Project Zero/Plan for Zero To Launch in 2013/14

Photo courtesy KCO

Article from today”s Tuesdays with K-CO, on the Verde Voice

Full disclosure: As I pondered dropping in an over-used cliché, I quickly clicked over to to ensure I was using it accurately. … Here’s what I found.




a considerable swell of the sea, often caused by a distant storm or earthquake or by the passage of waves into shallow water


a strong public feeling or opinion that is detectable even though not openly expressed: a groundswell of discontent



Groundswell happens to be one of my favorite books about affecting change via social media’s reach, written by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. The popularity of this book is largely why I judged the word groundswell to be an over-used cliché. I wasn’t aware that it is a word with lineage reaching back to the 1820’s. After looking it up, I realized that this noun and its formal definitions perfectly encapsulate the tornado of a movement that touched down at the SnowSports Industries America trade show this past week.


The No. 1 definition of groundswell mirrors the often unspoken sentiment we all feel when we read about a loss of life in the backcountry.

“A considerable swell in the sea caused by a distant storm or earthquake, or the passage of waves into shallow water.”

The indescribable feeling of loss, of having been right there so many times, of the hardest question: why?

Four of my employees, just this past week, are experiencing the deep weight of such a loss. It will not quiet. Nor should it.

The No. 2 definition of groundswell speaks to the undercurrent of fear, apprehension and responsibility that I believe so many in the outdoors and snowsports markets are feeling right now.

“a strong public feeling or opinion that is detectable even though not openly expressed: a groundswell of discontent.”

Imagine bringing a new, innovative avalanche airbag to market and showing it to your best retail accounts. It’s a success – the buyers get it, you priced, positioned and spec’d it perfectly. The orders are in. Now you have to deliver both in product and in marketing, which will very likely be aspirational-based images of a skier or rider barely discernable due to the face shot being experienced in the deep, pristine backcountry powder. You think of the user of your product and hope that he or she never has to actually activate it.

What’s the accountability you feel around bringing that product to market responsibly? You kick this question around in your own head, largely keeping it to yourself. Maybe you discuss it with your colleagues within your company. You wish there were resources to help you with this – kind of like an automobile manufacturer who relies on people having a driver’s license to drive the car you’ve just designed.

SIA 2013 truly had a groundswell of discontent on the topic of backcountry safety. It was a shared sentiment with the energy of a collectively caged animal – why? All of us want to contribute, now, to create more awareness and cut the losses we’re seeing from backcountry pursuits. There is fragmentation where there should be cohesion around this movement within our markets. To address this, Verde hosted a panel on day 1 of SIA this year, called the “Business of the Backcountry.” SIA shared with us that it was one of the best attended in the shows history.

As industry pros, we are a passionate lot. We work in these markets because we love to be outside and share that with all who will let us. Among professionals in the snowsports markets, intention, energy and drive are once again omnipresent to affect the change that’s needed to create strong awareness around personal responsibility and stewardship when participating in backcountry sports. The Denver Post, in its Saturday Feb. 2 edition, covered the SIA backcountry topic here. The article, written by our own Jason Blevins, highlights several of the most poignant points made during the panel.

As an industry that’s seasonally-dependent, we have had some rough years of late. It almost defies logic that the snowsports and outdoor markets are seeing incredible growth in the backcountry-travel sector despite the wildcard of the snowpack. According to SIA research, published Jan. 17 of this year, last season, there were an estimated 5-million backcountry participants who collectively purchased $40-million worth of apparel, gear and accessories specifically for backcountry travel.

These numbers defy logic and point to a groundswell of interest and enthusiasm in backcountry skiing and riding. By all accounts, this interest is still growing and will continue to. Seasoned enthusiasts and naïve newcomers comprise this interested participation base and the snowpack doesn’t discern which side of that fence they’re on.

As an industry, we all know we’re sitting on an incredible opportunity for engagement and growth with this surge in backcountry participation. We also all know that the opportunity is bound to responsibility. Lastly, we all know that this opportunity is laced with potential crisis and perception management if the current rate of deaths and injuries from avalanches continues.

The industry holds the reigns here; we must come together and figure out how to create a usable, sharable solution stat. A groundswell is called for, one that’s fast, hard-hitting and throws risk awareness and management front and center to all users of the backcountry. We, as the industry, are the messengers.

Time for action, no more talk.

Tom Murphy of AIARE hosted an avalanche-education awareness discussion just before the Verde panel at SIA. Read about his panel in the Summit Daily here and on . Tom and his team have created a solid start to creating action with the Project Zero initiative.

My brand communications agency, Verde PR, will be working with Tom and AIARE’s Project Zero to drop the engine of marketing and engagement around his message. Our goal is to bring in the industries’ collective hands on deck to create engagement and awareness around Project Zero.

Verde is entirely committed to leading the charge from a marketing and aggregation of resources standpoint. We invite all interested snowsports and outdoors professionals to make contact with us so that your contribution can become part of the Groundswell our industry will be creating on this critical topic.

Send inquiries to

Thanks to the many, many people who approached us after the panel last week at SIA with business cards, energy and resources at the ready.

Verde is in the midst of creating a plan for alignment and awareness. We believe the timing is now to catalyze awareness on this incredibly important topic throughout 2013 and into winter 2014. We’ll be posting updates on progress and will look to you for feedback.

Time to get after it!