January 1, 2009
The ski industry, and the local economies in our mountain towns that depend on that industry, have undergone a subtle shift in the last 5-7 years.
Certain regions and/or states have always banded together to market their areas as a whole. Each area contributes dues, share of revenue, transferrable passes and other assets to a central nonprofit organization whose charter is to grow business for all involved.
Some have worked, some have stagnated, and some have been dissolved as resorts have been acquired. One of the most successful, for example, was Ski the Summit, which promoted Summit County's Keystone, Breck, A-Basin and Copper. When Vail bought Keystone, Breck and the Basin in the mid-90s, they quickly disbanded the effort and left Copper out.
The most visible entities now are Ski Utah and Colorado Ski Country (which Vail just quit last spring). This week, Ski Utah launched yet another groundbreaking program to promote state resorts.
Ski Utah makes more news
In a partnership with Southwest Airlines, site visitors can submit their Utah travel tips and enter to win a huge ski vacation. This comes at a critical time, when saving money is on the mind of every traveler.
Ski Utah, the new-millenium leader
The real story here is Ski Utah. Over the past two years, they started a popular blog that features video cut right from the resorts. They sponsored a cycling team. They found a dozen corporate sponsorships for their November Fat Flake Festival. Their central booking site does equal traffic to Colorado's, (even though Colorado's ski industry is four-times Utah's size). They do all this by putting Utah ski resorts in the news day in and day out.
They continue to launch groundbreaking ideas that other states can only copy. It seems to be paying off, Utah enjoys record numbers each year, while Colorado's actually shrank last season (in the face of a record season nationwide).
What's next for the state that once defined US skiing?
Colorado's product is still excellent, perhaps it just needs momentum. Colorado Ski Country, unfortunately, has undergone a lot of change over the last decade.
There was a period where membership could not agree on where to market. There has been some dissension among smaller resorts as they felt they were not being promoted adequately. And there have been several staff changes predicated by Vail's departure and deliberate effort to cripple statewide marketing efforts that might detract from VRI's personal market share.
No matter what the environment now, the shift is to the west, and the leaders at many Colorado resorts are watching Utah very closely.
[Ski Town Journal]