Children Getting the Benefit of Collaboration through SkiDUCK

December 30, 2009

Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the types of sports that anyone can just do.

Unfortunately, the truth exists that some sort of financial backing has to exist to play in the mountains. Not only does the equipment cost money, but so does getting to the ski area and getting up the hill.

As a youngster, my family didn’t have the money needed to fulfill my addiction to gravity induced fun on snow. My solution worked out for me, literally, as I began my career working for a ski area at 12 years old. What began as a position in retail shifted to becoming a ski instructor, then to working on the avalanche crew and so on and so forth…the fuel for my lifelong passion for skiing.

Well, fast forward to today and there is a non-profit organized to give underprivileged children the chance to benefit from a sport that has proven to help many youngsters find a path to happiness. Myself included.

SkiDUCK, or Skiing and snowboarding for Disabled and Underprivileged Children and older Kids, is a newly formed outreach helping youth experience the fun of being in the mountains. A true effort of collaboration, SkiDUCK is an example that cooperation can lead to greatness.

I was able to sit down and talk with the executive director of SkiDUCK, Clint Lunde. His insight, experience and foresight for collaboration is inspiring, to say the least. Here is what he had to say…

EoC: Please tell our readers what exactly SkiDUCK is…

CL: SkiDUCK is a national volunteer-based non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of disabled and underprivileged children by sharing the joys of skiing and snowboarding.

We partner with local organizations with similar goals of serving disabled or underprivileged children. In areas where like programs exist, we work to assist these groups fulfill their goals by providing additional funding, coordinating with other providers, and sharing best-practices.

In areas where the skiing and snowboarding needs of disabled or underprivileged children are not currently being served, we seek to establish a sustainable model of service with local resources and volunteers.

EoC: What initially made you contemplate creating something like SkiDUCK?

CL: In the few short months since SkiDUCK launched, I’ve been asked dozens of times… “How did you come up with the idea of providing skiing and snowboarding for disadvantaged children?”

Without getting too personal, there are times in most of our lives when we face some really big questions. The past year has been one of deep reflection for me, and some of the questions I kept asking of myself were: What is my purpose? – How can I make more of a difference? – How can I better use my passion and skills for a greater good? – If money weren’t an issue, what would I be doing? – And, rather than focusing on a job or career, how can I turn my passion into a life-long vocation?

These questions and period of self-reflection can be a tremendous opportunity for anyone to discover new directions. In retrospect, I can’t believe the idea of creating SkiDUCK didn’t occur immediately! The concept of a national organization dedicated to providing opportunities for children to experience the joys of skiing and snowboarding is such an obvious and natural fit! (And in my honest opinion, a WONDERFUL CAUSE!)

Since August 12th we’ve recruited a high-quality Board of Directors, filed as a legal entity, applied for and received our 501(c)3 non-profit status from the IRS (which alone often takes 9+ months), created a fun and interactive website and social network, partnered with some of the top athletes in the industry (more on the way!), and most importantly… have established initial partnerships with ski resorts and youth service organizations to put children on the slopes for their first time ever!

In early 2010 we’ll begin to see the fruits of our labor as we kick off our first on-slope programs in the Lake Tahoe area! The success of those programs and others around the country will depend entirely upon the wonderful volunteers who come forward with their time, enthusiasm and talents – and the generous donors and sponsors who help provide opportunities for deserving children.

EoC: Explain the motivation of going from the dream stage of Ski Duck to the activation stage…

CL: The motivation was (simply-put) immediate once I made the decision on Aug 12th…primarily in order to get things in place for the upcoming ski/snowboard season.

EoC: How has collaboration been incorporated into the creation of SkiDUCK?

CL: The success of SkiDUCK if based upon the foundation of collaboration among three key groups; participating ski resorts, youth service organizations, and financial sponsors.

Collaboration with these organizations is fundamental to the existence and future success of SkiDUCK! SkiDUCK and our volunteers are primarily “facilitators” who are connecting existing organizations to assist each in doing what they do best. Our partnering ski resorts have ski and snowboard schools that are already teaching children the wonderful sports of skiing and snowboarding. SkiDUCK is bringing a whole new group of children to their programs, who may never otherwise have the opportunity to visit the mountains. Our partnering youth service organizations (such as the Boys and Girls Clubs) are already serving financially underprivileged and at-risk children in many ways, but lack the financial resources to provide skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Through these collaborative partnerships, SkiDUCK brings the best of both worlds together!

Finally, collaboration with our growing list sponsors and individual donors is absolutely critical to providing the financial resources to make the programs work. Like a tripod, each of the three legs of the SkiDUCK collaborative model are essential for stability and long-term success.

EoC: What is your vision for the future?

CL: As focused as we are on building partnerships and a successful model for SkiDUCK, all of our efforts are really about the kids. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and energy to launch a new organization, but the rewards of those efforts are immediately received in the smiles, laughter and joy of children learning to ski or snowboard for the first time. I’ve (we’ve) taught many children to ski over the years, and almost nothing compares to a child’s first day on the slopes or the first time off a small jump! SkiDUCK will open an entirely new world to children who deserve the opportunity that many of us enjoy every winter!

We’re serving school-aged children (from around age 7 to 18). Our hope is that once a child is in the program, they’ll fall in love with skiing or snowboarding and want to continue each year until they graduate from high school. After that, they’ll just have to get a job as a ski or snowboard instructor or ski patrol if they want to continue to receive free passes! (But hey, those are first jobs many of us wish we could have gotten!)

While our primary focus is a simple one, to introduce children to the joys of skiing and snowboarding, I’m absolutely certain that the impact we’ll have in many children’s lives will be much more significant and long-lasting; even life-changing. The mountains, the sport, and the good people these children will interact with have the ability to change lives in tremendous ways.

I’m a realist by nature, and recognize that I may be wearing rose-colored glasses at times when looking to the future of SkiDUCK. But in my minds-eye, I foresee programs either founded or partially funded by SkiDUCK at literally hundreds and hundreds of ski resorts across the entire country, serving tens of thousands of underprivileged and minority children every year!

I envision a national network of local community chapters providing opportunities to children who may never otherwise be exposed to the beauty and life-changing force of the mountains. Eventually, we’ll grow beyond U.S. borders to other mountain countries around the world. (It will be interesting to see how the SkiDUCK acronym will translate into other languages!)

And I’m absolutely certain that someday a child who first stepped into bindings through a SkiDUCK program will also step onto an Olympic, World Cup, or X Games Gold medal podium!

But setting all the grand designs aside, the truest measure of SkiDUCK’s success will be years from now when someone who first fell in love with skiing or snowboarding through SkiDUCK takes their own son or daughter to the mountain for their first day on the slopes. That’s the dream that always brings a tear to my eye.

Please contact SkiDUCK if your organization or community is interested in partnering to establish or enhance your own program to help children onto the slopes!

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Can a Cooperative Business Model Save a Ski Area?

December 28, 2009

Crisis brings opportunity.

The saying is a popular one and a belief that has been proven over time. It is also a mantra for those looking for a silver lining during these dark times of global financial crisis. For some that glimmer of hope shines in the form of a forgotten business model that dates back to the early 1800s…the cooperative.

A practice that was born in Great Britain, fathered by a Welsh cotton merchant, Robert Owen, and expanded upon by Dr. William King and Friedrich Raiffeisen, the cooperative ideal was built on the belief that a community works together in the common interest of each other and the creation of a needed product.

The National Cooperative Business Association defines the ideology as a style of business, “…formed by their members when the marketplace fails to provide needed goods or services at affordable prices and acceptable quality. Cooperatives empower people to improve their quality of life and enhance their economic opportunities through self-help.”

Co-ops have assisted people throughout the centuries. Everything from agriculture to electrical issues, from banking to grocery shopping, cooperatives have stepped in to assist citizens around the world. In fact, there are 750,000 co-ops worldwide helping 730 million members, as reported by the NCBA.

And more importantly, these cooperatives have been found in a study issued by the International Labour Organization to be a resilient business model in times of financial uncertainty, both historically as well as in today’s fiscal climate.

As described by the ILO, “The recent massive public bail-out of private, investor-owned banks has underlined the virtues of a customer-owned cooperative…savings and credit cooperatives, also known as credit unions or SACCOS, building societies and cooperative banks, all over the world are reporting they are still financially sound and that customers are flocking to bank with them because they are highly trusted.”

For those that enjoy skiing and snowboarding, the cooperative business model has helped to open their global consciousness to a marketplace that needs assistance.

Enter Shames Mountain.

An isolated ski area in the upper reaches of northern British Columbia, the tiny resort is accessorized with impressive terrain, huge amounts of snow and, for now, easy-access to a winter playground.

But in reality Shames Mountain is a little-known powder paradise that is on the brink of death.

Accessorized by a chairlift, rope tow, ski school, rental shop, lodge and grooming department, the ski area boundaries outline 3,532 hectares (8,730 acres, which is more than the tenure of Whistler/Blackcomb for reference), of which 144 hectares (252 acres) have been developed into inbound riding.

A landscape of 1,500 to 3,000 foot vertical drops, sustained fall lines and great storm skiing, this section of Coast Mountain Range was researched, chosen and developed in the early 1990s by the Ski Northwest Society because of its impressive terrain and annual snowfall (1,200 centimeters or 480 inches per year).

Shames Mountain is located in northwestern British Columbia: 30 minutes from the logging-gone-bust city of Terrace (population 20,000) and a little under two hours from the harbor town of Prince Rupert (population 15,000). Terrace, known as the commercial hub of the region, has a user-friendly airport with multiple, daily, two-hour flights from Vancouver with Air Canada and Hawkair.

But due to a lack of advertising and world-wide marketing, as well as a small population base, Shames has yet to hit the radar screen for the global skiing and snowboarding tribe.

This lack of publicity (i.e. ticket sales) is causing an uncertain future for the mountain. In fact, there are rumors that this might be the last season if things don’t change.

Currently on the market for $1.5 million Canadian, this hidden gem is for sale to the right buyers (the current owners are very conscience of the community and the important role that the mountain plays in the outdoor recreation of Terrace and will not just sell to anyone).

The idea of a global cooperative was originally brought to the table by a soul skier far, far away from Terrace, BC. Jamie Schectman, a self-proclaimed citizen-of-the-world, United States-born, 100-day-plus skier who lives year-round in Patagonia, Argentina, had always dreamed of owning and running a ski area with other snow enthusiasts,

“I, along with a lot of other skiers I have skied with through the years, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the profit-only approach that many ski resorts are adopting. Seeing our ski areas caring less and less about the guest, not to mention the environment, just made me think there had to be another way.”

One day he received an email from a good ski buddy detailing a ski area in northern BC that was on the market for what seemed an amazing price. He did some research on the terrain and liked what he saw.

“One of my big passions in life is searching out the best skiing around the world. There are a couple things that us big mountain skiers look for: steep terrain and a reliable snow pack. Well, Shames gets an A+ in both of those departments.”

The next step was to contact some locals and get their thoughts on the possibility of a cooperative.

Schectman explains, “Through the giant circle of skiers and snowboarders around the world, I was able to make contact with some of the local Terrace riders. My initial email was quickly responded to with the question, ‘Are you an angel?’ With the locals blessing, I started throwing the idea out via social networking channels like Facebook. Within a few days it was obvious that the global snow lovers were excited about becoming a united cooperative.”

The reaction to the activation of a global ski area cooperative was impressive. Within a short amount of time the Shames Mountain Co-op (SMC) Facebook fan page surpassed 1,000 members. The new SMC website was getting nearly 200 individual hits a day. And the message board surpassed 300 members quickly and easily.

In response to the surge of interest, the locals established a group called Friends of Shames. The Terrace committee determined that as a township they would like to keep it home-centered before going global. The group determined that first approaching a community-controlled, non-profit business model would be most logical.

Jamie’s reply…”What is exciting about the global cooperative movement is that it brings snow lovers together from all over the world in the understanding that we are all involved for the positive creation of a ski area. The basic premise behind the Shames Mountain for-profit Co-op idea is to offer a values-based, tangible asset to skiers and snowboarders around the world. Bringing the worldwide snow community together gives us an opportunity to create a ski area that works in the best interest of the local people and natural surroundings, as well as leaving its riders satisfied and smiling at the end of the day. A ski area run by snow enthusiasts for snow enthusiasts…”

“…the core ideal behind the global cooperative vision is the “values-led business” belief system. The global ski co-op will make it’s decisions based on what is best for the community, environment and the guests. Other businesses, such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, have proven that a “values-led” business model can be very successful.

If the locals of Shames would rather not have the global component involved, I respect their decision. However, I am certain, by the immense amount of support that has been shown to us from around the world, that the global ski area cooperative concept will be greatly successful somewhere else. ”

This is an important point…Shames Mountain is not the only ski area in trouble in today’s economy. Much like the bank institutions treading in dark troubled waters, the ski area model of the last decade is crashing. The profit driven mentality is proving to be a bankrupting mentality.

Schectman believes that the globally-owned co-op model could be the new way of thinking for ski areas for several reasons,

“For one, by having a co-op, we can achieve many things that an individual owner or owners cannot. By tapping into the collective global intelligence, the co-op will have unlimited resources to find solutions to challenges, as well as receive input on how to best proceed. This intellectual property, as well as sweat equity, can be bartered in exchange for shares or goods at the ski area, helping to lower overhead. In addition, by selling reasonably priced shares — we are thinking in the $500 range — that most skiers and snowboarders can afford, it will work as a free marketing campaign that will increase mountain guest visits. I believe that not only will shareholder’s visit to check on their investment, but they will tell their friends about the cooperative ski area because of the amazing experience that they enjoyed and their pride of ownership.”

Currently there are a few ski areas, such as Mad River Glen and Magic Mountain, both located in Vermont, which are showing that a cooperative business model is a viable choice, though they are working on a more localized ownership-base. Mad River Glen originally adopted the practice in the 1990s and is now a profitable enterprise. Magic Mountain has recently jumped on the co-op band wagon and has found it a helpful means to continuing business.

Whether Shames Mountain ends up succeeding through a community-controlled non-profit, or a globally-enhanced for-profit cooperative remains to be seen…but one thing is for sure…when bringing multiple people together to work for the common good it takes the pressure, whether financial or otherwise, off of one person’s shoulders.

Or as said by the ILO, “The financial and ensuing economic crisis has had negative impacts on the majority of enterprises; however, cooperative enterprises around the world are showing resilience to crisis. Financial cooperatives remain financially sound; consumer cooperatives are reporting increased turnover; worker cooperatives are seeing growth as people choose the cooperative form of enterprise to respond to new economic realities.”

For ski areas of the future…tomorrow may be changing.

Will the cooperative business model help a little-known ski area?

Will it help a sport that is slowly facing a demise because of profit-only ski resorts?

Only time will tell.


Quote of the Week

December 26, 2009

One quality of leaders and high achievers in every area seems to be a commitment to ongoing personal and professional development.

Brian Tracy, motivational coach and author


Katherine Fulton TED Discussion on Collaboration and Regular Heroes

December 25, 2009

Discussing the importance of working together and how regular people are the new heroes, Katherine Fulton, an expert and activator of social change, gives an inspirational, uplifting TED speech…so appropriate for the holidays…


Matt McClain Joins Pro Snowboarder Jeremy Jones’ Non-profit Protect Our Winters

December 23, 2009

As I wrote about before, working with Protect Our Winters to help spread the word about caring for our planet is very important to me.

So without further ado, and in true collaboration form, I would like to pass on the great news that Protect Our Winters is welcoming Matt McClain, Director of Marketing for the Surfrider Foundation, to their board of directors…

Boulder, CO December 15, 2009
Protect Our Winters Announces Addition of Matt McClain to Board

Protect Our Winters (POW) is proud to welcome Matt McClain as the newest member of its
Board of Directors.

McClain is Director of Marketing and Communications for the Surfrider Foundation, the world’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to protecting marine and coastal environments.

A 20-year veteran of the action sports world, McClain has worked in the skate, surf and snow industries, including nearly ten years leading the sales and marketing efforts for both Mammoth Mountain in California, and Telluride in Colorado.

“Climate change is perhaps the single most pressing issue of our time,” says McClain.

“I’m honored to be working with Protect Our Winters to help raise awareness of what we, as winter sport enthusiasts, can do to collectively reduce our carbon footprint.”

POW’s goal of uniting the winter sports industry and culture in the fight against climate change is reflected in its board membership. McClain joins Christina Thomure, Director of Sustainable Operations at Grand Targhee Resort and Strick Walker, former CMO at 1% For The Planet and currently the Business Development Lead at IDEO in Boston.

“Matt will add new perspective and vision to POW’s mission of raising global warming awareness, funding renewable energy and environmental education programs, mobilizing the winter sports industry and engaging an active and dynamic membership. We look forward to working with Matt and the rest of our superb board throughout the year,” said Chris Steinkamp, Executive Director of POW.

Eight-time Big Mountain Snowboarder of the Year Jeremy Jones founded POW in 2007 after personally witnessing the impact of climate change on the Alaskan wilderness. Global warming has been linked to shorter ski seasons, rising snow levels, and resorts shutting down permanently. Reduced snow packs will have broad and global implications for ecology and human society as well. Snow plays a crucial role in regulating global temperature and weather patterns, providing drinking water, agricultural irrigation and hydroelectric power; and feeding forests, the lungs and CO2 sinks of our planet.

For more information, please contact:
CHRIS STEINKAMP, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
chris@protectourwinters.org | 303-815-2057 | http://www.protectourwinters.org

Las Leñas, Argentina

Protect Our Winters (POW) is a tax exempt, non-profit organization dedicated to reversing the global warming crisis by uniting the winter sports community and focusing efforts towards a common goal of winter preservation. POW was founded in 2007 by Jeremy Jones, a professional snowboarder who is passionate about preserving winter sport industry and culture for current and future generations. Built on the snowsports culture’s inspired dedication to reversing climate change, POW has become an innovative leader in sponsoring effective renewable power, progressive environmental education, and organizing and enabling unique grassroots action.


Assessing Your Collaboration

December 21, 2009

What would be your guess to the most important factors that hinder or help a collaborative project?

For me, the first few thoughts that come to mind would include the ability to truly communicate, the capability to work from a place of accountability and respect and to always be based out of a place of complete transparency…not to mention trust that all active participants are involved for the betterment of the project.

The United States Cooperative Extension Program sponsors a journal, Journal of Extension (JOE). Included in their informative articles is a guide on which factors are productive to the creation of collaborative efforts. The information was formulated by experts in the field that studied which human characteristics and actions most affected our ability to work together.

They then gleaned from the results a self-evaluation tool that assists the forming of groups or teams into long-lasting cooperatives. Such factors as sustainability, political climate, history, connectedness, understanding the community and leadership, among others, are brought together to ascertain the probability of success.


Quote of the Week

December 19, 2009

Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.

Stephen Hawking, physicist and mathematician


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