Mount Bachelor management is canceling Free Ski Day, a popular annual charitable event that has been a tradition in Central Oregon for decades.
On Free Ski Day, skiers and snowboarders are allowed to ride for free in exchange for a donation of food or cash to NeighborImpact's Food Bank. Thousands of people come from all over Central Oregon as well as Portland and the Valley to take advantage of the deal.
In the past NeighborImpact has collected as much as 25,000 pounds of food from the event. Last year it received almost 19,000 pounds.
NeighborImpact, a non-governmental, non-profit agency that serves Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties, distributed more than 8,700 emergency food boxes this summer, providing food for nearly 29,000 people, according to its website.
Mount Bachelor spokesman Alex Kaufman confirmed that the resort is canceling Free Ski Day and said it had planned to officially announce the move toward the end of this week. He said the resort is switching to another system of charitable giving that will yield greater benefits to area organizations.
Instead of collecting "just one big pile of food" and giving it to the Food Bank, Kaufman said, the resort will give 6,500 vouchers to 10 area non-profits. The agencies will distribute the vouchers and recipients will be able to redeem them for a day of skiing at the mountain. Then $25 will be given back to the charities for each voucher turned in.
The first round of $25 charity vouchers can be redeemed midweek from Jan. 5 through 16, and the second round will be redeemable from April 6 through 17. Kaufman said a total of 6,500 vouchers will be distributed, half for the first period and half for the second. He said Mount Bachelor will be releasing more information about the program later this week, including when the first vouchers will be available.
"We're doing that so there's not 6,500 of them all on the market at the same time," he said.
Why is Mount Bachelor making the change?
"Basically the charitable giving [program] just hasn't been getting the job done in the last few years," Kaufman said. "This will allow us to leverage more money for the non-profits. Each of these [agencies] is going to be gaining between $10,000 and $25,000."
Kaufman acknowledged that abolishing Free Ski Day won't be a popular move with skiers and snowboarders, but argued that the benefit for area charities outweighs the public relations cost. "We're gonna see that on the charitable side this is a thousand times more effective," he said.
NeighborImpact Executive Director Sharon Miller was quoted in a Mount Bachelor news release as saying: "We're pleased to be part of Mt Bachelor's new charitable giving campaign. We appreciate our ongoing partnership with Mt Bachelor which helps to feed many families across the region. As part of this new charitable initiative we will be distributing the tickets within a few weeks so we hope folks will go out and ski for a good cause."
The Eye can understand why Mount Bachelor officials want to put a positive spin on their decision, and we wish them luck with their new system of charitable giving. But we have to admit that system sounds pretty cumbersome and unwieldy to us.
And with a major recession bearing down on Central Oregon the demand for food is likely to soar this year. Canceling Free Ski Day definitely will put a considerable crimp in NeighborImpact's ability to provide it.