In a bold attempt to help preserve the future of adventure holidays, The North Face is offering a helping hand to those whose business it is to encourage exploration and adventure, at home and abroad.
The clothing company’s motto is ‘Never Stop Exploring’ and in a bid to put its words into action it has announced a €1million (£890,000) fund to help companies, individuals and charities to ensure they can reopen again in the future. Adventurers are championing the initiative which will back businesses that saw custom “evaporate overnight.”
The Covid-19 Explore Fund is the first of its kind and provides critical financial support to those that make exploration possible. Open to the likes of mountain guides, climbing centres and ski schools in the UK, Germany, France and Italy the brand is keen for activities like these to remain an important part of the travel and leisure industry when the coronavirus loosens its grip on the world.
“The fund aims to ensure those who have worked to foster and inspire exploration before, will be able to do so once again, when the time comes,” said Amanda Calder-McLaren, brand communications director at The North Face.
“We hope through this donation that these organizations can continue to support the outdoor industry and create a new generation of adventurers and travellers.”
“We are looking for those that embrace the ‘Never Stop Exploring’ motto to step forward and this can involve organisations who participate in the following activities; camping, environmental education, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, trail running and alpinism.”
Working closely with national and local outdoor officials The North Face will allocate funds to worthy candidates – applications are open until May 22.
While destinations, companies and individuals who rely on summer holiday trade face fresh concerns that the peak holiday period could be ‘cancelled’ this year many in the outdoor and adventure industry have been in trouble since the coronavirus pandemic first struck at the start of 2020. A huge part of the industry’s annual programme was cut short when the ski season ended prematurely in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, as ski resorts in the Alps were identified as virus hotspots.
Richard Harrison is a ski instructor and mountain guide in Val d’Isere, who uses the booking app SkiBro to connect with customers. His livelihood was stopped abruptly seven weeks early due to the closure of resorts but he’s confident Covid-19 won’t dampen people’s passion for the slopes and his role will be as important as ever. “I’m sure people will be back skiing when this is over,” he said. “As a teacher I love to share the skills, physical sensations and emotional feeling of the adventure with my students, guests and friends.”
While predominantly a clothing brand, offering ranges for all types of outdoor activity from mountaineering to fell running and skiing, The North Face has always played a role in inspiring future adventure and exploration.
During its 50 years in the outdoor industry the company has led some of the world’s most daring expeditions. Most recently two of its athletes Hilaree Nelson and her partner Jim Morrison, completed the first ski descent of the narrow Lhotse couloir, from the summit at 8,516m in the shadow of Mount Everest in the Himalayas.
“For more than 50 years, The North Face has dared to lead the world forward through exploration, and we felt compelled as leaders of the outdoor industry to help and support the global community in this time of need,” said Amanda.
By standing up for its outdoor industry comrades The North Face aims to remind us all about the importance of adventure when we travel. “Exploration means different things to different people but during this time when people’s movements have been so restricted, the universal feeling around the world is that we as people desperately miss the freedom and fulfillment that the outdoors and adventure activities provides,” she said.
“Embarking on new adventures requires courage and sparks curiosity within us all. Travelling is just one way to seek out adventure, but it helps open our minds to new cultures, new communities, and new environments. True growth lives at the edge of our comfort zone.”
Jenny Wordsworth is one such individual who thrives when on the edge of her comfort zone. She returned from a major solo expedition in Antarctica in February and has had several others now cancelled due to the virus. “For my fellow adventurer friends and I, there has been an immediate and severe impact on income. Any collaborations with brands or marketing campaigns on social media were immediately, and quite rightly, paused. A huge part of what I do is encouraging others to take on their own adventures and explore the great outdoors, in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown being announced that usual message was obviously no longer the right one to be pushing,” she said.
“As a The North Face Explorer, I feel nothing but pride that they’ve announced this initiative. I’m on the Board of the Scientific Exploration Society and have encouraged them to apply for the grant too. Many charities have faced a severe loss of income and so many are trying to help with that any way they can,” Wordsworth continued.
It’s not just those who look live, work and play in the world’s biggest mountains or most extreme environments that can benefit from the new Covid-19 fund – The North Face hopes to help those closer to home too.
Jack Oliver runs Mountain Adventure Lake District, offering outdoor activities across the Lakes, skills courses, training and guiding on national challenges like the 3 Peak. “Like a lot of people across the board my world and business evaporated overnight. It’s great that a brand like The North Face has come up with an incentive to really kick start outdoor businesses,” he said.
“I always encourage people to get out and enjoy green space – there are endless reasons why it’s great for us. The pandemic has forced us to appreciate it even more. It’s the first time in a generation that we’ve been told to stay indoors and being stuck inside leads to a subliminal craving for the outside. We’re not creature design to be restricted to the indoors,” he continued.
Jenny agrees: “My hope is the pandemic encourages everyone to incorporate more exploration and adventure into their leisure time going forward. I think we’ll see far more mini-adventures taking place in the UK, whether that’s exploring the Munros of Scotland or camping in the Lakes.”
The fund is just one of the new initiatives launched by the brand, as it adapts to new ways of serving and communicating with its loyal following during the pandemic.
The brand supports some of the world’s leading names in action-sports, adventure and exploration, including legendary big mountain snowboarder Xavier de le Rue and 2019 Freeride World Tour snowboard champion Marion Haerty, who have contributed to its Home of Exploration hub, which features expedition films and home workouts, hoping to inspire us all to retain a sense of adventure while refined to our homes.
“We hope through our Home of Exploration hub that people will be inspired to explore. Whether it is a longing for a new experience or revisiting your favourite places, we want to encourage individuals that while exploration is not possible today, that it will be tomorrow,” said Amanda.
While she admits finding funding for large-scale expeditions may be “more expensive” and remote expeditions will be “harder to achieve” Jenny is one of those yearning for future adventures. “I really hope one of the main takeaways from this time is the importance of slowing down and prioritising time away from our busy, hectic lives to appreciate the simpler things. I think adventure and exploration are the most profound and instinctive ways that we achieve that,” she said.
“The North Face have always been led by their purpose to lead the world forward through exploration, and here amidst the most crazy episode of everyone’s lives they’re focusing on what they know best and how they can help those in the world of adventure who’ve been affected.”