The National Ski Areas Association’s partnership with nonprofit Sharing Warmth Around the Globe has helped deliver 265,000 coats, pants, and other winter-weather gear to places ranging from Afghanistan to Nepal. It also builds good will among NSAA’s members.
Back in 1999, when Bill Jensen assumed the role of CEO at Vail Mountain, he told his wife, Cheryl, about the 12,000 ski uniforms piled up in semitruck trailers in the resort’s parking lot.
Ski resorts like Vail Mountain tend to retire their staff uniforms every few years, and what results is an accumulation of high-quality—sometimes even designer—winter-weather gear. And because of the branding on the coats, pants, and other gear, it often can’t go to charities within U.S.
“Well, let’s do something about that,” she told him.
In 2000, after hearing news of displaced families in war-torn Kosovo, Jensen convinced a local group to distribute the coats in the country. Sharing Warmth Around the Globe (SWAG) was officially born.
But, after a couple of years of driving a U-Haul truck around Colorado to pick up discarded uniforms, completing inventory on them, and figuring out which nongovernment organizations (NGOs) could distribute them, Jensen realized she needed some help. She turned to the National Ski Areas Association.
With NSAA’s partnership, “the rest was history,” Jensen said.
To date, SWAG has distributed 265,000 coats from 135 ski resorts to 24 different countries, ranging from Poland to Pakistan. Currently NSAA handles the administration—asking its member ski resorts for donations–while Jensen finds an NGO to work with to distribute the donated gear worldwide.
When possible, SWAG will also step in to help following a natural disaster. “It’s a great program to bring the ski resorts together in a unified manner to really do something to give back—and especially when there’s a humanitarian crisis like an earthquake,” said Jensen. “We rally together to get that stuff out.”
Throughout the years, SWAG has worked with a number of NGOs—including HELP International, Samaritan’s Purse, and World Vision—to get the coats distributed. It has also teamed up with the U.S. Department of Defense, which will ship the coats for free on military transports when there’s space.
All in all, Jensen calls the collaboration between SWAG and NSAA “remarkable.”
More information about SWAG can be found on its website.