• Skiing for disaster relief
    By Karen D. Lorentz | February 26,2013
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    PROVIDED A pre-season rail garden fundraising event at Mount Snow raised over $8,000 for relief to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy.
    Snow is cold, but skiers and riders bask in the warmth of the kinship the slopes help to foster among enthusiasts. But, après-ski time isn’t the only time they share the “tie that binds” via funny, wild, and, at times, serious or poignant stories.

    This story is one of the latter.

    It was just over a year ago when a skier called his Killington-based attorney and asked him to serve as the conduit for a $1,000 donation to a favorite place that had been destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene. He wanted it to be an anonymous contribution — and he was one of many out-of-state skiers who showed support for friends up north as donations poured in to help storm victims.

    This past October provided an opportunity to reciprocate that concern and compassion — for those whose lives and homes were devastated by super-storm Hurricane Sandy. What started as a brainstorming session just before November’s ski show in Boston soon snowballed into a major fundraising effort, with most areas of Vermont participating in a variety of ways, ranging from cash contributions to providing incentives for others’ donations — or both.

    By mid-November, Operation Mountains of Love had raised almost $40,000; by January, it had raised more than $52,000.

    “We started bouncing ideas around about a week before the ski show and wanted to somehow tie it into the consumer show, where we knew around 40,000 attendees would be exposed to it,” said Sarah Neith, director of public affairs at the Vermont Ski Areas Association (VSAA), the trade group that spearheaded the effort.

    “We reached out to the resorts for incentives, and they delivered. By the end of it all, we had 10 ski packages that donors would be eligible to win. This alone was a value of $3,000 to $4,000.

    “Resorts also pitched in [with] ticket vouchers to give to donors at the show, while Ben & Jerry’s, a VSAA partner, offered free-pint coupons. Long Trail Brewing, also a VSAA partner, pledged to match up to $500 in donations, and Sugarbush promised to match up to $25,000 in donations,” she said.

    Those donating prizes for drawings at the ski show included Bromley Mountain, Killington Ski Resort, Stratton Mountain Ski Resort, Bolton Valley Resort, Trapp Family Lodge, the Mountain Top Inn and Resort, Stowe Mountain Lodge and Resort, and Mount Snow. Killington’s donation of a five-day ski and stay package provided a popular incentive to donate. About $2,500 was raised via online sales of the VSAA’s iconic poster-series initiative.

    The $52,000 raised in total included donations from more than 100 show attendees, as well as a $19,000 contribution from Sugarbush, which pledged to match up to $25,000 in raised funds. The area continued to match additional donations as they came in. Okemo Mountain Resort gave a $10,000 donation, and Killington raised funds via an online auction.

    Stratton Mountain Resort raised $6,335 for relief, according to communications coordinator Meryl Robinson. Since many guests and homeowners are from areas “hard hit by Sandy, it became important for us in the Stratton community to return the generous support we received after Irene,” said Robinson. The proceeds were raised from Stratton’s annual Thanksgiving Day Gobble Gobble Wobble 5K Run, which saw participation from 239 runners and walkers.

    Stratton also participated in Operation Mountains of Love at the ski show by donating incentives and a grand prize of a five-day ski package. “We continue to look for ways we can help those affected by Sandy,” Robinson added.

    Mount Snow also contributed in a variety of ways. It donated buy one/get one free lift-ticket vouchers during the ski show to those who contributed to the Red Cross via “mobile donations,” said communications manager Dave Meeker. The ski area also held a pre-season rail garden event in early November that raised “just over $8,000, with all proceeds going towards Sandy relief,” said Meeker. “We are working with Rotary International to help distribute the funds where they are needed most.

    “After the outpouring of help the Mount Snow Valley received following Irene from many of the area’s second-home owners and Mount Snow regulars who live down-country, the only question that came up after Sandy was, ‘What can we do for them?,’” Meeker said.

    “Mount Snow continues to work with authorities down in the affected areas in an effort to provide further assistance where it is needed.” v
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