Top of Page

Sessions - East

Please note: sessions listed below and times are subject to change

Media and Recording Policy
NSAA aims to foster open and transparent conversations among its ski area and other industry members. Sessions may not be recorded for any purpose, including media use. Media are only permitted at certain sessions, and may not attend closed sessions unless expressly invited by an NSAA staff member. Media may not attribute any quotes made in sessions without permission of the speaker. Thank you for respecting this policy and helping to make our shows run smoothly. 

Tuesday, February 4

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Unions (CLOSED SESSION, ski area personnel and invited participants only)
There has been an on-again, off-again effort by national unions to try to organize at ski areas, including succeeding with a number of ski patrols in the West. As ski areas move toward year-round operations, and labor shortages grow, unions see this as an opportunity to expand into non-traditional businesses. There are some very recent changes by the National Labor Relations Board (which oversees regulations governing union election campaigns) that Eastern ski areas need to understand. Our two attorneys from the Association of Ski Defense Attorneys (ASDA)—Jack Merinar and Andrew Maass—are uniquely well-versed in both labor campaigns and ski resort operations, and will analyze the compliance challenges and suggest preventive strategies to minimize such challenges from labor groups. (RESORT PERSONNEL AND INVITED PARTICIPANTS ONLY)

The Chinese Market
For many ski areas, they know the markets where their guests come from. However, as the demographics of the US continues to change, becoming ever more diverse, the strategies that once worked need to also change. China is now the #3 source for international visitors, with many visiting relatives here in the US. These two groups represent two opportunities – the tourist and their local relatives. Chinese Americans have the greatest influence on how their international visitors will spend their time. Epoch Media focuses on both of these groups and will provide valuable insights into attracting and retaining this emerging market.

Fit For Snow – Integrating Employee Wellness with Safety
This session will describe the Fit for Snow program as a specific fitness and nutrition strategy for snowsport resort employees, beginning with the research behind the development of the program by Dr. Delia Roberts, through to best practices and barriers from 8 years of implementation across North America. Co-presenters Amber Broadaway from Sugarbush Resort Vermont, and Peter Koch of the MEMIC Group will provide their perspectives on the use of the program at Sugarbush and other New England resorts. A summary of expected outcomes will also be provided.

Sustainable Slopes 2020
As Sustainable Slopes reaches its second decade, NSAA is taking the opportunity to refresh, refocus, and redesign the program for the benefit of our ski area members. Based on member feedback from a 2019 survey, Sustainable Slopes 2020 will pilot new requirements and new benefits for endorsers, including a new “pledge” to environmental stewardship within 10 priority topic areas, the chance to earn 10 “badges” that correspond to those priority areas, and a “Collaboration Portal,” which will include an online forum for mentoring and networking with other Sustainable Slopes participants. Finally, Sustainable Slopes 2020 will also include a Skier’s Responsibility Code to encourage guests to engage on sustainability and climate as well. Through these changes, NSAA hopes to create new momentum for the program, recognize higher levels of performance, and at the same time continue to encourage broad participation and efforts across the industry. This critical education session will explain elements of the new program and answer questions on how it will all work. Be sure to have your resort sustainability staff attend these winter education sessions so you can hit the ground running with Sustainable Slopes 2020!

3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.

Furthering Guest Engagement – Connecting Enhanced Learning Terrain to Terrain Parks
From enhanced terrain to now Terrain Based Learning, over the past two decades a great deal has changed. Yet School and Terrain Parks have still not aligned to the benefit of our guests and the future growth of our sports. We must not miss the opportunity to create School and freestyle offerings that support each other and provide a more enticing beginner guest offering to attract new participation, retain them, and show an actual terrain park ROI.

Work Comp Investigations
Investigations are a critical aspect of any worker’s compensation claim. No area or manager wants their employees to get hurt, on the job or otherwise. However, when someone does get hurt on the job, it is especially important to have a clear, easy to follow process for investigating and documenting the claim. Our panel insurance and risk management will discuss the employee incidents that are driving claims, investigation tactics to help uncover the root causes, and strategies for preventing them in the future. Come to this session prepared to learn about and share your experience with employee claims, from slip and falls in the base area to on-snow collisions.

More than Money: The Future of Ski Industry Compensation, Benefits and Perks
Are your best employees being recruited by other resorts or by employers outside of the ski industry? Compression has been created by mandatory state minimum wage increases and many resort operators are concerned that their long-held methods managing benefits, perks, base and variable pay programs are falling short of “what it takes” to compete. Explore the strategies and tactics your peers and Best in Class employers are using to attract and retain talent in an increasingly tight labor market. In this session you’ll learn from top consultants to the ski industry how to use forward-thinking benefit and reward strategies to attract, empower and meet your employees’ evolving needs. Using the most recent NSAA Wage and Salary Survey and ski industry-specific benchmarking data, this session will show how we compare to other business sectors and within the Total Rewards spectrum.

Communicating in Times of Distress
Operating a ski area is challenging enough considering the weather, location, economy, and business climate every area deals with. Any of these individually or in combination can disrupt your business, sometimes severely. Adding to the challenge is the continual increase in guest expectations for access and information. Ironically, clear and honest communications, while expected, are challenged or even mocked by our guests. When conditions outside of your control make it difficult or unsafe to operate, having a clear communication plan is critical. Our small panel of area marketers and communications people will discuss the challenging times and communication strategies that have (sometimes) helped them soothe our most critical guests.

4:30 to 6:00 pm

What Ski Areas Need to Know about Legal Issues related to Volunteers
The issue of the legal use of volunteers, especially from a labor and employment standpoint, has arisen in some unique contexts recently, especially in Vermont. This panel discussion and closed-door roundtable will address some of the frequently asked questions, minimum wage laws at the state and federal level, exemptions, insurance coverage, workers compensation, and additional ways ski areas can protect themselves while embracing volunteers with ski patrol, mountain hosts, and ambassadors. Our panelists include Vermont’s own Andrew Maass, an ASDA attorney (Association of Ski Defense Attorneys) who also specializes in labor and employment legal issues as well as ski area injury defense lawsuits.

Wednesday, February 5
9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Contracts – The Details Make the Difference (CLOSED SESSION, ski area personnel and invited participants only)
Contracts: You may yawn, but they are hugely important. And they impact all manner of resort operations, both winter and summer, mountain operations, lift departments, summer activities, events, contractors, and a wide variety of unique federal and state laws. They are a neglected tool, and in this session, we analyze a wide variety of incidents where contracts could (and should) have been a more valuable tool to protect your resort. And, the idiom “The devil is in the details.” couldn’t be better phrased. Regardless of whether you are signing a contract to purchase a new lift, negotiating for rental equipment, negotiating a third party to run a music festival, hosting a Hollywood film crew, or inviting some contractors to your resort, our examples will underscore this critical part of risk management. Our panel of ASDA attorneys will highlight some key examples in the industry—from risk managers, marketing, to department heads and CFOs, this crosses all departments. (RESORT PERSONNEL AND INVITED PARTICIPANTS ONLY)

Succeed with your Human Resources Technology
Have you ever wondered if you are asking the right questions when evaluating HR technology? As the tech landscape continues to evolve and innovate, it has become more difficult for organizations to differentiate capabilities in a crowded marketplace. The topics will include the current state of HR Tech, how to develop your decision making criteria, considerations for the evaluation process, how to avoid the common pitfalls in implementation, and how to optimize your investment. Learn from technology consultants and ski resorts HR leaders’ personal experience with the HR tech procurement process and set yourself up for implementation success!

One More Day - Energizing the Core
Energize the Core is a small group formed from the Growth Committee. Knowing that 65% of national skier visits can be attributed to the core skier/rider, over 4 million core participants, this group has been imagining the power if we could get our best fans to ski one more day a year? This session will help you understand who your core skiers are and the knowledgeable panel will share useable ideas to get your core customers to ski one more day. Come and learn how to unleash the power of a core participant.

Operational Integration - Bring Your Operations Systems in Line
For many area managers, one of the biggest challenges is simply keeping up monitoring how different operational systems are working. Jumping back and forth between systems that don’t talk to each other (and aren't designed to) can be frustrating, especially when you are trying to find critical information to help you run efficiently and make decisions. Understandably, companies design and build the backend technologies to support their products without really thinking about the other systems a ski area might use. However, times and expectations, are changing. Without giving away proprietary information, companies are now introducing the means to integrate various operational systems, making it easier to synchronize and more efficiently manage operations. This session will feature a mix of area personnel and supplier members discussing why they are embracing this integration and the lessons they are learning along the way.

10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Great Groups – Successful Strategies That Merge Philanthropy and Growth
There are many ways to grow participation in snowsports, with kids groups being one of the prime opportunities available to virtually every area. Some of these groups are self-sufficient, but many more are not. They require guidance and help – sometimes financially. Philanthropy and growth are not mutually exclusive and there are effective strategies that areas have developed to help these groups and their kids succeed. Our panel with Share Winter Executive Director Constance Beverley and her partners will discuss what they have learned through their past efforts and the changes being made going forward. By being a proactive partner with your groups, you can be more than just a venue, you can become a trusted and reliable collaborator in growing participation for the long-term.

Resort Risk Management Walk-Through (Outdoor Session)
Stepping out of the classroom, this session will be conducted as a walk-through of the Killington base area. A real-life, in-the-moment case study, this session will walk through the base and common areas looking through the eyes of an insurance representative and the area's risk manager. Get a first-hand look at a risk management walk-through, with the chance to ask questions and discuss particular points while they are fresh and right in front of you. Come dressed for the weather and be prepared to discuss parking lots, walkways, roof overhangs and signage. You name it— if it's in the base area, this session will show you the little things that can make a big difference.

Lift Operations Roundtable
This informal roundtable will provide a venue for Lift Operations Managers, Supervisors, Mountain Managers and anyone else to discuss current issue related to area lift operation. With high profile issues like staffing, lift safety, and lift incidents, lift operations are under an ever-brightening spotlight. While we will have several topics to cover, this session is your opportunity to put your questions (and solutions) on the table and network with other lift operations personnel facing the same issues you are.

Staffing Solutions
Areas of all sizes often struggle to find enough staff to fill all of the open positions for a winter season. And, if you do hire someone, there are further challenges in retaining that experienced staff. The lure of higher wages, benefits, and full-time work are hard to overcome, even when your area has the resources to put into training and development programs. Helping to fill this gap are several programs, including visa programs, accredited educational institutions, and others that are delivering educated and motivated people that want to work at ski areas. Our panel of regional education programs, visa experts, and resort personnel will discuss these strategies and other operational considerations to help alleviate the very real pain on being short staffed.

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

Chairlift Incidents and Claims (CLOSED SESSION, ski area personnel and invited participants only)
Lift incidents and resulting claims impact ski areas of all sizes—from small mom-and-pop resorts, to large destination resorts. And these are some of the most common types of claims that affect ski areas. And as we have seen in the last few years, even less serious incidents can lead to potential regulatory oversight. New technologies will certainly lessen these risks, but we will examine some recent claims, as well as ways to minimize those incidents pre-loss, and maximize your legal position post-loss. Join our panel of resort personnel, insurance representatives, and others as they discuss current and past lift-related incidents and what you can do to help prevent these from happening at your area. (RESORT PERSONNEL AND INVITED PARTICIPANTS ONLY)

Critical Incident Management – Taking Care of Your Employees
Critical incidents are particularly powerful, sudden and negative events that have a great potential to overwhelm people’s normal coping skills. These events, while not common, do happen in the ski industry due to the inherent challenges with managing snow and large numbers of people. Significant on-hill incidents, equipment failures, avalanches, and active shooters are all incidents that can and have occurred at ski areas. For these events, there are several layers of response to consider after the first responder manages the incident. This talk is about managing what comes after the first response, particularly the psychological processing of the critical incident by your employees. Come learn about critical incident management from the perspective of aiding and assisting your employees as they recover from a critical incident. The focus will be on understanding the acute psychological incident response and illuminate a path forward that can help aid healthy processing for your employees.

Moving the Needle: Tackling the Perception Issue
We hear the phrase “perception is reality” often. Because it’s true. Perceptions influence how we interpret reality. Perceptions also drive decisions for ourselves and our families. Our challenge is that the perception outside our bubble is that skiing and riding is “too dangerous, too difficult, and only for white rich people”. If our goal is growth, how can we grow without addressing the perception barrier first? We have an extremely attractive product that delivers memorable experiences that invigorates and connect people. We have stories that are visually stunning, authentic and relatable. We also have new channels and sophisticated methods for delivering our stories so that they reach our target audiences with amazing accuracy… affordably. In this session Dave Gibson will lead a panel with Mike Solimano (Killington/Pico), Steve Wright (Jay Peak) and Drew Simmons (Pale Morning Media) will discuss how we can shape positive perceptions to enable growth.