Enjoy reading about our friend and colleague, Jamie Schectman, who is focused on making a positive impact in the ski industry. Nature Partners looks forward to collaborating with Jamie and MRA in the days ahead and to highlight the exciting work of like minded folks making an impact in nature based business.
What experiences in nature have influenced you the most?
I grew up in the urban jungle of southern California lipitor diabetes. As a young boy, my early visits to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the Eastern Sierra left a lasting impression on me. After living around bright lights my whole childhood, I remember the first time I saw the Milky Way, and thinking my eyes were cloudy or my mind was playing tricks on me. From that moment, I made it my lifetime goal of spending as much time in the mountains and getting in touch with nature a priority.
Tell us how you came up with the idea for Mountain Rider’s Alliance.
I moved to Lake Tahoe at the age of 18, first as a lift operator for Squaw Valley, then as part of the opening management team of the first big hotel in the Valley, and ultimately became an entrepreneur working for myself to support my ski habit. Over that time, I watched the community transform from a sleepy mountain town to what is now one of the epicenters of the corporate ski industry. Meanwhile, I witnessed many smaller, community focused ski areas at a crossroads and being challenged, and in many cases, ceasing operations all together. Additionally, I always felt ski areas should be on the front lines of combating climate change and leading by example on how to be better stewards of the land. Along with some other passionate skiers, we began conceptualizing a new model focusing on the triple bottom line, and with that, the Mountain Rider’s Alliance was born in 2010.
What is happening in the ski industry that excites you?
The smaller ski areas are finally starting to be recognized as an important part of the industry. At this year’s NSAA National Convention, a few of the smaller ski areas we have worked with, along with our organization, were the first story in the convention journal. Also, and I mean this with all due respect, but the first generation of ski operators are retiring and a new crop of leaders are filling their shoes. While I’m forever grateful for the ski industry pioneers (Dave McCoy, Mammoth’s founder, is one of my heroes), this gives the next generation of innovative thinkers an opportunity to help evolve the sport.
Can you speak about the need for evolution?
Like any industry, you need to innovate or die. Skier visits and participation have basically been flat for the last decade, even with the invention of new technologies like rocker skis which increase the fun factor. Unlike when we were kids, the millennials (age 10-34) have more options competing for their attention.
What is one of your most inspiring stories of recent innovation in the ski industry?
The story of Liftopia comes to my mind first. 10 years ago they launched with the concept that it was time to sell lift tickets online at a discount, just like other travel sectors do including hotels and airlines. For the first few years they fought an uphill battle introducing “dynamic pricing” and were accused of driving down ticket yields. Now, a decade later, they are the industry standard and being used in over 50% of all ski areas in the country. CEO Evan Reece is now a regular panelist and expert at the annual NSAA shows.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the ski industry?
Since our scope is focused on independent, mom and pop ski areas, I will speak to their challenges: 1) climate change 2) aging infrastructure 3) rising expenses 4) access to capital 5) Innovating Business models
What are your thoughts on the Nature Partners mission and opportunity?
I love it and believe that re-purposing under-utilized recreational assets is worthy and vital to the preservation of these assets and nature in general.