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Mountain Riders Alliance: Skiers Founding a Movement through Social Media

3p is proud to parter with the Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course on a blogging series about “sustainable marketing.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here.

By Pete Blanchard

The power wielded by social media is undeniable and is clear to any casual observer. However, in the hands of a revolutionary, a community organizer or an entrepreneur, this power reaches its full potential. As an entrepreneur, the opportunity to leverage the influence of social media has provided an unprecedented opportunity. The story of the Mountain Riders Alliance (MRA) and the buzz it has created in the ski industry is a perfect example of this.

The core concepts of MRA first emerged in the summer of 2009. Deep in the heart of the Patagonia region of Argentina, founder Jamie Schectman, a passionate long-time skier, was surfing the ski message boards and blogs and sensed an opportunity. A segment of the ski community was increasingly dissatisfied with the direction of the industry; the time for change had come, but where?

Schectman received an email from a friend about struggling Shames Mountain in Terrace, British Columbia. The mountain was on the market and had the potential to be a new kind of ski area; one that focused on community values and the rider experience rather than high-priced real estate and luxury amenities. Schectman launched the Shames Mountain Co-op Facebook page, followed by a website and chat room, and began building a presence on industry message boards and leveraging third-party content on blogs such as this.

The buzz created found its ways to the pages of Powder Magazine, the industry standard for hard core skiers, with this article in the January 2009 issue by John C. Davies.

Due to a different vision from some in the local community, plans for the Shames Co-op were put on hold. However, the support garnered and buzz created through the process pushed Schectman forward. He continued to use both public and private message boards, a Facebook page established to support the Shames Mountain effort and other social media tools to help define the message and develop key contacts.

Leveraging the power of these social media tools, he recruited supporters from around the world; collaborating with people hailing from the far corners; including a web developer in Australia and a U.S. soldier in Iraq. Using a spotty internet connection from a tiny cabin in Los Molles, Argentina, Schectman and his wife Shanie Matthews officially launched MRA in September 2010, with a press release, a Facebook page, website and blog. MRA utilized these social media outlets to help expand its growing momentum in the ski community and develop key media contacts that would support this process.

Now as MRA approaches 3,000 fans on Facebook, has been mentioned in Outside Magazine by sustainability leader Auden Schendler and is featured in this month’s Powder, it is clear that the movement has turned more than a few heads.  Each step along the way, social media played a pivotal role in building the MRA brand, as well as defining, refining and delivering their message. What’s amazing and indicative of the times that we are living in is that MRA was able to build their brand and message before the products (sustainable ski resorts) were brought to market. In fact, the group was able to engage their supporters first, who were then able to help fine tune the message and vision. Only in this day and age can a revolution, a peaceful protest or a game-changing business be created with this kind of speed and success, leveraging the collaborative efforts of the many. The internet changed the world, social media changed the internet.

To learn about MRA and its growing presence on the web:



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