Ever wonder about the power of the Web, and whether ski resort operators listen to the chatter?
Wonder no more.
Sugarloaf operators ran into a chat room buzz saw when they yanked the season pass of a longtime ‘Loafer for an off-hand but ill-advised comment he made about a tragic ski accident.
A 16-year-old student at the Stratton Mountain School skied off Spillway and hit a tree Jan. 20. She died the next day.
Posters discussed the accident and speculated about many aspects. One frequent poster, Exiled/Vonzipe, remarked Jan. 23 in the Sugarloaf chat room on what he perceived as marketing spin in a comment by one mountain employee reported in a news article.
Sugarloaf revoked his season pass Jan. 24 and told him he would be escorted off the premises should he show up to ski again this season.
Over the next two weeks, online forums erupted in outrage over what many called an attempt to muzzle free speech.
Enter Stephen Kircher, president of Boyne Resorts' Eastern Operations, who waded into the fray. (Sugarloaf is owned by CNL Lifestyle Properties and operated by Boyne.)
The upshot: Sugarloaf's marketing director Jim Costello and Exiled/Vonzipe met and talked, and the pass was restored.
This is worth noting because of the speed with which the incident spread through the Web world of skiers and riders, its reach across a variety of chat rooms, the nastiness of many of the comments, and the adroit way Kircher handled a very volatile situation.
"This was an example of the good and the bad aspects of online forums, and the challenge of dealing with facts before having all the facts," Kircher said.