September 2022

News and Views :: September 2022

Enough of skiing's "cool kids," NSP's leadership problem, people moves, awards, and more.

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Enough of Skiing’s “Cool Kids”
By Hugh Reynolds, CMO, SNOW Partners

For as long as I have been in this industry, we have lamented our growth and conversion problem. We speak about it at conferences and write about it in trade publications—we even give out awards to resorts that are doing the most to change it. But as much as we talk a good game about wanting to grow the sport, from the outside looking in, what are we really doing as an industry to make our sport more welcoming and inviting to new participants? 

We all know skiing has a perception issue. Don’t think so? Just wait for the annual flurry of mainstream media articles highlighting the cost of a daily lift ticket at Vail Mountain to hit this fall, and you’ll see what the vast majority think about our sport. For many, skiing is seen as an expensive, elitist, mostly white, experts-only, members-only activity. Fair? Probably not, but it’s easy to see why the public feels this way. After all, we sure do love to make fun of participants who don’t look and act like us. 

If you need proof, take a few minutes to peruse Jerry of the Day, Unofficial Networks, or even SKI magazine, and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. We have names for participants who exude perceived uncoolness: Joey, Gerry, Gaper—the list goes on. I can’t think of any other sport (with maybe the exception of surfing) that welcomes new participants with such closed arms.   

sep22 nv 01The most recent, broadly publicized example of this was when Kim Kardashian visited our Big SNOW facility in New Jersey to make a few turns in July, and then came back a week later so that her daughter North could take a ski lesson with us. (Of her own accord. No, we did not pay her, SKI magazine.) Love her or not, Kim is legitimately one of the most famous people in the world. She has 328 million Instagram followers—to put that into perspective, Barack Obama has 35.4 million and Donald Trump has 23.5 million. A single social media post from Kim is valued at more than $900,000, and she made six posts from her two visits. 

Kim visiting Big SNOW and then choosing to share her experiences on her social media was a BIG DEAL for us, and should have been for the industry as well. Kim can arguably do more to introduce our sport to new participants and new audiences than almost anyone else in the world, and she LOVES to ski. Her visit was picked up by hundreds of news outlets, from broadcast entertainment shows to endemic media. Out of all of them, only one took a decidedly negative stance: SKI magazine. 

Instead of celebrating that a celebrity and her family were enjoying our sport (during the summer, no less), SKI questioned her motives, why she was on rental skis and in resort-supplied outerwear, and why she would ever want to ski indoors in New Jersey in the first place. Really? That’s the type of narrow-minded, elitist journalism that we get from the only remaining, widely distributed, mass consumer-facing ski publication? 

The same was true when we opened Big SNOW. Thousands of earned media hits, more than three billion total impressions, and only two negative articles: one from Outside and one from SKI

Big SNOW increased national new trial participation of skiing and snowboarding by almost nine percent in our first year—but I guess we’re just not cool enough for the “real skiers” writing for these fine publications.

All this is to say, we must be better. If we want to grow our sport and keep this beautiful, vibrant industry thriving, maybe we should start by not making fun of people who want to join us. 

 

Still In Need of Saving
By Katie Brinton, Senior Editor, SAM

The National Ski Patrol (NSP) is once again caught in a leadership quagmire. After only 13 months on the job, NSP CEO Chris Castilian resigned Aug. 5, 2022, having reached an impasse with the organization’s board of directors. He is NSP’s third chief executive in only the last five years.

Castilian was hired in July 2021 to, among other things, help develop a new strategic vision for NSP, which was unsettled following the abrupt November 2020 termination of former CEO Meegan Moszynski, whose removal coincided with a mounting public and internal backlash to then-board chair Brian Rull over an anecdote he shared in Ski Patrol Magazine that was widely decried as racist and inappropriate.

It had become clear to Castilian that he and the board had vastly different and irreconcilable visions for the future of NSP. “I was hired last July with the full confidence of the board to transform this organization into what it could be, and rather than joining me in that journey, the leadership remains firmly rooted in keeping the organization as it has always been,” Castilian said in his Aug. 5 letter of resignation. 

Initially, Castilian told SAM, the process of overhauling the organization’s operation and vision was collaborative and productive. “When the board hired me, they acknowledged that they needed to change,” he said. “I saw this as an opportunity, and at the time, the board was willing to engage on strategic discussion.” 

After Castilian’s appointment, NSP hired a consultant to identify challenges to the organization’s viability and outline a strategy to address those challenges. Among the issues were NSP’s relevance to its members and resort operators and, in corollary, its relationships with its industry partners. Internal structural concerns also needed to be attended to, including better defined roles for the board and staff and a higher prioritization of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

sep22 nv nsp

Castilian, with support from the board’s Initiative for Change Task Force, set about rebuilding and restructuring the office staff (which had experienced an 80 percent turnover), improving member services, building an online learning management system, delineating the roles and responsibilities of volunteer board members versus office staff, and developing a new strategic direction for the organization.

But months of hard work fell apart after national elections late last year brought three new directors onto the board. “The moment those elections happened, we went backwards,” Castilian said. 

Despite the buy-in of the previous board, he said, the current board chose not to move forward on the recommendations of the strategic consultant, allegedly focusing instead on procedural bureaucracy and operational decisions that should be the purview of the CEO.

According to Castilian, for the last eight months, under the leadership of new board chair Rick Boyce, the board has been meeting in secrecy and isolation several times a week, choosing not to include Castilian or the staff in any discussions or agenda planning, treating the staff as an impediment to progress rather than as a partner. 

“The board chair and the CEO should be partners, working for each other’s success and the success of the organization, but we are not,” said Castilian. He resigned, feeling that such a partnership was not possible under the current board. “I wish them the best, and they clearly have a role to play in the broader snowsports community, but I hope they realize that something needs to change.”

In a statement issued in response to a request for comment on Castilian’s resignation, the NSP board said, in part, “Despite National Ski Patrol’s leadership changes in recent years, the mission and goals of the organization remain the same: to provide the best training, education, and first-response medical care for the outdoor recreation community. The National Ski Patrol’s dynamic relevance has always relied on the dedication of all our members, our education and service delivery programs, and the value we bring to the outdoor sports industry.” 

Continued turnover at NSP is a clear signal that the organization has failed to address the conflicts and issues that plagued its leadership and operation back in 2014 (covered in a two-part series “Rescue Me,” SAM, Sept. 2014 and Nov. 2014), and more recently in 2020 with Moszynski’s ouster. 

While the board said, “the National Ski Patrol continues to be enthusiastic about the trajectory of the organization,” others are less optimistic. “I’m extremely disappointed by the National Ski Patrol’s recent leadership failures, which are major distractions from the important work of thousands of dedicated professional and volunteer ski patrollers across the country,” said Tony Cammarata, a longtime NSP member and the director of operations, patrol, parks, and planning at Arapahoe Basin, Colo. 

He praised both Castilian and Moszynski as “talented, capable leaders,” and said, “It is becoming increasingly clear that the values of the NSP do not align with my own. Nor are they compatible with a thriving ski industry.”

Cammarata’s concerns seem to be reflected in the ongoing negotiations between NSP and the National Ski Areas Association over the Joint Statement of Understanding, which outlines how NSP functions under the management of NSAA member ski areas. The agreement expired last year.

“Regarding the Joint Statement of Understanding between NSAA and NSP, we are taking the time to thoroughly review the document before making any recommendations to move forward,” said NSAA president and CEO Kelly Pawlak.

“Chris’s resignation is a very concerning matter to NSAA,” continued Pawlak. “We work diligently to support our members; if this situation negatively impacts our members, we are here to figure out what additional support we can provide to them.”

As for what comes next, NSP said that its “national board of directors will work diligently with the national office staff in developing a plan to identify, hire and support a new leader to head the national office and continue providing value to NSP’s members and partners.” 

Skip King, a 13-year professional patroller, card carrying member of NSP, and longtime SAM contributor, believes more radical change is necessary. 

“NSP is a member-driven organization—a format that worked well enough back when ski areas were all independent and nobody sued them,” said King. “Much has changed since then.” 

“NSP, and the industry, needs an NSP board that understands how to be a board, and how to operate in a way that serves the skiing public, the industry, and patrollers themselves. That requires structural change,” he said.

SUPPLIER NEWS

Dennis McGiboney has retired as vice president of sales and marketing at KÄSSBOHRER ALL TERRAIN VEHICLES after 45 years in the ski industry. McGiboney had established himself as “the face of PistenBully” in North America. He is succeeded by 25-year ski industry veteran Jeb Ellermeyer, who will now serve as vice president of PistenBully and SNOWsat at Kässbohrer All Terrain Vehicles. 

sep22 nv claire humbertSE GROUP director of resort planning Claire Humber has been elevated to the American Society of Landscape Architect’s Council of Fellows, a recognition of her dedicated efforts to make landscape architecture central to the comprehensive designing and planning of mountain resorts and recreation destinations. 

PEOPLE 

In the West, Palisades Tahoe, Calif., hired Matt Peterson as senior director of marketing. … Snowbasin, Utah, promoted Ryan Woolsey to the role of director of mountain operations. … Steamboat Resort, Colo., hired Bill Thomas as vice president of human resources. … Bluebird Backcountry, Colo., named Scott Leigh GM and COO.

Tamarack, Idaho, promoted Wolfe Ashcraft to vice president of resort marketing and operations, and appointed Julie Beaman-Stauts as spa director. 

At Alterra Mountain Company, Meegan Moszynski was named director of the Alterra Mountain Company Community Foundation; Annie Kao is the new vice president of social responsibility; and Darcie Renn was hired as vice president of sustainability. 

sep22 nv kao and moszynski

Michael Barkin will be stepping down from Vail Resorts as its executive vice president and chief financial officer. … Boyne Resorts hired Nick Herrin as its new senior vice president of snowsports. Herrin was previously CEO of PSIA-AASI.

In the Midwest, Pat and Pam Deibel, owners of one of the oldest and largest independent snowsports schools in the country, operating at Pine Knob and Mt. Holly, Mich., have retired.

sep22 nv chris condonIn the East, Killington Resort, Vt., promoted Chris Condon to technology director. … Jay Peak, Vt., promoted Ted Fleischer to events manager.

The National Ski Areas Association hired Grant Colvin as a consultant in support of its government affairs interests. … Lise Aangeenbrug, outgoing executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, will join the National Park Foundation as program director. … Chris Castilian has resigned as CEO of the National Ski Patrol.

AWARDS

Michael J. Ballingall, senior vice president of Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia, received the Far West Ski Association’s Bill Mackey Award for Outstanding Ski Industry Employee. The award is given for outstanding service to the skiing public.