NSAA Honors Its President with Lifetime Achievement Award

NSAA Honors Its President with Lifetime Achievement Award

Sunday, May 07, 2017

LAKEWOOD, Colo., May 7, 2017—The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has presented its 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award to Michael Berry, NSAA president, who retires this fall after 25 years at the helm of the organization.

Over the course of his quarter of a century fostering the world’s largest and most influential ski industry trade association, Berry has successfully shepherded NSAA and the industry through unparalleled challenges, growth, and consolidation; assaults from climate change as well as demographic and economic forces; and an intensified legal and regulatory environment. Through his insightful leadership and passion for the sport, he has secured a remarkably stable foundation for NSAA’s long-term future and positioned the industry for sustained growth.

“I could not be more pleased than to recognize Michael’s contributions with our organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Tim Silva, chairman of NSAA’s Board of Directors. “In fact, it is somewhat poignant that he was my first boss in Sun Valley more than 40 years ago. Few in the ski industry are as deserving of acclaim and recognition from their peers than him.”

Berry has been involved in the ski industry for nearly 60 years. In an often-repeated yarn, the Slutzky family who owned Hunter Mountain gave Berry his first job at age 13, hiring him to clear ski trails with dynamite from the back of a pickup at their new ski area in New York’s Catskills Mountains. Since then, Berry has enjoyed success working at and managing some of the most iconic ski areas in the country, including Keystone Resort and Vail Mountain in Colorado, and Sun Valley Resort in Idaho. By 1980, at age 32, Berry was named vice president of Kirkwood Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe, and became the resort’s president five years later, while also serving two terms as the chairman of the California Ski Industry Association Board of Directors.

During a tumultuous time in the industry, NSAA hired Berry in 1992 to right the organization’s ship following the disbanding of the United Ski Industries Association, which was the formerly merged organization combining the Snowsports Industry Association and NSAA. In his role as president, Berry was also selected to serve on numerous prestigious industry boards, including the National Forest Foundation, the US Ski & Snowboard Association, the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships Committee, and the board for the Colorado State University’s Master of Tourism Program.

In one exhausting week over the 1997-98 New Year’s holiday, Berry calmly and expertly managed one of the largest crises facing NSAA and the industry: the back-to-back skiing fatalities of Michael Kennedy at Aspen, Colo., and Sonny Bono at Heavenly Resort, Calif. In the span of ski days, these two fatalities rocked the ski industry, leading to an unprecedented national and international media scrutiny on industry safety, helmet issues, and the risks within the sport. Berry made appearances with several media outlets while his team at NSAA faxed more than 600 press releases and skier safety information packets to ski areas, state associations, and scores of media organizations. At that time, NSAA had created a collection of industry “fact sheets” that, even to this day, easily and concisely provide at-the-ready industry statistics, context, and information for the media, answering common inquiries about the sport. Today, it’s a level of transparency that continues to be the model for other industries. Berry’s ability to articulate pro-industry positions with the media has been one of his most important and unsung achievements.

But it was Berry’s critical role in re-establishing NSAA as the dominant force and influential voice of the industry at a pivotal time when it was maturing after the first generation of owners and operators that really made him a standout. Under Berry’s vision, he led the industry toward a more sophisticated business paradigm with a new emphasis on creating and sustaining a growth model for the sport and future operators. Berry’s unrelenting promotion of NSAA’s Growth Model, launched in 2000, has been one of his most impactful successes during his tenure. Berry forcefully stressed the competing demands on families’ time and recreational choices affecting the growth of skiing and snowboarding. As a result, he led the charge for ski areas to improve guest engagement, invest in operational upgrades and resort expansions, prioritize equipment and product enhancements, and expand marketing incentives and pass options.

It was Berry’s advocacy that led to the creation of the Learn to Ski & Snowboard initiative in 2009, which has brought nearly 900,000 beginners to the sport. Thanks to Berry’s unyielding emphasis on resort trial and conversion initiatives, skier visits at US resorts grew considerably under his leadership. During the 15 seasons prior to Berry’s involvement with NSAA, skier visits averaged 50 million annually; in just this past decade, he successfully navigated the industry to an average of 57 million visits annually.

Under Berry’s guidance, NSAA led the industry with economic and demographic research to better refine market strategies for ski areas. He also steered NSAA to establish its bi-monthly magazine, the NSAA Journal, which has become the authoritative voice for sharing ideas, trends, and operational innovations in snowsports.

As NSAA’s president, Berry and his team developed cutting-edge safety and educational programs, and elevated the organization’s regional and national conferences and tradeshows. He emphasized state and federal advocacy programs to positively influence public policy on a wide range of industry concerns, including federal lands, water and environmental regulations, labor and employment issues, risk management and tort reform, and aerial tramway guidelines. Berry was also instrumental in growing the ski industry’s Gold Pass program—raising $4 million annually—to fund world-class athletes for national and international competitions and the Olympics. In April, for all of these contributions, Berry was deservedly inducted into the US Ski Hall of Fame.

To be sure, significant challenges remain for the ski industry, particularly in growing the sport against the competition of other recreational and leisure activities, climate change, and demographic upheaval. But Berry leaves NSAA with an incredible—and too often unheralded—staff that he nurtured, and he has built a remarkably solid and financially secure foundation for the organization’s continued success, influence, and growth. The hallmark of a great leader is to leave a lasting legacy of strength, relevance, stability, and impact.

The ski industry is indebted to Berry for 25 exceptional years of commitment and service,” said Silva. “It is my distinct pleasure and honor to celebrate Michael Berry’s considerable achievements with NSAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.”