A ski resort near Rossland is fighting to stay out of the hands of larger conglomerates by reaching out to its customers.
And the move is paying off.
Red Mountain Resort has undergone a crowdfunding campaign known as, “Fight the Man, Own the Mountain.” Set up last year, the campaign gives people partial ownership stakes in the ski hill in exchange for financial contributions as low as $1,000.
Don Thompson, president and general manager for Red Mountain Resort, joked about how the idea came about: “There might have been a beer or two involved.”
“The idea of Red Mountain, this little company reaching out to people to keep our independent ethos going, I think really resonated with people,” he said. “There’s value there for us, but also for the investors.”
The campaign first launched with a “Test the Waters” phase that sought to gauge interest in the idea, and found itself exceeding its $10-million goal with contributions from thousands of enthusiastic people.
Since it started actively seeking real commitments, the resort has received more than $1.5 million, which is enough to pursue numerous expansion projects, such as the updated Paradise Lodge that will open by the end of November.
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Plans are also in place to expand the resort’s high performance rental centre, parking lot and retail stores.
A luxury onsite hotel, dubbed The Josie, is being built as well.
It’s the type of growth Red Mountain hasn’t seen before in its 112-year history. And that suits Thompson and the rest of the leadership team just fine.
“It’s all quite gratifying,” he said. “It’s reaching a point where we’re going to be very sustainable in a very short period of time.”
The projects are part of Red Mountain Resort’s attempt to bring itself in line with the bigger hills, while remaining independent.
With Whistler Blackcomb being bought by Vail Resorts for $1.39 billion in 2016, 39 resorts are now owned by only three major companies.
While Vail portrays its various acquisitions as a benefit for the consumer — lower costs, the ability to use season passes at multiple resorts across borders — the “Fight the Man” campaign takes public perks a step further.
Minimum spenders still receive free lift tickets and lifetime access to a special clubhouse, while those who invest more (the resort accepts contributions up to $25,000) can have anything from custom skis and boards to five-year family passes.
Beyond the perks, Thompson said the amount of interest and actual capital it’s received shows the appetite for the sport remains strong, proving the experiment was a worthy one.
—With files from Aaron McArthur