Diana Madson
Diana Madson
Government Affairs Director

Communities, the Environment, and the Economy Together at the Mountain Ventures Summit

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the Mountain Ventures Summit, a 3-day workshop of community leaders across fifteen mountain resort communities in the American West. Gathered in Telluride, Colorado, we discussed the economic model of mountain resort towns and how it shapes the local culture and community. Representatives from Bend, Jackson, Sun Valley, Telluride, Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, and seven other towns, shared their community’s evolution, concerns and their vision for growth and prosperity.

Mountain Ventures Image Credit to Christy Curtis and Crew Truckee Tahoe Real EstateMuch of this conversation was new to me. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade immersed in the science and politics of climate change and mountain areas. While I recognize that outdoor recreation and surrounding natural lands are critical economic drivers for many mountain communities both in terms of local business and quality of life for residents, I’m much more accustomed to hearing about it from a room of scientists and policy wonks, instead of one full of entrepreneurs and business leaders.

I was introduced to the term, “entrepreneurship ecosystem” for the first time, which as defined by Wikipedia, is “the social and economic environment affecting the local/regional entrepreneurship […], the elements – individuals, organizations or institutions – outside the individual entrepreneur that are conducive to, or inhibitive of, the choice of a person to become an entrepreneur, or the probabilities of his or her success following launch”. The entrepreneurship ecosystem can include coworking, accelerators, incubators, housing, broadband, venture capital funds, mentorship networks, events, working with governments, working with ski areas, avoiding small town politics, regional strategies, etc.

Many of the participants at the Summit represent efforts to build and strengthen their local entrepreneurship ecosystem: Ketchum Innovation Center, Telluride Venture Accelerator, and more locally, the Tahoe Mountain Lab, SBC’s Sierra Small Business Development Center, Truckee Roundhouse (makerspace), and the Mountain Lab in Mammoth Lakes. These are programs to catalyze, nurture and accelerate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in mountain towns.

What makes the Mountain Ventures Summit unique was that it was the first time as far as I can tell that these peer efforts have been brought under one roof to begin to solve the big picture challenges and move toward the big picture ambitions, such as:COMM DM Telluride2 2017

  • What can be done about the current reality that resort towns tend to be comprised of people who either ‘have two house or have two jobs’? (The Mountain Lab in Mammoth Lakes has a goal to bring 100 local jobs that make $100k per year that aren’t dependent on cooperative weather.). 
  • How can the changes brought about by the internet affect the ability to leverage skills?
  • How can mountain towns encourage talent to adopt a future-forward approach to their careers; one that makes mountain living plus impact realistic rather than dreamy?

These issues are shared across most mountain resort communities (I’ve seen it firsthand through my work at The Mountain Pact). One saying brought up frequently at the Summit was ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ Through efforts like the Mountain Ventures Summit and its subsequent network, entrepreneurs in mountain resort communities can work together to identify best practices and new ideas to make faster and more reliable progress in mountain communities.

SBC is a strong believer in this concept, working for decades to support a unified Sierra-region working to ‘lift all boats’ through economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and community vitality. Opportunities like the Mountain Ventures Summit allow us to learn from our peers in the Intermountain West and bring the best ideas back to the Sierra. And this climate-nerd is especially looking forward to applying what she learned about entrepreneurship ecosystems to our own innovative region, where climate science and business best practices are a match made in triple bottom line heaven.


Top photo courtesy of Christy Curtis and crew, Truckee-Tahoe Real Estate
Cover image courtesy of Diana Madson