Response From NSAA Chairman Crowley to SAM
I am writing in response to your open letter in the July 2004 SAM. As always, I respect SAM's role as an independent voice in the industry and I appreciate your willingness to voice your concerns on the future of NSAA and the industry. At the same time, I respectfully disagree with your opinion that the leaders of the industry have "dropped out," are not engaged, and are not providing sufficient direction for the association. In my view, many of the leaders of the industry are actively serving as NSAA's board of directors. NSAA's board has never been more reflective of the industry as a whole in terms of geographic and small versus large ski area representation. Although NSAA's board are indeed busy people with many obligations, including "showing quarter-to-quarter gains," nonetheless, we are willing to volunteer our valuable time to serve the industry through our role as directors. Furthermore, the board is committed to providing the leadership and direction necessary for a successful association.
NSAA has launched a number of significant programs in recent years that play a key role in positioning the industry for success. T he Model for Growth, the Sustainable Slopes program, safety initiatives such as Heads Up, Lids on Kids and Smart Style, all benefit the industry tremendously and help unify us in facing the challenges of our day. The quality of NSAA's Journal has improved dramatically in the past couple of years, enabling the association to more effectively communicate with its members on these critical initiatives and industry trends. I assure you that behind this impressive body of work stands an engaged and interested board of directors. NSAA's board has been instrumental in developing these important initiatives and guiding the association to continuing success. The results of these initiatives and programs demonstrate that a strong association is good for our industry. As Chairman, I can say unequivocally that the board is fully supportive of the current direction of the association.
There is no doubt that increased member participation would foster more dialogue and benefit our industry. Increasing member participation in the organization is a top priority for NSAA. Like other associations, NSAA has had to work harder over time to ensure that its conventions and meetings are well attended. While you attribute lower participation levels to the "complacency" of members, I think the answer is a bit more complicated. Consolidation and technology are two key factors affecting participation and attendance levels at conventions and meetings. The impact of consolidation is an obvious one: as more resort personnel come under the same roof, less are likely to attend on the companyÃs behalf. Improvements in technology and communication have perhaps the most significant impact on meeting attendance. Today, NSAA is able to communicate with its members with a level of sophistication none of us would have dreamed of just ten years ago. Valuable information is imparted to members on a constant basis through NSAA's website, publications like the Journal and Capital Watch and through email communications, thereby changing the dynamic of communication within the industry. In our view, as the industry changes, the association needs to adapt and change accordingly. Rather that pining for a nostalgic past, our industry's leaders and the association are focused on the future and how we can be successful against this backdrop of changing times.
Finally, your comments on the reserve fund deserve clarification. The board of directors has determined that our reserve fund is appropriate and necessary for a strong and financially sound trade association. NSAA's reserve is approximately $1 million. It is typical for trade associations to build up reserves to cover operating expenses during troubled times. As NSAA's operating expenses are $2 million annually, the reserve essentially represents a 6-month operating fund. While many organizations have reserve funds designed to cover a year's worth of operating expenses, the board has determined that a six-month reserve is adequate and appropriate for our association.
It is important to view the reserve fund from a long-term perspective. Although the association has not been able to make significant contributions to the reserve in the last four years, it represents over a decadeÃs worth of hard work, good decision-making and sound fiscal management by the association and its industry leaders. Considering the associationÃs shaky financial condition just over a decade ago, NSAA should be proud of its reserve. At the time of the NSAA/SIA merger dissolution, NSAA lacked any reserve and in fact relied on a substantial subsidy from USIA. Since 1992, the association has been fortunate to grow the reserve and provide NSAA with the financial stability it had historically lacked. As a strong and financially stable trade association is good for the industry, the board supports the funding of the reserve at current levels.
Thank you again for sharing your opinions and comments. I look forward to working with you, the NSAA board and staff and the rest of the membership in facing the future challenges of the industry together.