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Q & A With Mark Fisher of Unofficial Alpine

Fisher talks beginnings, trolling, and the end of Unofficial Alpine
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On Feb. 8, the very last post appeared on the Unofficial Alpine website after its founder, 42-year Alpine Meadows patron Mark Fisher, decided that operating the blog was being influenced by too much negativity. The website itself has been a resource for information on the weather, and conditions at Alpine Meadows primarily, while sometimes covering the goings on in neighboring Olympic Valley. At the time of this writing, Fisher’s last post has garnered 149 comments from readers.

“It’s an odd time to be pulling the plug, as last month we had nearly 100,000 page views, our biggest ever,” read Fisher’s last post on the site. “but the fact is, running this blog has sucked the last little bit of fun out of skiing for me. So it must end.”

How long have you been operating Unofficial Alpine and what led to its creation?
The story behind UA. It started off as the Alpine Meadows Freeride team website in 2005. In addition to training schedules and team info, I started adding in weather forecasts and some logical calls on what might operate on the mountain for training days. After a season or two, we realized that the readership was much greater than just the membership of the Freeride Team. When head coach Clay Beck died in a plane crash in 2008, that team merged in with Auburn Ski Club, and the team site became UnofficialAlpine.com. Initially, the goal was to create more of an online forum where more people could get involved and build a bigger community at Alpine Meadows. By turning more “outsiders” into “insiders,” that community would be bigger and stronger.

Have you received feedback from Squaw Valley Ski Holdings over the years, and if so, what did it entail? There has been very little “official” feedback from SVSH regarding the site. In fact, they barely acknowledged the site publicly. That’s contrary to the management under previous owners. Former GM Jim Kercher was the opposite, he actively communicated with me and understood the value of building a community. Unofficially, just a couple of employees have been extremely negative about the site, and that was just tiresome.

How do you feel about the trolling culture that seems to dominate websites and social media channels?
There definitely is a trolling culture out there, but not everyone is about that. My feeling is that there are just as many people willing to share positive feedback. Businesses that understand that work very hard to make sure that they are providing the best possible experience, so they can be more sure that people are making positive commentary via social media. Certainly there is not a small group of people that are disenchanted with SVSH. It’s not UA that created that disenchantment. It’s pretty clear that SVSH has done a poor job of listening to public opinion regarding the proposed Village At Squaw Valley project. For that reason, there seems to be a lot of mistrust of the current management and owners of SquAlpine.

Why did you decide to shut down Unofficial Alpine?
The goal of the UA site was to build a stronger community of skiers and riders at Alpine Meadows. All of that effort was being countered by the anti-community behaviors from SquAlpine: fighting incorporation, removing the Alpine Meadows logo from everything, elimination of all community building activities at Alpine other than Spring Music, and the elimination of all stickers from all locker rooms. You won’t find many people to state that the Alpine Meadows experience has not changed. Running the site was becoming too much work, with too much negativity, all with no real hope of creating real change.

Anything else you would like to add?
I am happy to see that some friends have already carried on the torch by creating the UnofficialSquAlpine.com site this week. I hope that people discover the site soon and give them some support.

 
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August 10, 2017