SnowSports Industries America (SIA) and National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) boards say they are working closer than ever to boost snow sports participation in the wake of a meeting in Washington DC, where they also discussed pooling resources to advocate on regulatory, trade and and other public policy issues.
Board members from both trade associations gathered in Washington DC Sept. 24 and 25 for a joint board meeting that kicked off with an enjoyable dinner cruise on the Potomac River where they and SIA staff networked against the backdrop of national monuments.
The visits to Capitol Hill were preceded by a meeting to review and discuss strategy and goals for growing participation. SIA President David Ingemie provided an update on the size of the industry and the trends in participation. NSAA President Michael Berry complimented Ingemie’s remarks by reviewing project models and how to increase conversion rates. During the meeting, both presidents reported to the boards on the headway made at the National Ski and Snowboard Retailers Association’s Snow Sports Stakeholders Meeting to collectively address participation issues. NSAA and SIA will be working together in the future to expand the efforts of the snow sports participation programs Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and Bring a Friend Challenge.
“Getting all of us to focus on the issue and share best practices is the best way to move the needle for the industry. The resorts and the equipment providers are symbiotically linked,” said Stephen Kircher of Boyne Resorts and the NSAA board. We agreed that we need to set our goals higher for conversion, and that we need to rely on data to set these goals.”
Wendy Carey, SIA board member and executive vice president/CFO of Seirus Innovation, said, “The highlight was definitely the growth of collaboration with NSAA. Spending quality social time with NSAA on our dinner cruise was a great beginning. Following with our joint meeting gave both SIA and NSAA Boards the opportunity to share thoughts about our very much shared issues and goals.”
Five common public policy priorities
“The most surprising aspect of our meetings on Capitol Hill was when Senator Maria Cantwell came into the room,” said Tim Petrick, SIA board president and president of K2 Sports. “I figured she would send one of her legislative assistants, but it was great that she sat down for nearly an hour to learn about issues impacting the wintersports industry and the ski resorts.”
Board members from SIA and NSAA were present at all of the Congressional visits, allowing both associations to appeal to Congress for support on critical issues affecting the industry from a resort and product standpoint.
“Time spent in Washington educating public officials about the ski industry and our pressing concerns is incredibly valuable,” said Michael Berry, NSAA president. “NSAA was pleased to unite with SIA on delivering a powerful message in Washington about the impact that the ski industry has on the economy and jobs and our optimism for future success as well.”
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has for several years maintained “voluntary standards” regarding drawstrings on children's upper outerwear. Recently, however, the CPSC has taken several actions that indicate that this standard is no longer “voluntary.” In fact, the CPSC is moving to include certain children's outerwear with drawstrings as products deemed to present a “substantial product hazard.” Substantial penalties may be imposed for failure to comply with the applicable standards and elated reporting requirements. Sporting goods, including snow sports equipment sized for children 12 years of age or under, and /or products promoted and marketed to children fall under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act restricting and requiring testing for lead and phthalates. While there is no argument surrounding the need to ensure that junior snow sports products are safe for kids and does not expose them to the harmful effects of exposure to lead and phthalates, testing is costly, lacks standards, and testing requirements under the Act are redundant. Compliance with the CPSIA requires testing of all components of a product – i.e. buckle, sole, textile materials, plastic, clasps, etc. costs to comply are high and do not result in any increased safety for children.
- Miscellaneous Tariff Bill – amend the Harmonized Tariff Schedule: Legislation promoted by SIA to provide a new tariff suspension on ski poles and renew the tariff suspension on certain cross country ski and snowboard boots with textile uppers that expired on December 31, 2012, moved forward in the House of Representatives. On July 17, a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) (H.R. 2708) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means, subcommittee on Trade. In general, the MTB suspends import tariffs on product categories that have little or no domestic manufacturing. Over the past decade, the tariff suspension on boots with textile uppers has saved snow sports consumers and suppliers millions of dollars. The proposed tariff suspension for ski poles would eliminate the current 2.8 percent tariff. If Congress passes the MTB and it is signed by the President, both duty suspensions will be effective on a prospective basis 15 days after the date of enactment.
- TSA Policy for Avalanche Air Bag Canisters: SIA members asked that TSA clearly articulate that policy for avalanche air bags to provide guidance to the industry and subsequently to skiers and riders who want to transport gear, and ensure that TSA consistently enforces their own rules regarding the canisters. Pre-season timing is vital to ensure the safety of those travelers heading into the backcountry to ski or snowboard.
- Water Rights for Land Resorts: Last year, NSAA successfully challenged in federal court a USFS water policy that would require ski areas to turn over ownership of valuable water rights to the U.S. without compensation. The policy also places restrictions on the transfer of water rights that originate off the National Forest System lands, reducing their value and hindering a ski area’s ability to transfer or sell such water rights in the future. These clauses substantially impair the value of these ski area assets and hinder a ski area’s ability to obtain access to capital for growth and expansion in the future by lowering the valuation of the ski area’s assets.
- Immigration & Visas: Even with unemployment in September at 7.3 percent, the ski industry still struggles for reliable, dependable workers. Preferring to hire Americans, but too often located in rural/ remote areas, where there is little population bases. And being a seasonal business – four to six months – it is hard to attract people to positions, even when we entice workers with season ski passes and other perks. The foreign worker visa programs are absolutely critical to the ski industry. Efforts to impose regulations (like travel reimbursement) are designed to appease labor groups, but it only forces ski areas to leave money on the table in missed revenues for not having enough workers (language-skilled ski instructors, enough hotel room cleaners, food/cook staffs, etc.). Moving foreign ski instructors into “P” visa category is absolutely critical to the ski industry.