Grassroots Movement Looks to Change the Way Ski Areas are Run

Truckee, CA – Jamie Schectman knows the difference between a “ski resort” and a “ski area.” And it seems that there are lots of other folks who do as well.

To illustrate, Schectman points to the Facebook page of the newly formed Mountain Rider’s Alliance (MRA), which 883 people have already “liked” since the group’s founding late this summer.

Schectman, who returns next month to Truckee, Calif., after spending several years living abroad in Argentina, believes that there’s a movement afoot to run ski areas in a rider-focused, affordable, environmentally sensitive way. He sees ski areas moving away from real estate developments and focusing on what caused them to come into being in the first place: skiing.

MRA members point to failed ski resorts built on real estate schemes, like Idaho’s Tamarack Resort, to prove their point. Rising lift ticket costs, negative impacts on ski communities and the environment, and the desire to combat climate change have all led Schectman to found the group, which he describes as “a movement of snow enthusiasts who are dedicated to changing the ways ski areas are run. MRA’s mission is to create rider owned and-operated ski areas that are rider-centric, environmentally sustainable and sensitive to local cultural, social and economic concerns.”

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Schectman first parlayed his vision for a new skiing world order into a bid to purchase Shames Mountain ski area in the wilds of far northern British Columbia and form a skier’s cooperative to run it. When his group was trumped by a consortium of local businesses and skiers with a vision for a community non-profit ski area that differed from his own, his focus shifted to forming MRA. Now Schectman is forming the cooperative first, and looking for the ski area later.

“All MRA business decisions will be based on three principles,” he explains. “The first principle is operating and developing value-based, rider-centric ski areas that put skier and snowboarder needs and wants first. Secondly, all MRA projects will be environmentally sustainable by creating ‘ski-energy
centers’ that strive towards a zero carbon footprint by producing and selling alternative energy to
local utilities as well as utilizing the best in green practices. The third element is to be socially
responsible to the communities surrounding these mountain playgrounds.”

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To raise awareness about this ideological shift in managing ski areas, Mountain Rider’s Alliance is investing its efforts heavily in social media and the Internet. In addition to the Facebook fan page, MRA has a Twitter account, MtnRA. Schectman himself is busy posting to ski related Internet forums including Liftlines here at First Tracks!! Online under the user handle “soulskier.” The group has launched a website, www.MountainRidersAlliance.com, and blog, www.MRABlog.com. They’re also quickly forming partnerships with like-minded environmental groups including Protect Our Winters (POW) and the Winter Wildlands Alliance.

Schectman’s group is still on the hunt for a potential first acquisition. As MRA identifies potential locations and develops a master plan, the Alliance will offer investment shares to the global ski community to create rider owned resorts. Schectman argues that ownership rights will be exercised for the long-term advancement of the sport and not short-term profit. MRA expects to announce the location of the first “ski-energy project” in December.

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