Adventure 16, a leading specialty retailer in Southern Calif., has announced it will be shutting down its successful Wilderness Outings program. The reasons? Insurance problems first and foremost, with a little hint of budget considerations.
According to company president John Mead, "Insurance is a battle that I fought almost every year since the early 90's trying to convince the insurance company that Outings was a program they should cover along with the rest of Adventure 16. We, of course, have liability coverage on the entire company, and insurers have always been nervous about our Outings program, but have always found a way to insure it."
"Unfortunately, three years ago only two companies were willing to cover us and then last year, only one, and they really forced this decision. What the insurance company wanted us to do was form a separate company for Outings and insure that separately, but when we looked into the costs involved, it made no sense."
According to Mead, Outings has always been very highly subsidized by Adventure 16. On average, the company paid an additional $75 over and above the course fee for every person going on a Wilderness Outings program. And it wasn't going to get cheaper.
Liability coverage had almost doubled in the last two years for Adventure 16, and the company's workman's compensation coverage had more than doubled over the last two years, with coverage for staff on Outings programs costing the most.
"When the insurance company told us this year that despite the fact we have never had a successful claim against us in nearly 20 years of operation, they would not insure us as long as Outings was part of the company, we realized, as much as it hurt us emotionally, that we could not afford to do it any more," says Mead.
Mead told SNEWS that A16 always has been committed to outdoor education and that the company will look to aggressively expand their in-shop clinics and slide show programs.
In addition, SNEWS has gotten wind that a number of Outings staff are looking to start their own program, which Mead said that Adventure 16 would certainly promote that heavily.
"We want to make sure we are offering our customers a way to learn about outdoor skills and be inspired," says Mead. "Teaching outdoor skills and inspiring outdoor participation is central to what Adventure 16 is all about."
SNEWS View: SNEWS's own Michael Hodgson founded Adventure 16's Outings program in the early 80's, along with his friend Gray Stanard. Jeff Cooper succeeded Hodgson as the program's director after Hodgson moved on to a GM position at Western Mountaineering, and Cooper took the program to amazing levels, including AMGA certification for the climbing school. Outings spoke to the very soul of what A16 was and is all about. Without it, the retailer will have to work very hard indeed to fill the space, both emotionally and practically. We have no doubt that an expanded in-store clinic and slide show program will help to carry the torch at some level, but until A16 aligns itself firmly with a separate program that embraces the philosophy of education and inspiration as Outings did, the loss will be felt deeply. We can only hope that the ex-members of A16's Outings program find a way to organize and move forward -- same program, different name, different owner, same soul.