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Snow patrol: the man behind propski


Meet Will Chambers, who is also our Investment Director, who in 2012 masterminded and continues to run Propski.

Billed as officially the UK’s largest property ski trip, it’s an annual event where property professionals, can meet and network through a range of well organised yet easy going activities and events in the invigorating setting of Chamonix in the French Alps.

What started seven years ago as 75 people, now has a full organising committee and in 2018 sold out and saw more than 300 people attend. 2019’s event has also just sold out with over 330 delegates due to attend.

We talk to Will to find out what it’s all about.

Why did you found PropSki?

I used to run university ski trips at The University of Reading and ran the ski racing for the varsity races (Oxford Vs Cambridge). I thought there was an opportunity to run one for the property industry where you can ski and network at the same time.

From the point of conceptualisation, it was about sharing a passion for skiing and making new acquaintances in the industry in an informal environment.

I floated the idea with some fellow property industry peers in a West End pub in 2010 and shortly after formed a committee to deliver the event.  After that it was a case of convincing people and companies to sponsor.  One of the first was Andrew Hynard when he was at JLL (now Howard de Walden Estate), he just ‘got it’ and encouraged JLL to sign up as a sponsor.

Whilst there are other property ski challenges out there we have always run on our three key values which are to be: inclusive, affordable and accessible.

Who helps you to run PropSki?

Amazingly we are now a committee of 11 made up from a broad representation of the market with surveyors, agents, developers and funders.

What’s your role?

For me, I conceptualise and direct and the brilliant committee helps to deliver it.

We use NUCO Travel, the snow sports travel agent, to book and handle the finances and arrangements.

What is the aim?

For us it’s about having fun whilst doing business and making new connections.

Time is precious so having to justify being out of the office is important. The challenge is to get the right mix of people so that everyone benefits from the event.

 How do you market yourself?

We have been lucky in that our growth has been due to word of mouth and our relationship with EG, the industry magazine that is our media partner.

We focus our advertising around trying to attract the right people. When we talk about advertising we have quotes from our supporters which include Richard Upton, Deputy Chief Executive at U+I and Guy Grainger, EMEA CEO at JLL.

Who attends?

We wanted to ensure that we broke the mould in terms of skiing being seen as elitist which is why we adopted our three core values.

Each year, we take between 15 to 20 beginners which is a great experience for them and a great environment to learn.

People come from small consultancies to large companies, from across all property sectors.  Some self-fund while some companies contribute or pay for the whole thing.

In 2019, we will have over 150 of the attendees over the age of 35.  We have attendees from their 20’s through to their late 50’s and even have a masters race (M J Mapp) to accommodate the more senior delegates.

How does the event work?

We have two packages: Short week is Saturday to /Wednesday, and the Full Trip is Saturday to Saturday.  You can come for as little or as much as you want though with the events only wristband.

We front load the events in the three-day period. It’s a 50:50 split on which format people chose.

On the first night U+I and EG hosts a cross sector networking event. People catch up with old faces and meet new ones. We have support from each sector i.e. Residential Development Agents Society, Completely Retail Group, Office Agents Society, RICS Matrix to name but a few.

Sunday is a free skiing day with lessons for those that want them and then we meet for Après Veritas Welcome Drinks for informal networking.  Think Aperol spritz and saxophonist with an alpine back drop.  For 2019, we have exclusive use of LM Brasserie in the centre of Chamonix.

Monday is a Question Time panel event hosted by EG which covers topical discussions with notable industry figure heads.  In the evening we host the Paragon Mountain Meal with all 330+ attendees in the Majestic congress centre, a 100 year old building that is now a protected town asset, enjoying a three course meal from a local caterer with a charity auction and raffle.

Tuesday is the MacDonald & Company flood lit racing event on a private piste with four disciplines for male and female ski and snowboard races. There are over 35 and over 50 categories. It’s a chance for people to compete for their companies and in teams.  The cups are sponsored by JLL, GVA, Goldcrest Land, Freedman Hilmi and MJ Mapp.  We also have a load of great prizes from Salomon for the winners.

 

Wednesday will see the Legal & Contingency eponymous Mountain Challenge which is an orienteering exercise around the mountain with lots of challenges along the way. It is a great team building exercise whilst being able to ski the mountain.

Thursday is the Aston Rose ski tour with 15 guides and in groups of 10 we explore the mountain and then meet for lunch. The day ends with a live band and networking.

What’s included in the package?

The short break package is £625 and the standard week package is £799.  We also offer a variety of upgrades and downgrades to cater for all budgets whilst also introducing an events only wristband.

We offer accommodation, unlimited Mont Blanc lift pass, access to all events, and breakfast.

It’s not all business and networking – you are also fundraising?

Yes, Paragon hosts a mountain meal which historically was 3,000m up on the Grande Motte with a three-course dinner, a big raffle and auction. In 2018 it raised £11,500 for our charity partner LandAid and £3,500 for Elifer Foundation which aims to improve care, facilities and equipment for severely disabled children.  In 2019 we are hosting the event in an old hotel which is now used for conferencing and have chosen a local, well respected caterer to prepare the meal for the event.  Think Beauty & Beast meets decadent ball.

Why do you think it has grown?

We put our success and year on year growth down to our reputation for being a genuinely enjoyable networking event combining fresh air and sport.

We gather feedback each year and make changes to improve the experience

You moved to Barwood Capital in 2017, what is your vision for PropSki 2019 and beyond?

I will continue to run PropSki but the event organising takes up a lot of time, so the plan is to delegate some of the roles and bring in new ideas.

We take the philosophy that we run the trip for the attendees and we adapt the event depending on the feedback and discussions at the end of every trip.

We are going to focus more on the shorter week trip with more content for people without eating into the skiing time.

It’s all about building relationships with people not just talking business across the table but having intellectual debate which sees positive results and feedback.

We need to ensure that there are 300+ relevant people there that broadly represents the market. We could just increase the numbers as every year we have a waiting list, but we need to ensure we have enough depth for everyone. We need to deliver the best events and the best standard.

For me, I’m keen to grow the number of people who work in the regional markets as traditionally we have attracted people working in London. We are looking at hosting an event in Manchester and we have an East Midlands group that attends.

Lastly, why do you continue to chair PropSki?

There is nothing like the adrenaline of going down a mountain too fast. It clears your mind as you can only concentrate on surviving.

Employers should invest in their staff to participate in events such as this where socialising is paramount. Whether that is financially or through holiday allowances.

It’s a testament to the PropSki reputation when we see so many attendees paying out from their own pockets to come on the trip.

Seeing people relaxing, having fun, doing sport and naturally building relationships; that’s what keeps me going.

Thanks to:

Rupert Parker – GVA

Chris Walters – JLL & London and Partners

Paul Arthur – Paragon BC

Pamela Reid – Kier

Georgia Morton – Seneca Property

Lauren Shields – LEO

Jon Klass – Cushman & Wakefield

Rebecca James – Rapleys

Rachel Leigh – DS2

Henrietta Nowne – U+I

SPONSORS

JLL

GVA

U+I

Barwood Capital

M J Mapp

Aston Rose

Goldcrest Land

Freedman & Hilmi

Veritas

City Voice & Excell

Legal & Contingency

MacDonald & Company

Adventure in Architecture

Eb7

ITC

AFFILIATES

RDAS, COMPLETELY GROUP, OAS, RICS metrics, Lionheart

Find out more: http://propski.co.uk/

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