WinterSports Survey: Could skiing benefit from a commissioner?

Many major sports in the U.S. employ commissioners to speak--and deal--for the benefit of all the manufacturers, venue owners and athletes overall. But SNEWS wants to know, could a commissioner work for WinterSports as well?

It’s certainly not the best of times for professional sports commissioners in the U.S. right now. Professional football, America’s most popular sport, is in the midst of a bitter labor dispute between team owners and players who can’t agree on how to divide up the billions of dollars in revenue. And this despite the presence of Roger Goodell, an otherwise respected and seemingly effective commissioner.

While basketball, whose NBA season finals television broadcasts drew more than 24 million viewers, is also facing an imminent work stoppage, based almost exclusively on how to split the dollars. And, in the form of David Stern, being presided over by an otherwise respected and seemingly effective commissioner.

Yet every so often someone suggests to me how much skiing could benefit from a commissioner–to help increase the dollars for everyone by effectively merging the similar yet separate interests of the ski resorts, the ski manufacturers and the ski retailers as well. The same way Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig streamlines the interests of the MLB’s parks, players and baseball bat makers, a “Ski Commissioner” would help streamline the wintersports message from the media to the consumer, to the U.S. Forest Service to Capitol Hill.

I tend to think something similar was attempted in 1989, when the National Ski Areas Association and SnowSports Industries America briefly merged, and then disbanded barely three years later, effectively moving skiing’s uphill and skiing’s downhill industry into two separate concerns. And unlike those folks who sit in box seats, our ticket buying customer is a far more active participant than the fans who buy tickets to watch athletes at work. I also think from corporate resort owners to independent mom-and-pop retailers, there are so many different constituents at the table that even trying to achieve any sort of consensus would consume everyone’s time all by itself. 

Still, we do often operate in silos. From the shop floor to the slope, there is often a lack of connection that leaves us completely out of tune with our collective guest. And despite the pure nightmare of trying to hire, pay, promote and even establish such a position, the question remains: are we lacking some sort of central intelligence here?

So here is the poll question for the first day of summer:

 —Peter Kray

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