2016 NSAA Convention Focuses on Innovation, Adaptation
The National Ski Areas Association drew a typically large crowd to the National Convention and Tradeshow, May 17-21 in Nashville, Tenn. Attendees enjoyed the usual mix of inspirational keynotes and educational seminars, as well as the musical melting pot that is Nashville. But the lingering impact of a boom-or-bust season kept the audience focused on business.
- Johnny and June Cash joined us at the SAMMY breakfast for some early morning country.
- Gunther and Olivia Jochl, Sugar Mountain, with Head’s Jon Rucker.
- The Country Music Hall of Fame did not disappoint!
- You can always find some country lovin' at The Stage on Broadway.
- Who says this is a strictly national convention? Sunshine Village, Alberta, was ably represented by Mike Irvine, Debra Eresman, and Dave Riley.
- The PistenBully crew in their Nashville finest!
- The SAM crew hits Broadway street!
- NSAA's 2016 marketing awards recognized some outstanding resort campaigns with the help of host Jack Turner and co-host Halley O'Brien.
- More often than not, the convention gives neighbors a chance to get together. From left: Marion Wheaton, Deer Valley; Rossignol’s Ron Steele; Bob Wheaton, Deer Valley; and Jason Newell, Rossi.
- SAM editor Rick Kahl tees off during the NSAA golf tournament.
- Soda Springs won the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence in the small ski area category.
- Jeff Crowley of Wachusett and Onno Wieringa of Alta get cozy as they head out on the town.
- Eric Flynn, Liberty Mountain Resort; Jeanette Hrubes and Stephanie Blankemeier, SkiStrong.
- The HKD team celebrates the 2016 I AM a Snowmaker award presented to Sunday River.
- NSAA's Michael Berry presents the 2016 Conversion Cup to Wachusett Mountain.
- Chris Dudding of Roundtop chats with Bill Irwin at the Elan booth.
- Isaac Gibson and Kevin Hoff of Liberty Mountain SnowFlex Centre enjoy some trade show shopping.
- Mike (right) and Emily Stanton, Tahoe Donner Ski Area, with Keith Gibson, Cornerstone Bus Leasing.
- Charles Mickley of 1RISK demonstrates his product offerings to an attendee.
- At its best, the NSAA convention fosters a broad sharing of ideas. (L to R): Patrick Torsell, Ski Cooper; Seth Ehrlich, SOS Outreach; and RRC Associates superstars Dave Belin and Nate Fristoe.
- Tyler Fairbank tunes up in the tradeshow hall.
- Gotta take advantage of the chance to talk with potential suppliers. Schweitzer’s Tom Chasson (second from left) and Sean Mirus (far right) meet with Nick (far left) and Joshua Quail, SkiHillMulcher.com.
- Troy Morgan of Prinoth with Tim Boyd of Peak Resorts stroll through the trade show halls.
- Aspen won the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence in the large ski area category. Accepting the award are Christian Knapp and David Perry.
- Terry Pfeiffer of Winterplace with Joe Hession and Hugh Reynolds of SNOW Operating celebrate a newly signed contract.
- Scott Brandi of SANY with Fred Seymour of Hyland Hills enjoy the SAMMY breakfast.
- (L to R) Elia Hamilton, Peak Resorts; Jay Scambio, Boyne Resorts; Jesse Boyd, Peak Resorts; Chris Gunnarson, Snow Park Technologies enjoying the SAMMYs.
- Who doesn't want their own selfie SAMMY jar?!
- Tim and Missi Boyd of Peak Resorts with Kelly Pawlak of Mount Snow.
- Connie and George Marshall of Alta at the SAMMYs.
- Phunkshun, a new supplier to this year's show offers USA-made facemasks made with 100% recycled materials.
- Diane Buschalla and Barry Smith of Hickory Hills stop by the SAM booth.
- Chet Naylor (center), Whitetail, and Chris Dudding, Roundtop, check out virtual reality with nxt Concepts’ Stew Jensen (left) and Sam Rufo.
- Past SAMMY winners, Beth Howard of Northstar California, Ryan Bell of CNL Financial Group and Bill Rock of Park City.
- Justin Rowland of Ski Apache and Steve Salmieri of Sugar Mountain stopped by the ZipRider booth with Eric Cylvick.
- SAM's Olivia Rowan with Amy Reents, executive director of the Midwest Ski Areas Association.
- Congrats to the 2016 SAMMY Leadership Award winners (L to R): Phoebe Mills, Woodward Tahoe; Steve Wright, Jay Peak; Elia Hamilton, Peak Resorts; Halley O'Brien, Halley O'Brien Productions.
- (L to R): Geoff Homer, Shawnee Peak; John Hammond, Sugarbush Resort; and Kris Blomback, Pats Peak.
- Tori Ossola of Vermont Chamber with Kris and Jenn Blomback of Pats Peak.
- A group of industry leaders enjoying the NSAA trade show (L to R): Jack Turner, Ski Nation; Parker Riehle, Ski Vermont; Jessyca Keeler, Ski NH; Bo Bigelow, Ski Maine.
- Some SAMMY hall of famers from the past 19 years...
- SAM's Dave Meeker with PistenBully's John Glockhamer and SAM's Sharon Walsh.
- Jeff Boliba of Burton and Christian Knapp of Aspen Skiing Co.
- The SAM crew was lucky enough to see Crystal Gayle at the Ryman Auditorium.
- Uniformly cool: Kim Stearns, Mountain Uniforms, is surrounded (from left) by Ober Gatlinburg’s Kent Anders, Jerry Huskey, and Greg Gavrilets.
That focus included the evolving nature of the industry, from the need to address ADA website accessibility to the next generation of leaders. Marketing trends and transforming beginners into lifelong converts and advocates also peppered the agenda, as well as informal discussions throughout the conference.
The trade show was a lively place throughout the event. A variety of suppliers from all over the world engaged resort decisionmakers in discussions about their latest products and services.
The annual review of the preliminary Kottke Study detailed the nature of the season, and showed why resilience and adaptability are such necessities for winter resorts. Western regions tallied record and near-record visit totals, while the Midwest and East recorded worst and near-worst visitation numbers. The Midwest was down 17 percent, the Northeast 28 percent, and the Southeast 30 percent.
The Kottke Study also highlighted the continuing decline in beginner (level 1) ski and snowboard lessons. These dropped by nearly 10 percent, despite the overall flat visitation numbers. That probably reflects the visit declines in the Eastern half of the country, where many beginner lessons usually occur.
On a positive note, the Kottke study charted the return of skiers and riders all along the West Coast after four years of sub-par snowfall and weather. The Pacific Northwest even set an all-time visit record, with more than 4.8 million guests. That bodes well for a rebound next year in the East and Midwest, if weather cooperates.
Nashville itself provided a fitting backdrop for the conference, as well as a change of scenery. The city has developed a vibrant and diverse musical culture, building upon its base as the epicenter of country music. Construction cranes litter the skyline, indicating that change is ongoing. The traditional and the new sit side by side: the futuristic Music City Center looms just a few blocks away from the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Old Opry in the mid-1900s, and the still-new Bridgestone Center, home to the Nashville Predators hockey team, sits a block or two from Tootsies and The Stage, two of the oldest and most renowned music venues in country music. If Nashville can manage to change and grow with the times, surely winter sports can as well.