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An Open Letter to NASJA: Four, Simple Reasons Why I May Not Be Back in 2015

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First of all, thank you.

I was invited to be on a panel at your meeting last week and was welcomed to stay for more which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved hearing your stories and meeting your members.

Though I still find it hard to believe Mount Snow wanted to detonate a nuc to create eastern bowl skiing in the ’60s.

But during, and since, I was asked multiple times if I’d be returning in 2015 as a member. With many potential changes within NASJA on the table and a weekend for my thoughts and experiences to marinate, here is my reply. It’s anecdotal, but in conversations since my return, I’m not alone with these thoughts.

Here it is…

If you make the progression and improvement of ski journalism your highest objective, I’ll be back.

I know that’s a little vague, so let me explain with four observations from NASJA 2014.

I’ve been asked to be blunt, so here goes.

First, let’s look at your agenda.

Killington’s lifts turned from 9:00am until 4:00pm during the conference. What didn’t happen during those hours? Meetings. Sessions ended at 9:00am, fireside chats started at 4:00pm, and many showed up to meetings in ski gear.

Even more, over the course of four days NASJA had only four conference-style sessions. Look at any other event – Destination Summit, Mountain Travel, NSAA – and you’ll see twice that many before lunch on the first day.

If you want me to come back you’ll need to put together a meeting that helps me get better at my job, not my ability to ski the trees.

Second, let’s look at your priorities.

Of those four sessions, the most interesting was Thursday morning’s where the future of NASJA hung in the balance. Deep, emotional responses were coming from members and corporate partners alike, big issues were being addressed, most of your membership was in one room, people were starting to open up, progress was being made until…

You stopped. To go skiing. Again.

As I mentioned, bluntness on these issues has been requested, but I have trouble taking an organization seriously that puts an hour of skiing at Pico ahead of resolving issues that threaten their group’s existence.

Third, let’s look at your model.

Every time I’ve been approached about joining NASJA I end up at the same dead end: paying for membership does little more than give me permission to pay more to register for your conference.

If that’s all it does, it’s not enough for me.

Instead, I think you need to build lots of direct, everyday value right into NASJA membership so that even without attending the Annual Meeting, membership is still attractive. I’d stop worrying about definitions of journalism and be intentionally broad. Heck, why not open your meeting up to all and turn it into a non-stop fest of content and journalistic best practices that will drive membership and value to corporate partners.

The question was raised multiple times whether someone who tweets is a journalist. Perhaps an indicator of the group’s current mindset is the fact that NASJA are the only ones worrying about the answer to that question.

Fourth, let’s look at your guts. Yes, guts.

Again, I’m being intentionally blunt, but if you expand your borders, the 5-time winner of your annual awards will likely never win again because most of skiing’s best stories are being told by people outside of your organization.

You’ll lose a Dave Sartwell or a Dan Egan or another beloved name from among your ranks. A member who is now somebody at your meetings will become a nobody. The people on your board now may feel like outsiders in 10 years. Make no mistake, you’ll learn a ton, but NASJA won’t be the same if NASJA becomes what it sounds like you want it to become.

Right now, I just don’t see the guts within your organization as a whole to do that to yourselves.

Which is fine.

You can carry on as is and have a great time in your profession, put on fun meetings, ski to your heart’s content, and enjoy close comaraderie.

But if you want me, and others, to join, these things will need to change. I need to see your commitment to your craft, I need to see daily value in my membership, I need to see you be willing to learn from everyone even if they are better than you at your job or only tweet, I need to see writers who happen to ski rather than skiers who happen to write.

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, but hopefully my perspetive helps you choose.

Best of luck,


About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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