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Exclusive: An Open Letter to the Ski Industry: Out of control Influencers, who do you have representing your brand?

Recently we published an article Influencers, Advocates, and Those Who Pass Out the Kool-Aid which addressed the risky endeavor of getting information, reviews, and recommendations from influencers in the ski industry. More recently there was a situation at Killington Resort brought about by a brand's influencers' actions egregious enough to force Killington to suspend their lift tickets.

Stock internet photo

(From Facebook)
Mike Solimano, President, Killington Resorts.
This is totally unacceptable and my team has already blocked their passes. This is the exact type of behavior we are trying to prevent. Our teams will be on the hill trying to find this behavior in real time. As announced recently we are starting a paid on-mountain safety team that will be working to stop this behavior. (I reached out Mike with no reply.)


Overview
Two skiers and a third recording the action on opening day posted video of their reckless skiing, not only putting themselves in danger but also exposing innocent skiers to their risky behavior, due to the crowds and extremely limited terrain. Numerous sources familiar with the situation confirmed this was not the first time that there have been incidences with these particular skiers. These skiers posted videos on their social media channels showing them weaving through crowded areas and past SLOW SKIING signs at speeds close to 50 MPH. After their passes were pulled this video along with others were removed from their channels.

Leading up to this season, Killington was hard at work to move away from and soften their “Beast of the East” reputation. Their goal is to make their trails safer for everyone from beginners to experts and to change the etiquette on the mountain. This isolated situation could potentially move that back years.

The reason we are bringing this up is that we are in an environment that spews “Now is not the time to have that discussion” after a major catastrophe. Well, since no one did get seriously hurt, that opens the door for us to have this hard discussion about the sensationalism of one-upmanship and putting others at risk for the sake of clicks and notoriety under the guise of "stoke".

It’s not a problem until it’s a problem
Stock internet photo
Collisions on the ski trails are one of the top fears of every skier and boarder. There are inherent risks involved when you have a multitude of skiers and riders varying in ability on limited terrain. While accidents happen, being able to avoid them and not selfishly put others at risk can go a long way to everyone enjoying the space.

The incident at Killington with the skiers more concerned with their social media posts that day than the safety of others is a huge concern for the mountain as well as others on the hill. In our opinion, it's also a concern for the industry as a whole.

Manufacturers and brands need to sit up and take notice. Everyone wants all the benefits of “free advertising” through social media and influencers. But, this recent situation makes a strong case that nothing is free and everything comes at a cost. Do you want, and can you afford, to have your brand associated with skiers or boarders who are willing to put others at risk so they keep getting supplied with gear, or likes, or money?

By supporting these irresponsible skiers with free skis, board, or an outfit, good will and free advertising could quickly turn around into a court case or worse: the cost of losing a life. A brand can easily say “We in no way support dangerous and or reckless skiing or riding of any kind. The ski hill should be a safe and welcoming place for skiers of all abilities." That does not mean they are 100% innocent of the actions of athletes they endorse. Even if a good lawyer cannot prove culpability, the financial cost of being in court, as well as the social cost of having your brand associated with skiers who have no regard for anyone but themselves can be substantial.

All that said, we are not suggesting manufacturers are responsible for someone who has a social media channel and tags a product because that's what he uses. That is entirely different than a person who receives product either gratis or at a reduced cost to help promote a brand. The random gear fan or aficionado is also in a different category than an employee who is promoting the brand. A good lawyer can quickly follow an equipment trail.

Right now all we have is a couple of skiers who temporarily lost their pass privileges, which is a small price in the whole scheme of things. To the brand managers and social media managers reading this: now is your chance to evaluate who you are endorsing or permitting to use your name on their social media. Brands, you need to watch each of these “influencers” closely because they are representing you. More responsibility needs to be taken by the skiers*, boarders, and also by the brand they represent. We urge all skiers and riders to do so responsibly and respectfully, especially when recording social media content.

There is an on going discussion on the topic in this thread: Props to Killington for pulling the season passes of 3 "sponsored" skiers


*Note: We did not name the skiers because we do not feel they deserve any additional attention in this situation.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

Kudos to Killington, maybe other ski resorts will take notice and start enforcing safety concerns!!!
 
I'm not really sure the 'influencer' tag is appropriate. 'self-promoter' is more like it. It seems that while they put a light on products and venues we could use, they are primarily building a following for their own net gain. I have plenty of friends that are into big air, tricks and inversion, but to my knowledge, they are also considerate of those that share the slope. Are we going to have to come full circle and prohibit jumping and the like outside of the park? Back before 'extreme' skiing became a thing, you could get your pass pulled just for getting air. I'm not advocating this, but until those that are making videos begin to seriously consider the potential for danger to innocent skiers, what can be done to educate them into the consequences. The owner of a certain brand of ski clothing comes to mind. His actions include deliberate provocation of those that would control inappropriate activities. He incites, with intent or not, the 'self-promoter' to get more and more outrageous and take more risks while putting the general public at risk as well.
 
Then there are the resorts that the marketing department itself should be put into check. I'm thinking back to the summer session at Alpine Meadows last June and July. As the season wore on, we were down to a WROD for the last 300 yards to the Summit lift. The marketing department actively encouraged people whom were posting videos of their "awesome sidehits". These idiots were looking for every opportunity to ramp off the edge of the snow back onto the 10' wide strip, often crashing in the process or coming close to hitting people just trying to get to the lift. When called out on that marketing...no response. One of them just called me a boomer that was complaining.
 
I am all for getting air and jumping. Just as this irresponsible activities happen in traffic, I am just as frustrated with the skiers that enter the parks because they see some nice untracked corduroy between the jumps. That is also putting skiers at risk. You don't want them jumping on the trails, you stay out of the park.
 
I grew up in the era of no jumping. My home mountain patrol would chase me and my friends around all day, as we would “terrorize the gapers”. Looking back in those days, we had fun but we probably ruined a lot of people’s ability to relax while learning or trying to enjoy their hard earned ski vacations. I have since then been taken out a few times by inconsiderate idiots boarding out of their ability’s or jumping on to cross traffic areas. In fact if it weren’t for my helmet I probably wouldn’t even be able to articulate these words. But growingnup
In Tahoe I’m well aware of these testosterone driven skiers/borders and their willful disregard for others. I’ve chased down some idiots before to make them aware of their improprieties.

I’m glad this letter was written and this topic was brought to light.
There’s a lot of people that have been seriously hurt by collisions that could have been avoided, with some common sense and decency.

I hope some bad apples don’t spoil the barrel of what I call progress in the industry.
 
I have said this repeatedly over the past few years...and this applies to Mammoth and my skiing in UT. I simply do NOT see yellow jackets in the most crowded areas of the mountain where multiple trails come together and people carry lots of speed. I simply don't see etiquette and safety enforced in any meaningful way and I can't explain why. I have taught my kids to have a their head on a swivel and even if it seems highly unlikely that someone may come out of a blind area...they still may and this has proven out multiple times. I just don't see the mtns out patrolling to reduce reckless ski behavior.
 
"After their passes were pulled".....to all in the industry, how often does this action actually occur?
 
"After their passes were pulled".....to all in the industry, how often does this action actually occur?
Obviously not enough, I have lost count the number of times I and/or my students get hit by out of control boarders and once in a while a skier over the years. I am surprised how quiet this thread is with no response for all the experts that hang out here.
 
Obviously not enough, I have lost count the number of times I and/or my students get hit by out of control boarders and once in a while a skier over the years. I am surprised how quiet this thread is with no response for all the experts that hang out here.
There is 17 pages of discussion here:
 
Ski fast and jump were there is no risk to others. Have at it. Go ahead and put yourself in risk reward scenarios, but skier's that choose to trample on the rights of others and put them at risk as well should receive a zero tolerance policy.

Take the pass away for the year. Don't suspend. Ban them.

Until the punishment supersedes the crime, the actions will keep happening.

The worst part of Snowbasin is Bear Hollow where half of all upper mountain trails converge into a funnel to access the lower mountain. No matter how many green jackets patrol the area, somehow idiots still ski reckless there as if it is a challenge to see what they can get away with. My kids call it "Death Hollow" as every Saturday at very least one collision victim is hauled out of there on a sled and those are just the ones we randomly see.

Skiing with speed and air is great, when you are on terrain that a 5 year old can't access.

Having skied a lot of freestyle and freeride in my life, I'm proud to say I never got my stoke in traffic areas.

Real skiers do it when there is no audience and no camera. Otherwise you are just a poser.

No brand should support posers.
 
Ski fast and jump were there is no risk to others. Have at it. Go ahead and put yourself in risk reward scenarios, but skier's that choose to trample on the rights of others and put them at risk as well should receive a zero tolerance policy.

Take the pass away for the year. Don't suspend. Ban them.

Until the punishment supersedes the crime, the actions will keep happening.

The worst part of Snowbasin is Bear Hollow where half of all upper mountain trails converge into a funnel to access the lower mountain. No matter how many green jackets patrol the area, somehow idiots still ski reckless there as if it is a challenge to see what they can get away with. My kids call it "Death Hollow" as every Saturday at very least one collision victim is hauled out of there on a sled and those are just the ones we randomly see.

Skiing with speed and air is great, when you are on terrain that a 5 year old can't access.

Having skied a lot of freestyle and freeride in my life, I'm proud to say I never got my stoke in traffic areas.

Real skiers do it when there is no audience and no camera. Otherwise you are just a poser.

No brand should support posers.
If you are calling it a crime, doesn't it require a trial?
 
Some collisions on the slopes that I am aware of were from a novice who cannot control their speed and they run into another skier.
Snowboarders are dangerous because their medium picks up speed more rapidly and goes faster than a pair of shaped skis- to make matters worse a snowboard needs more distance to bring to a stop, or to turn sharply - these maneuvers need to be initiated sooner to accommodate dozens of feet in length of slide before the stop and sometimes before the change of direction.
 

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