Climbing Mountains to Help a Mountain Cat

More than 800 ski touring athletes gathered in five locations in Europe this weekend for “Snow Leopard Day”, a fundraising event to benefit snow leopards organized by our long-standing partner, ski touring gear maker Dynafit. Together, they raised more than $10,000 for the mountain cat by climbing some mountains themselves. Our Communications Manager joined in on the fun!

Growing up near the Swiss alps, I’ve always enjoyed skiing – but I used to look at it as more of a downhill activity… after all, there are lifts and cable cars. Last weekend, I got a fresh perspective though. Since I’m currently based in Germany, I had the opportunity to join Dynafit’s Global Marketing Director Alex Nehls and his wife, Christiane, on their climb up Germany’s Mt. Tegelberg during Dynafit’s annual Snow Leopard Day.

The concept of this yearly fundraiser is as simple as it is effective: Dynafit invites ski touring athletes to test their newest gear for free, and climb various mountains in Europe while they do so. For every vertical meter a participant climbs that weekend, Dynafit donates one cent to snow leopard conservation.

The more experienced athletes were racing uphill at snow leopard speed. Photo by Dynafit

Of course, I couldn’t miss the chance to raise some funds myself!

Two days before the big event, the weather in southwestern Bavaria has turned decidedly spring-like, so snow conditions were not ideal. The event’s setting more than made up for it though, as Tegelberg towers over one of the most picturesque landscapes you can imagine, highlighted by a world-famous sight: the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle, which sits just a stone’s throw from the cable car (which we were not going to be using, thank you very much).

Alex patiently explained the ins and outs of ski touring to me, and off we went, up the mountain.

For a snow leopard, scaling the steep slopes of a mountain is a pretty effortless business. After all, these cats do that every day. For me, on the other hand, unleashing my inner snow leopard and climbing Tegelberg on a pair of Dynafit skis was just a tiny bit tougher. Not only must my ascent have looked anything but cat-like, but it also required (a little) blood – courtesy of slipping on the ice and trying to grab something to hold on to – and (lots of) sweat. No tears though – as hard-earned as every meter was, the experience was all fun!

My own ascent was somewhat slower… to be fair, this is a really steep slope though! Photo: Dynafit

Alex and Christiane could have probably climbed several times as much (and in fact did so later on), but for me, a little chalet serving coffee 500 vertical meters (1,500 feet) up the mountain was as far as I could manage to go on my first ski touring attempt.

At the rate of one cent per meter, I raised 5 Euros!

Luckily, the other 828 Snow Leopard Day participants across Europe were no slouches. On average, each of them climbed 1,167 vertical meters. Perhaps to compensate for my rather poor effort, one guy single-handedly climbed 3,400 meters (!) in a single day!

Together, the Snow Leopard Day participants amassed a whopping 967,619 vertical meters – good for a donation of $9,676.19 Euros from Dynafit for snow leopard conservation! “Of course, we’ll round that up to 10,000 Euros”, says Alex!

From all of us at the Snow Leopard Trust, a massive thank you to the entire Dynafit team for their huge effort in making this event happen, and to every single participant who climbed up these mountains to help save this endangered cat! Check out more pictures of brave athletes on Dynafit’s Facebook page!

While the German edition featured by spring-like temperatures, French Snow Leopard Day participants found perfect winter conditions at Val Thorens ski resort. Photo: Dynafit

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