense and, uh, I think just a really great project and that money is now gone.

Um, into fantastic use in producing some of those books into, uh, running workshops for budding authors and illustrators in indigenous communities. So, uh, yeah, it’s been a, uh, well worthwhile thing to, uh, to have, uh, alighted upon.

James Worsfold: Let’s switch track a bit and talk about your project in your hometown, Bundy on Tap.

Huw Kingston: Yeah, so I, uh, moved to a beautiful little town called Bundanoon, uh, in the southern Highlands of New South Wales, sort of halfway between Sydney and Canberra back in 95. It’s a beautiful little town on the edge of Moreton National Park, big gorges, waterfalls, lovely, lovely part of the world. And, uh, in [00:29:00] the late, what are they, 2000, 2008, 2007, 2008, we were fighting a Proposal for a company to, uh, steal or mine 50 million liters of water from the aquifer on the edge of town and stick it in trucks and ship it to Sydney to be put in plastic bottles.

And I’ve always, for a long time before that, had a bit of a thing about, uh, single use plastics right back to the early nineties when I was the marketing manager at Paddy Palin. Uh, I started a, a scheme then to get rid of plastic bags in the, in the Paddy Pollen stores. So, I’d always had a thing about single use plastics, I had a particular thing about the madness of bottled water, the insanity, the triumph of marketing over common sense, uh, as to why you would spend, you know, more than the price of petrol on a, on a litre of water that you can get essentially free from a tap.[00:30:00]

So this company was wanting to steal the water, and we had a bit of a campaign in town against that, and I was involved in that, and around that time I owned a cafe and a bike shop in Bundanoon at the time, which was just an expensive way to fuel my caffeine addiction, but, uh, the, during this campaign against having these trucks rumbling through our town full of water, I So, you know, I posited the idea in an article in our little town magazine that if we didn’t want a water extraction plant in town, then maybe perhaps we shouldn’t have the end product.

So did Bundanoon have the bottle to go bottle water free? And so this was published in our little town magazine and it got quite a reaction. And quite a lot of local people got in touch and said, Oh, this, I love the idea, Huw. You know, how do we do it? How do we do it? I don’t know how you take a town to go get rid of [00:31:00] bottled water off the shelves of its cafes.

It’s supermarket, it’s, it’s events. Uh, so we formed a little group of amazing, uh, locals and we move forward with the idea of, of getting rid of bottled water. And we did that. We talked to the businesses. in town. Obviously I was one of the business owners. I didn’t actually stop bottled water, uh, then anyway, because of my opposition to it, but I think it was good that I was a business owner.

I wasn’t somebody, you know, greeny coming in with this idea and saying, I’m going to steal a product off your shelves or ask you not to do it. Uh, so we got the businesses on board, never easy for a small business in a small town to, to, to take away revenue like that, but we got them on board. Uh, some slightly reluctant.

The majority quite happy if that’s what the community decided they wanted. And we took the idea to a community meeting, which at the time was the biggest [00:32:00] community meeting ever in, uh, in, uh, in our little town. And it was an overwhelming vote to get rid of bottled water and replace it with fountains around town with refillable bottles for sale in our shops and cafes and, uh, and, and, and so on.

So, uh, I think it was, uh, 355 people voted in favour and one person voted against. Uh, good on him for doing that. Uh, and that, you know, we knew then there was a bit of a story, but we weren’t ready for the absolutely nuts deluge of media interest that happened. And in a period of two days after that town meeting, I did more than 200 interviews.

with everybody from the BBC, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Kazakhstan Daily Bugle, you name it, they were there. We had, it wasn’t very environmentally friendly, we had every news station landing helicopters in Bundanoon with their crews and it was [00:33:00] the number one news item, uh, on the news that night. The New South Wales government announced that day that because Bundanoon was going bottled water free, The New South Wales government was going to do it.

The premier got up to say that and it all went nuts. Uh, I will say the New South Wales government reneged on their promise. But of course we hadn’t actually gone bottled water free yet. We would, we’d, we’d made the vote. Uh, but we then moved forward over a number of months and, uh, we got the, the fountains installed.

Uh, we got the refillable bottles sorted. And on the 26th of September 2009, the last bottles of, uh, still bottled water, not, not sparkling because it was what comes out of a tap, were removed from the shelves of Bundanoon and still now, 15 years later, Uh, we’re still bottled water free and it’s voluntary and that’s the beauty of it.

Uh, it, there’s no law, there wasn’t a council involved, there wasn’t any legislation, [00:34:00] it is voluntary. At any point in time, any shop in Bundanoon could decide to start selling bottled water again. So, uh, so I, I really was and I think the POW of it was. It came from the community. It’s what the community wanted.

Uh, and it, it was that POWful that we didn’t need that legislative backing to force people to, uh, to do anything. It was the David chasing the, the Goliath of the multinationals, Pepsi, Coke, uh, Schweppes, et cetera, you know, who control this market. You know, globally, and, and, and, you know, it’s about a billion dollars, I think, in Australia.

And they didn’t like it at all. So there was some pretty nasty stuff done, uh, to me personally by the industry. Uh, and they did some rather bizarre things. They, the industry funded people, young people with video cameras to fly to Bundanoon from the U. S. and elsewhere. [00:35:00] to make YouTube videos, rubbishing this silly little Australian town that was trying to remove people’s choice to drink water.

That was all sorts of nuts things that went on, but it was a, uh, it was a, it was a great standby, a wonderful community. And subsequently because of the publicity, uh, it rang around the world. And, uh, you know, I’ve spent a fair bit of time with other communities and organizations helping them to, If not, get rid of bottled water to reduce the consumption by, you know, the main game being to install water fountains.

Uh, have a choice whether you want to go and spend four bucks in the shop or just drink. Equally, if not better water out of a fountain in your bottle or your cup.

James Worsfold: Yeah, I really liked how Huw used his platform as a local business owner and a member of the community to make meaningful change, especially as an insider to Bundaloon. And [00:36:00] he said that it’s important. That it was a local and not someone, an outsider coming in and telling locals what to think. Because the change happened from within.

So while researching, I came across a fantastic quote on the Bundy on tap website, that the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. And I think that is something that Huw definitely took on board.

Alastair McLeod: Yeah, plastic waste is a huge problem. Victorians use 3 billion drink containers every year, even though our country has some of the cleanest tap water on earth.

Uh, per capita, Australia is the second highest user of, uh, plastic bottled water in the world. And a lot of people do think it gets recycled. Unfortunately, the statistics on what actually gets recycled is shockingly low. It’s something like 18%. I think the Bundy on Tap campaign was a fantastic example of business leaders in the community coming together and really pushing, like, true positive change.

I would love to see this [00:37:00] happen in the alpine communities. Um, you know, climate change is one issue, plastic pollution is another. There’s a lot of threats that face these areas that we really care about. And, um, yeah, like Huw has proven that business leaders can really actually make stuff happen.

James Worsfold: So you’ve been a part of the Australian snow sports community for about 30 or more years.

Um, how do you think the community as a whole addresses issues around environment and climate change?

Huw Kingston: I think until recently, not very well, I think it’s, uh, snow sports is generally a pretty hedonistic activity. We get in there. It’s all about having a laugh, having fun. Uh, it’s, you know, the skiing, the apres ski, it really is a hedonistic holiday type activity.

So I don’t think it’s really been on the radar. For the vast majority of time that I’ve been involved in in [00:38:00] snow sports. Only now in the last five, six years, maybe, as we’ve all become aware of the white elephant in the room, uh, of, of the changing climate and what that’s happening. And as more and more of us become aware that more than anywhere, Australia, where we hover.

just so closely either side of zero that a little push in the positive is going to make a big difference to our ability to enjoy this white stuff for the future. So the awareness is building. Uh, the resorts undoubtedly are aware. Some are taking more action than others. I think there’s still a long way to go.

I think there’s still a bit of head in the sand stuff. It’s about the profit tomorrow and the next three or four years, [00:39:00] not, uh, you know, in 20 years time, I think there’s still an element of, you know, we can, we can certainly from a resource perspective, obviously not the back country, but we can, we can blast our way out of this with snow guns, uh, and investment in that.

But the reality is that no amount of snowmaking is ever going to replace. the real stuff, uh, for these, the sport that we, that we love. So, you know, there is, there is a greater awareness. And I think that really is where POW, Protect Our Winters, has, it’s been amazing to watch only in the last 18 months, you know, an international body that, you know, was set up in Australia quite a few years ago now, but has reinvigorated itself in the last couple of years.

And with thanks to, to, to you and many other volunteers, uh, you know, it’s just an amazing job in [00:40:00] raising this issue because like that Bundanoon on Tap, the Bundy on Tap campaign, it really is, the individual has this immense POW to affect change. And, you know, whether it’s through changing their own Behaviour or working as as as a group and encouraging others to all get together and put messages out.

And, uh, and I’m hopeful because I have to be hopeful that that protect our winters, the industry in general, retail, hospitality, resorts, uh, you know, get closer and closer together. Lobby our governments here and internationally to do, to do, to do a lot better and just save this thing that we’re just madly passionate about.

So I’ve been told

James Worsfold: that you’re acquainted with the federal politician who, who skis, but also [00:41:00] has been playing a large role in stymieing climate action. Can you enjoy this environment and this lifestyle whilst also putting your head in the sand about existential threats? You

Huw Kingston: mean can people? Can people?

Yeah, absolutely. And many, many do. Many do. Can you? I certainly can’t. And, uh, you know, and I think that’s when you, you mentioned the skiing politician, uh, you know, that was for me, you know, I came out of, I came off the main range out to Guthaga in August, 2018. And it was, I turned on the radio when I got back to the car.

And it was the day that, uh, Malcolm Turnbull got rolled and Scott Morrison became our Prime Minister. And I was so angry as I was driving the car home that here we were playing politics again, rolling another Prime Minister and there were [00:42:00] these existential threats like climate change, political integrity, all sorts of things, uh, that were just not being addressed.

And By the time I got back close to Bundanoon, I thought, well, don’t just whinge about it and bang the dashboard, Huw. Do something about it. Why don’t you stand for Parliament on some of this stuff? And the local member in the seat of Hume where Bundanoon is, is Angus Taylor, who was indeed the Minister for Emissions Reduction.

energy and emissions reduction in the Morrison’s government. Uh, Angus, very keen skier. I think at one point he was on the Thredbo ski patrol. Uh, and you know, I knew Angus reasonably well. Uh, our politics very much diverged, but, uh, so I, I thought maybe I’ll stand in the next federal election that was due the next, [00:43:00] the next year, 2019.

And for a number of months, I, I, I umed and ahed. You know, do I want to do this? And then, you know, I come back to, I don’t need this, you know, I’ve got a great life. I don’t need to, to, to have this bullshit, uh, standing for parliament. I don’t have any chance of winning. But then I have five grandchildren and every time I’d see them, I’d look at them and I’m saying, you know, I wouldn’t think twice about going off on a journey, an expedition for three or four months.

Why wouldn’t I spend three or four months of my life? standing in an election campaigning for their future, uh, not for mine, but for their future. And ultimately, I remember actually being in, in, in, in, in, in Southern India, uh, and I’d been given a keynote and I got a conference, an adventure conference in Southern India.

[00:44:00] Uh, and finally the night after that, uh, conference, I was in this hotel room in Andhra Pradesh. And I thought, I’m going to do it. I’m actually going to do it. And I flew back to Australia a few weeks later, and then thought, geez, how do you, how do you start a campaign? How do you, what do you do? Because I was staying as an independent.

And so, you know, I did in the, in, in, in the federal election of 2019. I was part of, I like to think of that sort of building momentum for independence, climate independence, uh, and, and also on those issues that I mentioned of, you know, integrity in politics and, and, and, and so on. And, uh, and it was an incredibly worthwhile thing to do.

I gave Angus a good run for his money, uh, as a startup independent in a seat that had been, uh, coalition for 50 odd years. Uh, I finished third out of the seven [00:45:00] candidates. Uh, we had, and, and it was more worthwhile than I thought it would be. I mean, I saw some amazingly Ridiculously mad, dirty political stuff, uh, but I also met hundreds and hundreds of amazingly committed people, uh, and it really was more worthwhile a thing, even though I didn’t get in.

I didn’t think I had hope of getting in. It was good to do and it was good to, again, be part of that, the rise of the independence. It was good to have a platform to talk about climate change and the need for action, uh, particularly in that seat where we had. A minister who would more, uh, happily turn up to the opening of a coal mine than a wind farm, uh, and, and so on.

James Worsfold: You’ve encountered a local member who isn’t exactly friendly on renewables. You have gone on this journey through the Australian Alps and, and seen the effect of [00:46:00] climate change. You’ve sailed and, uh, circumnavigated the Mediterranean. Witness, plastic pollution. What is your view about the state of the world?

Is it doom and gloom or are you hopeful?

Huw Kingston: The, the, the state of the world is doom and gloom. There’s no doubt about it. But without hope you have nothing. So, you, you have to put aside the state of the world. And you have to, because otherwise you just, you either give up and become depressed about everything or you put your head in the sand.

And you just go, it doesn’t matter. I’ve nothing I can do about it. Just enjoy life and keep going. So I think you just, you just go, you know, there, there is chance. And I still actually do believe that we can turn it round. I do believe it’s a massive effort and we don’t have very long left to do it. Uh, but in terms of emissions reduction, in terms of the use [00:47:00] of plastics and the millions of tons of that stuff, the whole fossil fuel.

Uh, world, if you like, the whole fossil fuel earth, uh, fueled earth that we’ve built. We have to change that. But we’re only going to do it if you and I, our friends, our families, our nation, uh, globe of nations, gets their shit together and gets their shit together pretty soon.

James Worsfold: On the topic of, you know, fossil fueled earth, the ski community, as you said, is a bit of A hedonistic group and very consumptive as well, like we spent a lot of time traveling and flying overseas and, and that’s something that is very carbon intensive.

How do we wrangle these ideas of trying to be better people for the planet, but also, you know, traveling to new places and going to the places we want to go? How do we justify it?

Huw Kingston: [00:48:00] Look, I think ultimately we probably can’t, uh, but we’re going to, uh, so You know, we, we, you look at the things we do, we don’t, we don’t need to buy a new ski jacket every couple of seasons probably.

Uh, we don’t necessarily need to have the latest and greatest ski. Uh, and maybe many of us are guilty of having too many skis or boards in our, in our, in our quiver. Uh, so there’s a, there’s that consumption of, of stuff. I think the key thing obviously is transport. Uh. We are part of the EV revolution, electric vehicles.

That can only, I hope, keep growing. And because I think, you know, when you look on, on a Friday night or a Sunday night going to or from work Sydney to the New South Wales Alps or Melbourne to the Victorian Alps. There’s just these thousands upon thousands of vehicles, massive emissions every weekend, just for this, [00:49:00] you know, quick hit of, of this, this grug, uh, that we’re all addicted to.

So, you know, I think, you know, the EV thing is going to at least help that, uh, car sharing to some extent can, uh, again, that’s a little bit, it’s always a hard one, car sharing, because we all want that independence. We want to. We we want to rock up. We want, if the weather’s shit, we want to go home when we want to go home, uh, you know, so, but hopefully it’ll become a bigger part of, of, of what, what, what we accept as part of the, the, the change that we have to make with, uh, public transport again, another hard one that the, that we haven’t really embraced in the, in the, in the snow sports industry enough, it’s getting better.

It’s unbelievable that. It’s only recently in New South Wales, only in the last two or three seasons, in the last two or three years, that we’ve had a regular bus service from Jindabyne to Perisher and Jindabyne to Thredbo. The only way to [00:50:00] go was really pretty much in your own, under your own steam, in your own car.

So it is changing a bit. From the perspective of interstate travellers coming skiing, uh, into, into the Alpine states, or, or, or us all. buggering off to, to, uh, get our fix of Japan or Europe or Canada or whatever. That’s a hard one. That’s a hard one. Uh, I know I struggle a lot with, with that. I mean, I’ve certainly reduced my flying now, uh, to, uh, I’m still fairly hedonistic, but I, I’ve certainly reduced the necessity to, uh, to fly or take it.

I’ll go on this trip down to Melbourne. I’ve taken a train down from Mossvale. I didn’t fly down. I do have an EV. now, uh, but it’s, you know, the aviation industry is whatever, what is it? 2 percent I think of global emissions, something like that. Uh, it’s going to be a long, long road before that gets anywhere close to, uh, [00:51:00] being, uh, net zero in, in, in the aviation.

So maybe, maybe we just go for longer trips. So we’ll say we’re gonna, we’re not going to go every year to Japan for a fortnight. We’re going to go every two years for a month or something like that. Maybe that’s a partial solution, but it is, it is the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. And the struggle between them is to, is to overseas transport.

James Worsfold: Last year was a pretty terrible snow season. And we had several media requests for POW to comment, especially after that bombshell study on the future viability of Europe’s ski industry. On that note, Al, you’ve

Alastair McLeod: got some pretty exciting news. Yeah, that’s right. In the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing our own Australian report we made with ANU.

This will be the most up to date data about climate change’s threat on the [00:52:00] Australian Alps, looking at economic, social and environmental impacts. And this report is going to have very clear recommendations about what the Alpine community and governments must do to protect the places that we love. At

James Worsfold: the moment, not enough is being done and we are stuck in a cycle of short termism without looking at the big picture.

So the aim of this report is to unite the Alpine community to push for greater action so we can keep on skiing, snowboarding, running our businesses and experiencing the high country environment into the future.

Now maybe in the meantime we can enjoy our country a bit more and which is something that you’ve certainly done on your Alpine Odyssey. And that is coming out as a film soon. I’d be curious to know what’s it like shooting a film in the middle of nowhere on a mountain, often by yourself.

Huw Kingston: Yeah, look, uh, you know, filming has not been my thing.

I mean, my, my, my, [00:53:00] my thing is writing. Uh, generally I have, I have been involved in some films, but, uh, this one was interesting. I mean, again, I’m, I’m project driven. So I, I. Whether it’s an environmental campaign, a political campaign, an expedition, running a big event, you know, they’re all projects. And when I just, this one was like most things in life, I guess, uh, was, was, was just a sort of happenstance circumstance when a film director was reading about Alpine Odyssey before I’d set off in a, in a newsletter up at Mount Hotham, some resort newsletter, and he rang me up and said, what are you, what are you doing about a film?

I said, well, I don’t know, nothing probably. And he said, well, I think you should think about it. And so one thing led to another. Uh, and I ended up saying, okay, well, this is a project. I, you know, I’ve made a film about the whole of an expedition that I’ve done before. So I, uh, I committed to buying a little bit of kit and GoPro and a few [00:54:00] things to go with it.

Uh, and. committed to focusing a bit on less on diary writing and a bit more on self filming. Uh, not easy, not easy. Uh, got the angles badly wrong and a fair bit of it, but by the, by dint of, uh, by dint of, uh, quantity, I suppose, and getting better, I, I, uh, I got some really good footage, uh, both self filming.

I did have a few people join me along the way. You know, part of Alpine Odyssey was celebrating our community and friends dropped in, even though most of it was solo. I did have an amazing photographer, Mark Watson, and, uh, there’s some filming as well. He joined me for a couple of weeks to do some filming and some stills.

And, uh, you know, and then we did some filling footage around all of that. So got, did get a lot of good footage and I’m, look, [00:55:00] I’m super excited. Uh, we’ve just finished, uh, uh, here in Melbourne, where the director’s based, uh, Ivan Hexter, Ivan’s done a brilliant job on what is a 35 minute film that I think celebrates everything I wanted to celebrate about the Alps, uh, celebrates the Alps.

Uh, but also talks about some of these threats that we’ve spoken about of, uh, climate change and also, of course, feral animals, feral flora, and so on. So I think it’s a, I think it’s a pretty neat little movie we’ve, we’ve, we’ve put together and I’m very much looking forward to, uh, taking it around the, uh, the cities and, and, and the alpine country.

Uh, this coming winter, it’ll be out, it’ll be out from, from June, we’ll be starting to, to show it. And I got some, uh, some interesting venues that may take a little bit of effort to reach, uh, for some of those showings as well, so yeah, looking forward to that.

James Worsfold: Beyond that, what’s next for [00:56:00] Huw Kingston?

Huw Kingston: Uh, yeah, this winter will be around Australia, uh, focused on the film, and then hopefully, you know, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll get some overseas showings at some festivals and so on for that.

Uh, really for me now, I’ve, I’ve, I’ve reached the venerable aged, uh, aged last year of, uh, of the senior. So I’ve got my seniors card, you know, cheap rail travel, bits of stuff like that. So, uh, yeah, I, I, I’m, I’m, I would like to say I’m gonna slow down and just, you know, ease into retirement with, with Wendy.

But, uh, there’s still journeys I want to do and I’m actually, uh. planning the Alpine Odyssey New Zealand in the winter of 2025, which is to ski at the 24 New Zealand snow resorts, four in the North Islands, 20 in the South, from the big ones again to the tiny little club fields. And I’ve done a fair bit of skiing [00:57:00] over there.

Uh, this time I won’t walk slash ski between them all because it would take me more than one season. But it’ll be a bit of skiing between but also mountain biking. So it’s a better 3, 000 kilometers between and about 80 90 day journey in the winter of 25. So so planning that at the moment

James Worsfold: Well, if that’s your idea of slowing down then I think we’re gonna expect a lot more grand Huw Kingston expeditions Thanks for chatting with Protect Our Winters Australia today.

Huw Kingston: Thanks James, absolute pleasure and you know, love the work you do and love being involved with PAO.

James Worsfold: If you enjoyed that chat with Huw, the tour for his film Alpine Odyssey is coming up and I for one am really looking forward to it. It will be a fundraiser for PAO and Save the Children and it’ll be an evening of stories, laughs and environmental advocacy.

Alastair McLeod: There’ll be Alpine Odyssey film screenings in most capital cities and in the ski [00:58:00] towns and resorts.

Head to protect our winters.org au to get all of the details. Tickets are already on sale and selling out fast. We’d love to see you all there.

James Worsfold: And as Huw alluded to, there might be some more wild venues, so make sure you subscribe to the POW Newsletter to stay tuned or follow us on socials. We’ll be back soon with some more great chats about the mountains and our mission to protect our winters.

Alastair McLeod: Stay stoked.