As world domination by Vail Resorts looms imminently, five independent community ski areas are taking a stand. They've banded together as the Mountain Playground Group, a new consortium created by the Mountain Rider's Alliance to cultivate a viable niche market in small resort skiing by promoting "the authenticity and uniqueness of soulful ski areas," according to a press release.
Member ski areas hail from Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Washington, and Wyoming, and include Mt. Abram, a small New England mountain with a huge commitment to green energy, and Beartooth Basin, one of North America’s oldest locations for summer alpine training. They all offer "an authentic skiing and riding experience not found at corporate ski resorts," the Mountain Playground website boasts.
"We’ve joined an awesome group of small, independent ski hills that want to support the spirit of skiing in its simplicity --no frills and all shred," a post on Beartooth Basin's Facebook reads.
A joint marketing campaign that hypes independent ski areas in general and attracts skiers to the member resorts is in the works.
The five ski areas hope to share business tips and benefit from insight into their collective successes. They also stand to gain from Mountain Rider's Alliance's expertise in uplifting community hills.
"Our organization has been studying the challenges facing smaller ski areas since 2010," said Jamie Schectman, Mountain Rider's Alliance CEO and co-founder. "The Mountain Playground Group is a solutions-based approach for standalone ski areas to work together and ensure a better chance of survival, as well as provide a layer of sophistication not commonly found at the smaller ski area level."
The association offers savings cards, called Mountain Playground Cards, that skiers can currently pick up online for a special price of $29. Cardholders receive benefits like free lift tickets at Bald Mountain Ski Area, Idaho, and two-for-one tickets at Beartooth Basin, Wyoming, as well as discounts with partner brands including Bosky Optics, Coalition Snow skis, and Le Grand Adventure Tours. Fifteen percent of proceeds from sales of the savings cards will benefit SheJumps, a non-profit devoted to increasing the presence of women in the outdoors.
"Much like the craft beer industry has done a great job of bringing awareness to a niche market, the Mountain Playground Card will showcase community and independent ski areas, which also appeal to a distinct crowd," said Schectman.