Any skier who has thrown out an old pair of skis can appreciate the pain involved in the process. A non-skier might think “what’s the big deal?”, but a skier knows that a simple pair of skis can represent innumerable mountain memories… laughter, tears, joy, awe, adventure, friendship… perhaps you rode up your first chairlift in those skis, made your first snowplow, took your first fall. Perhaps they’ve been passed down through generations of sisters, brothers and cousins. Perhaps they were a cherished Christmas present and helped you tackle your first double black diamond, or took you into the backcountry for the very first time?

Randi Kruse, a social marketer at the Resort Municipality of Whistler, decided two years ago that she wanted to help solve the personal pain of throwing out a precious pair of old skis, as well as the environmental problem of ski waste. Thus Ski Heaven was born: a Whistler-based business that upcycles used skis and snowboards into creative art and furniture pieces. Randi explains that the idea behind Ski Heaven materialized after she read This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. She decided that she wanted to do something to address climate change that was “more publicly visible” than her social marketing consultation. Although Randi knows that there are many more significant contributors to climate change than ski waste, she hopes that Ski Heaven’s pieces will “serve as a symbol of commitment to action on climate change”.

Ski Heaven offers a wide array of products, from elegant wine racks to inspirational coat hangers to cozy outdoor furniture. After only two years of being in business, Ski Heaven has diverted over one metric tonne of metal and plastic waste from the landfill into functional, everlasting art pieces and has satisfied over 100 customers in the process.

Ski Heaven is a proud alumni of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability’s very first Social Venture Challenge; an initiative that encourages, supports and helps to grow new social ventures in the Sea to Sky Corridor through mentorship, capacity building and spreading awareness. Randi explains that “the business model canvas and mentor support helped me to refine my direction and understand how to develop a structured plan”. Being a social marketer, Randi was comfortable with the branding and marketing of her startup, but admits that “the disciplined approach to defining revenue streams and customer segments was crucial for me. I still have a lot to learn in those areas”. Ski Heaven has recently released a market research survey and is still welcoming responses. All survey participants are entered to win a unique Ski Heaven art piece!

Randi is excited to attend the Social Venture Challenge 2017 Pitch Event in Whistler this Wednesday, June 28th. Six social entrepreneurs have gone through the Social Venture Challenge 2017 and will be pitching their finalized ideas to a panel of judges for the chance to win $3,000 to put towards their venture (tickets are still available and can be purchased here)! When asked what advice she would give to this year’s participants, Randi suggested that the new entrepreneurs “start small and experiment before making big time or financial investments in a particular direction”. She also wished to remind participants to “take breaks and be kind to yourself; if what you’re doing was easy, it wouldn’t be innovative”.

By Nicole Nauss