Social marketing programs are long-term efforts that focus on changing behaviors. (Daw 2006, p. 124) In 2003, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) joined forces to create the Keep Winter Cool campaign to bring awareness to and action from winter enthusiasts regarding the global warming crisis. (Link, 2003) The relationship between NRDC and NSAA is mutually beneficial, as NRDC is an organization that cares about and advocates for thoughtful use of the environment, and NSAA is the trade group for 90 percent of America’s ski areas – companies that profit from the environment and winter conditions.
Background and Goals
Snow is an essential element for skiing and snowboarding. The global warming trend threatens the multi-billion dollar snowsports industry. At least the top ten hottest years on record have happened since 1990. Because of an imbalance in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, likely caused from pollution, temperatures could rise as high as 7 degrees a year by the end of the century, (Keep Winter Cool, Climate Facts) impacting the snowsports industry with fewer mountains, shorter seasons, decreased revenue, increased expenditures, and cancelled events. (Keep Winter Cool, Why Should I Care) Keep Winter Cool aims to educate young snowriders about this threat and about what they can do to make a difference – to save winter for the future – in a language and way that they understand.
While NSAA has spearheaded legislative efforts addressing climate change, the majority shareholders of this campaign are the ski areas. Under the umbrella of the NSAA, the campaign has transpired in three ways. Ski areas have altered policies and the way they do things. The resorts have created their own plans for guests in support of Keep Winter Cool. Keep Winter Cool has undertaken a media campaign with advertising and event promotions.
Policy change examples include Mammoth Mountain’s use of solar power to heat lift shacks, and Hunter Mountain, Vail, and Keystone Resort’s Wind Energy Credit purchases. Resorts have also implemented guest-centered plans, like Arapahoe Basin’s 40 percent off a lift ticket for carpoolers and Northstar-at-Tahoe’s “Ski Pollution Free” effort in which customers are offered the opportunity to purchase a Green Tag to offset vehicle emissions generated by the trip to the ski area. (Keep Winter Cool, Ski Area Action)
Through an overarching Keep Winter Cool campaign, winter enthusiasts learn how they can make a difference. Individual resorts conduct local outreach campaigns. (Link, 2004) The Keep Winter Cool message is also passed on with bar coasters, chairlift bar signs, lift tower signs, magazine ads, and television commercials. (Clean Air, Cool Planet, 2004)
Winter enthusiasts are learning that it doesn’t take a lot to make a change. They can buy renewable energy, tell their elected officials how they feel, think about purchasing a fuel-efficient car in the future, replace snow tires and remove the ski rack at the end of the season to save on fuel efficiency, drive only when necessary – walk, bike, and ride the bus, when replacing appliances purchase energy efficient models, use fluorescent light bulbs, and tell people about Keep Winter Cool. (Keep Winter Cool, What Can I Do)
As the campaign has evolved over time, NSAA has provided environmental mandates to its members, in order to help set the example and lead the way for guests. In addition to the above mentioned simple steps, part of NSAA policy under the auspices of Keep Winter Cool, is that “Idling Gets You Nowhere.” (NSAA, Climate Change) Both resorts and guests can practice turning off vehicles in most situations. Again, it’s another small step. But, it’s a step that easy for everyone. Not only does it save money (idling for more than ten seconds take more fuel than restarting the vehicle), but it reduces carbon dioxide emissions which is a goal of Keep Winter Cool. (NSAA, Idling Facts)
Keep Winter Cool is a long-term program, and immediate results are difficult to measure. Much of what the program is asking people to do is to change their immediate and long-term habits. Measurably, only 122 of NSAA’s 332 member resorts are off-setting energy use with renewable energy or using green energy. (Hawks, 2008) This does not mean that resorts are not participating in the Keep Winter Cool campaign. Education programs may still be happening. However, there is the assumption that could be made that resorts themselves have a long way to go to be considered good stewards of the environment.
There’s obviously a need for the Keep Winter Cool campaign. Not only should winter enthusiasts follow a few of the simple steps set out, but the industry needs to listen to what it is proposing, as well. As the industry leads by example, in addition to the continued advertising efforts of Keep Winter Cool, the social marketing campaign may be become more successful. However, it’s hard to imagine young snowriders will put into practice what the industry itself is having a hard time doing.
Still, the Millenials are the next generation of skiers and snowriders. They want snow to be around for many years to come. The message of Keep Winter Cool – that we CAN do something about global warming will resonate with this altruistic generation. (Cone, 2006) Soon, though, they’ll want to see results – they’ll demand that the industry stops talking about it, and starts doing more.
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