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Q&A with Becky Ayers: Editor of NSAA Journal

Posted by Crystal Lague


Q&A with Becky Ayers: Editor of NSAA Journal

The National Ski Area Association, NSAA, is a trade association for ski area owners and operators. The NSAA represents 313 alpine resorts that together account for over 90% of skier and snowboarder visits nationwide. Its members include an additional 414 industry suppliers. NSAA members enjoy a variety of benefits including subscription to their bimonthly publication The NSAA Journal.


What is your role with the NSAA?

      As editor, I’m responsible for producing the association’s bi-monthly magazine, the NSAA Journal. I’m essentially a one-person publications office. I assign the articles, edit them, and also write content, but I couldn’t do it without the help of two fellow staffers—Dave Byrd, NSAA’s director of risk & regulatory affairs, and Earl Saline, director of education programming. Those two give me a lot of support and come up with some really great article ideas. They also write some of the articles, which is invaluable.

            In addition, I hire freelance writers and other subject matter experts. I also handle the production management, which involves working with our graphic design agency, Moxie Sozo in Boulder, as well as our excellent printer, Vision Graphics. There are only 12 employees at the NSAA office, so it’s a tight ship, which makes for a compressed publications schedule. I do some general communications duties as well. I help write press releases for the association and provide editorial support to other departments here at the national office. It’s a busy job, and needless to say I am not bored.


What are some of the benefits your members get from reading the Journal?

One of NSAA’s primary functions is to conduct a variety of educational events that support ski area owners, operators, and other resort management throughout the country. Not everyone gets to attend these conferences, conventions, and trade shows to learn about all the things that are affecting the industry, so the Journal is a very critical component of that communication to the management and operational staff at our member ski areas—as well as to others in the ski industry.

Another important NSAA function is to analyze and distribute key industry stats on a variety of issues that affect ski area operations. In addition, we’re very active in state and governmental affairs that affect the industry. While the Journal is a primary reference point, we also send out electronic communications on timely, pressing topics so that people will have that information as soon as possible, and we post some of that material on our website as well. Using all of these communication vehicles helps us ensure that all our members have access to the information.

       We strive to produce a publication that is much anticipated, that looks fresh and professional, and that contains essential, timely, and interesting content. Our hope is that people will find value in each issue, talk about it with their peers, and hang on to their Journals for future reference. Based on the feedback we get, many of them do—which tells us we’re doing something right.


The NSAA hosts a number of events—what are some of the more interesting items you have seen featured at these events?

The trade shows are a way for our supplier members to showcase the latest and greatest in terms of snow sports equipment, snowmaking and grooming technology, and a variety of other products. We’ve had mini drones flying through the trade show, girls in bikinis at snowmaking supplier booths, special appearances from gold medalist athletes, and so on. The trade shows can be pretty lively, and they are an important component of our regional conferences and also our annual convention, which have an educational focus on the operational aspects of ski area operations…everything from risk management and human resources considerations to marketing and sustainability. We also have several risk management workshops that are held in different parts of the country during the fall, a Western Winter Conference and Trade Show and an Eastern Winter Conference and Trade Show, and the National Convention and Trade Show, which is the big one, with as many as 700 or 800 attendees.

Our educational sessions cover a broad spectrum of issues that affect ski areas. Recently we had a session on what to do in the event of a terrorism or active shooter situation at a ski area, and we brought in some presenters from Homeland Security to discuss how to handle such an incident. It’s a very remote possibility that something like that would happen at a ski area, but you can’t be too prepared any place where the public is going to be. It’s very smart to be forward looking and that’s one of the things that NSAA tries to provide its members.

Another thing that’s been really interesting in the last couple of years is drone usage at ski areas. There have been all kinds of legal hoops to jump through and that’s one of the things NSAA has been involved with—working with governmental agencies with respect to setting rules not only for the ski areas themselves but also for the general public visiting ski areas.


During your time with the Journal is there any particular article or issue that stands out as being something you are especially proud of?

Over the past few years our members have responded very favorably to our ongoing coverage of drone technology and the laws that govern the use of drones at ski areas. Another hot topic has been ski areas’ compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Our member areas are working to ensure that their properties, operations, and even their websites are all accessible under the ADA. And, I would say our coverage on the millennial generation has been very good—learning as much as we can about that huge demographic, what their motivations are, and why more of them aren’t involved in snow sports. Digging into those character aspects has been really fascinating and enlightening. We also did a good article leading up to the Olympics in Sochi in terms of what the Russians had to go through to prepare a ski area in a very unconventional climate for alpine activity. It was interesting talking to some of our suppliers who were involved in that.

We also do a fair amount of coverage on what’s referred to on the industry as “terrain based learning,” which has in the past several years been a revolutionary way of grooming beginner terrain at ski areas to make it easier for people to learn.


What has your experience been in working with Vision Graphics/ Eagle XM?

The responsiveness to my concerns and suggestions has been really strong. I have enjoyed working with Scott Smith, who has been an excellent rep and makes sure that Vision does whatever needs to be done to get the publication produced in a high-quality, timely manner. Scott is sensitive to the fact that we have a small staff and that I’m usually pushing my deadline. He’s done a great job of keeping things on track to the fullest extent possible. One of our concerns was the length of time it takes to get our publication in the mail. Scott has really been on top of that.  His follow up has been excellent, and Vision has managed to shave some time off the production schedule, which has been wonderful.


You can learn more about the NSAA by visiting www.nsaa.org


I actually found this more enneitarting than James Joyce.

By Karinthia on 2016 10 19

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