In 2015, Mountain Rider’s Alliance (MRA) won an Alpine Initiatives Grassroots Grant, which enabled them to develop their latest program, the Mountain Playground Group (MPG). Community and independent ski areas are closing at an alarming rate, with over 30% closing since the 1980’s and many more at risk. The closing of winter recreational facilities have a devastating effect on local communities; economically, socially as well as for the overall health of the region.
MRA developed a program designed to give independent and standalone ski areas the tools, resources and additional layer of sophistication to ensure a better chance of their survival. By banding together, the ski areas will reduce expenses through volume discounts, share in best practices and work on larger scale initiatives.
The international consortium was successfully rolled out for the 2015-16 ski season with 8 participating ski areas, including Arctic Valley, AK, Bald Mountain, ID, Beartooth Basin, WY, Elk Ridge, AZ, Hurricane Ridge, WA, Mt Abram, ME, as well as Phoenix Mountain and Mt. Timothy, both in British Columbia.
The ski areas marketing and operational managers participate in regular group calls to discuss specific topics, challenges and opportunities. Additionally, industry guest speakers join the conversation and discuss their field of expertise. The MPG is currently investigating an insurance pool, designing a community ski area App, working on transportation programs that can be replicated and other large scale initiatives.
As part of the program, a joint marketing campaign has been established to develop awareness and showcase each of the participating ski areas. The Mountain Playground Card offers over 25 unique benefits including hard goods, lodging, travel, avalanche education, ski area discounts with more deals being added regularly. The Mountain Playground Card offers is available for $29 for a year of savings, for more information, click here.
To compliment the program, MRA will be hosting the 1st Annual Summer Shredfest at Beartooth Basin (one of the MPG participating ski areas), just outside Red Lodge, Montana will be held on June 9-11. The event will include a SheJumps “Get the Girls Out”, a Skimo Randonee race, and a Freeride World Qualifier event. In addition, a symposium “Community Ski Areas in the Crosshairs” will be held on Friday, June 10 at 5 pm. The event will include a keynote speaker, panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing independent ski areas as well as the showing of a short documentary on Maine community ski hills.
To learn more about the Mountain Playground Group, click here and check out this short video!