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Kindling a passion for the mountains

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"Then the second phase of it is between ourselves, between the suppliers and tour operators, to get us all working together for a common good, instead of each of us doing our own individual thing," Cook said.

And the message has to reach urban city centres, not just the local, usually rural, communities surrounding ski areas.

The Skitops Industry Vision Committee hopes to enlist the voluntary help of athletes, ski and snowboarding instructors, resort marketers, travel planners and "virtually anyone who has a stake in snow sports" to become mentors and motivators with schools, churches, synagogues, public recreation centres, and various youth organizations.

Concurrently, the task force intends to develop a Web site listing children's programs, events and special offers aimed at enticing kids and families to share the joys of winter in the high country. The working name of the effort is "Mountain Clubs."

In addition to Skitops, organizations participating in the effort include the SIA, the National Ski Area Association, Professional Ski Instructors of America, The Skiing Company (which publishes SKI, Skiing, Freeze and Transworld Snowboarding), Ski Area Management magazine, Snow Monsters (a video company), Mountain Travel Symposium, EM&M Consumer Ski Shows, BEWI Consumer Ski Shows and Ski Maine for Kids.

The program was introduced at the SIA conference in Las Vegas in March and at the Skitops conference in Whistler last month. It will be presented at the NSAA conference in May.

Rosard emphasized that this isn't a one-shot, quick-fix attempt.

"It's a two- to three-year project at a minimum just to get it started. We can't re-invent the sport and the industry overnight. We need continuity and long-term commitments."

But he hopes that the first elements of the campaign can be rolled out in time for the next ski season, which will get extra attention from the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"We need to leverage the visibility of skiers such as (1998 freestyle Gold Medalist) Jonny Moseley, who really connects with children," Rosard said.