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Artist paints with snow to raise awareness about climate change

A Utah-based artist, who is a big skier, uses the snow below her feet to paint and start conversations about climate change.
Posted at 5:31 PM, Mar 08, 2023

When you've been skiing on mountains just like this for your entire life, you actually learn more than just how to ski. One skier turned artist is showing us her unique way of shining a light on the climate and our environment.

"We're at snowbird ski resort up little Cottonwood Canyon," said Lexi Dowdall, an artist.

It's safe to say Lexi Dowdall has skied these runs a time or two.

"Pretty much born and raised here. It is a fantastic mountain with some of the best snow I've ever experienced," she said. 

As familiar as this terrain is, she never gets sick of it.

"I just love to ski. I've built my whole life around skiing," she said. 

Instead she learns more from the mountains while shredding fresh powder.

"Mountains do a lot to put everything in perspective and I think having the opportunity to do that on a regular basis is really a privilege," she said. 

That perspective has shifted throughout her life — most recently focused on winter changing around her.

"You talk to some of the old veteran patrollers up at Snowbird and the nature of the storms are changing, the water content of the storms are changing. It's something we need to pay attention to," she said. 

That's caused her to put her ski poles away, pick up a paint brush and work to recreate the 15 ski areas, that are scattered across the state of Utah — using the snow beneath skiers' feet.

"When the pandemic shut down my job in the ski industry I suddenly had so much free time. So I picked up my paints, my grandma was a painter and she had loosely taught us how to watercolor, but I did a 100 day challenge to try to teach myself how to watercolor and that's kind of how I got started on this painting journey," she said. 

She captures a moment on the mountain, something beautiful, with personal meaning.

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"I usually try to grab snow from either the most iconic run at a ski area or maybe my personal favorite run or a memorable run," she said.

That snow later becomes the water for her painting.

"It's nothing too complicated. I just bring an empty recyclable and look for some good snow and try and fill it up," she said. "But then when I tell people, 'Oh, I actually painted this original painting with snow from Brighton, from Solitude, their eyes kind of light up and they're like, 'What?"

She's aiming to use art to start bigger conversations about the climate.

"Connect people and reel them in by catching them with something they aren't care deeply about and forming that initial connection makes it so much easier to have a conversation," she said. 

People depend on snow for drinking water. The EPA says snow helps provide 75% of the water supply in the western U.S. This includes the Wasatch Mountain Range where Lexi lives.

"A couple of scientists up at the University of Utah did a study where with the current modeling and information we have available-- we might not have snow in the Wasatch by the year 2100, so that to me was kind of a wakeup call," she said. 

Climate Central reports that the coldest days aren't as cold and the cold snaps don't last as long. The group chose 238 locations across the U.S. and found winters have warmed in 97% of test sites since 1970.

"Being up in these mountains it's kind of elemental. It kind of keeps you humble, it keeps you feeling alive," she said. 

It's her art, she hopes that will spur people into taking action — preserving the beauty of the snowy ski slopes.