Interview with Reese Brown

CCSAA'S New Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor

SkiTrax - - Out In Front -

Ear­lier this year, Reese Brown took over as the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cross-coun­try Ski Ar­eas As­so­ci­a­tion (CCSAA), re­plac­ing Chris Frado. Brown, 52, will con­tinue to also act as the Nordic di­rec­tor of Snows­ports In­dus­tries America (SIA). We reached out to Brown, based in Wood­stock, Vt., to find out more about his plans go­ing for­ward.

Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new po­si­tion with the Cross-coun­try Ski Ar­eas As­so­ci­a­tion!

Reese Brown: Thank you. I am very much look­ing for­ward to com­bin­ing this new po­si­tion with what I do as SIA'S Nordic di­rec­tor. The ad­di­tion of CCSAA re­ally opens up the con­ver­sa­tion with the ski ar­eas, and I feel I have some great ideas to help them pro­vide the best prod­uct pos­si­ble.

Please give a brief his­tory of how you got into the ski in­dus­try and your time in it.

RB: I be­gan as an alpine ski racer and moved in to alpine coach­ing when my rac­ing days were over. I was also an event pro­ducer and started do­ing some work with the Snows­ports In­dus­tries America. As I be­came more in­volved with SIA and run­ning some con­sumer snow­shoe and cross-coun­try ski pro­grams, I fell in love with the Nordic cul­ture. From there, I be­came its Nordic di­rec­tor.

At a very young age, I came to the ques­tion, do I go alpine or Nordic? I chose alpine at that point, but still was an ac­tive cross-coun­try skier and would race in what was called the Skimeis­ter, down­hill, cross-coun­try and jump­ing. I did ski through col­lege, which was great fun, but had no fu­ture ca­reer in rac­ing and turned to coach­ing.

Are you also in­volved with the US Ski Team?

RB: I am in­volved with the US Ski Team. I sit on the Cross Coun­try Ad­vi­sory Board that sup­ports the Na­tional Team through ad­di­tional fundrais­ing and me­dia and other ad­vi­sory du­ties.

Do you have a first 100-days agenda?

RB: I do, but first and fore­most, I needed to re­ally un­der­stand the in­ner work­ings of CCSAA and learn the ex­ist­ing sys­tems. My No. 1 agenda item is creating bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the mem­bers about what CCSAA is do­ing for them. To that end, I have re­built the data­base, changed the e-mail plat­form, re­struc­tured the news­let­ter and added re­gional meet­ings around the coun­try.

You pre­vi­ously said that, “Bridg­ing be­tween SIA and CCSAA will pro­vide great syn­er­gies that will al­low me to ad­vance both or­ga­ni­za­tions in ways that will greatly en­hance the Nordic community.” How do you see this un­fold­ing?

RB: By work­ing with both SIA and CCSAA, I speak to the sup­plier and the re­sorts. This had al­lowed me to open com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two, but also al­lowed me to add com­po­nents to dif­fer­ent ini­tia­tives I am work­ing on. As an ex­am­ple, we just com­pleted our an­nual East­ern Meet­ing at the East­man Cross Coun­try Cen­ter in North East­ern USA where we dis­cussed the re­turn on in­vest­ment (ROI) of turn­ing over your rental fleet often. This speaks to the sup­plier and sell­ing more gear, but also the ski area by hav­ing fresh rental gear that pro­vides a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence for its guests.

CCSAA is pri­mar­ily a U.S. or­ga­ni­za­tion – how many mem­bers do you have and what per­cent­age of mem­ber­ship is in Canada?

RB: We have been pri­mar­ily a U.S. or­ga­ni­za­tion, but that is not what we want to be. Within day of tak­ing over CCSAA, I took a trip to Que­bec to visit with some mem­bers there and dis­cuss ways to com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter with them. Our An­nual Con­fer­ence this year will be at Sil­ver Star Re­sort in B.C. (Canada), and I in­tend to push hard to get our Cana­dian mem­bers and non-mem­bers there. We did have two Cana­dian ski ar­eas rep­re­sented at our re­cent East­ern meet­ing and I was able to take some time to speak with them about how to in­te­grate Canada bet­ter.

Are there plans to grow the or­ga­ni­za­tion?

RB: I very def­i­nitely have plans to grow mem­ber­ship, but that will only hap­pen if I am able to show real value for the mem­ber­ship cost. This con­cept is in­te­gral with ev­ery ini­tia­tive we come up with – how will it help our mem­ber­ship. I do feel we are ac­com­plish­ing this now, and I am see­ing new mem­bers com­ing in al­ready.

Cur­rently, there are 280 mem­bers, but that num­ber is grow­ing, and I hope to pass 300 by year's end. The an­nual CCSAA mem­ber­ship be­gins at $370 [US].

We've heard that fat­bik­ing is be­ing em­braced by a num­ber of cen­tres – how is CCSAA in­volved?

RB: I be­lieve it is CCSAA'S job to cre­ate a “best prac­tices” doc­u­ment for in­te­grat­ing fat­bikes into our ski ar­eas. This falls un­der my value propo­si­tion to the mem­bers. I am work­ing with our mem­bers, the In­ter­na­tional Moun­tain Bi­cy­cling As­so­ci­a­tion (IMBA) and Qual­ity Bike

Prod­ucts (QBP) to gather in­for­ma­tion and look at stan­dard­iz­ing how fat­bikes are used at cross-coun­try cen­tres and creating universal sig­nage. This is a re­ally fun project!

What chal­lenges lie ahead for CCSAA, in­clud­ing cli­mate change?

RB: Cli­mate change is an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant is­sue and chal­lenge, and we are part­ner­ing with Pro­tect Our Win­ters to ac­ti­vate our mem­ber­ship and all cross-coun­try skiers to help com­bat cli­mate change. Sep­a­rate from the cli­mate, my big­gest chal­lenge is ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with my mem­ber­ship. I can see who reads any of my com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and the num­bers are not where I think they should be. This is my No. 1 pri­or­ity; we have great pro­grams, but if the mem­ber­ship does not know about them, we lose our ef­fec­tive­ness.

Tell us about your re­cent sum­mit and this new con­cept you in­tro­duced.

RB: We have had three re­gional sum­mits and one East­ern meet­ing since I took over. Meet­ing face-to-face is so in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant, and I know many of our mem­bers don't or can't get to the An­nual Meet­ing. By creating some re­gional off-sea­son sum­mits, CCSAA hopes to reach more of our mem­ber­ship in a face-to-face set­ting, which, in turn, helps to de­velop a more per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with mem­bers. As I often say, it's not only about what pre­sen­ters have to say, it's also about the time spent in the aisles, or over cof­fee or lunch that is so im­por­tant. You can­not get that in­ti­macy with email blasts.

Were there any no­tice­able ef­fects from Ski Tour Canada last sea­son?

RB: I be­lieve there were no­tice­able ef­fects from Ski Tour Canada. Cer­tainly there was a lot of ex­cite­ment from the rac­ing community about hav­ing a race series on our con­ti­nent. It was also a chance to get lots of lo­cal press for cross-coun­try ski­ing in a non-olympic year. But rac­ing is only part of the equa­tion. In my work with the me­dia, I con­stantly hear the belief that cross-coun­try ski­ing is dif­fi­cult. It can be, but there is more to it, and that is the real story I am try­ing to share.

Are there other trends or ini­tia­tives in the works?

RB: Value and com­mu­ni­ca­tion: those are my two fo­cal points. In ad­di­tion to bet­ter ways to com­mu­ni­cate with our au­di­ence, we are work­ing on fat­bike best prac­tices, stan­dard­iz­ing sur­face-con­di­tion names, how to cre­ate a safety and ski-pa­trol plan, how to fund large cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­tures and more.

Much has al­ready been said about your pre­de­ces­sor, Chris Frado. Is there anything to add?

RB: Chris Frado was the ar­chi­tect of the as­so­ci­a­tion; she is hand­ing me a welloiled or­ga­ni­za­tion that I will be able to keep build­ing on. In the tran­si­tion, she has been in­cred­i­bly help­ful [ in] guid­ing my groups and pro­vid­ing an­swers to my count­less ques­tions. I am so thankful that she is here and will­ing to help; I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our work­ing re­la­tion­ship and friend­ship.

Any fi­nal re­marks?

RB: I ap­pre­ci­ate the op­por­tu­nity to speak to the Sk­i­trax read­ers across Canada and the U.S.A. and I look for­ward to a con­tin­ued long re­la­tion­ship with the mag­a­zine.

Reese Brown hopes to add value to both roles as new ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CCSAA'S while con­tin­u­ing as Nordic di­rec­tor of SIA.

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