New snow brings dollars, skiers to slopes

The white stuff outweighs the green stuff.

Or, good snow trumps the bad economy.

The holiday season is among the busiest periods for Colorado ski resorts — President’s Week is another biggie — so it’s not unexpected to find lines in restaurants and at the lifts during the height of the Christmas-to-New Year’s week.

Resorts this year, however, had to fight off fears of the soft economy by offering impressive deals ranging from free rentals and lessons to stay-free lodging, but in the end, what really made the difference was Mother Nature.

When most of the state’s resorts started getting new snow just in time for the holidays, the reservation phones started ringing.

“One of the things we are seeing this year is a lot of people have decided to do two things” before making reservations, said Kirsten Texler of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. “They are waiting to see where the snow went and then they waited until the last minute to see where to drive to.”

That last-minute focus on procrastinating skiers and riders is easier when it snows as much as it did and the storms grab headlines.

“We absolutely see spikes in skier days corresponding with snow (and) the early snowfall provided us a great boost for the holidays,” said Sarah Allen, Powderhorn Resort spokeswoman. “We couldn’t ask for better timing. When it snows as much as it did here, people can’t really escape the snow message. Our efforts focus less on traditional marketing and more on quick reactions to storms.”

That means taking advantage of the Internet and Web savvy of their customers, who look for updated information and snow conditions on Web sites and through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

“We even do text messages,” Allen said. “It shows people proof that conditions are good and kicks off word-of-mouth.”

And any resort marketing person will tell you there is no better advertising than word-of-mouth.

Telluride, too, noticed a good crowd of skiers and riders over the holidays, where new snow falling during the Snowboard World Cup gave the world a view of Telluride at its wintry best.

“Our skier numbers have actually been on par from last year, mainly due to Telluride’s great momentum now,” said Maryhelyn Kirwan, the resort’s communications director.

“We’re enjoying great skiing conditions, two new luxury hotels, redesigned and spectacular on-mountain restaurants and new terrain opening the last three seasons, so we are definitely on a roll,” Kirwan said.

The best news, now that the holidays are over, is “we’re actually in a pretty good booking situation as well for the rest of the season,” she said.

The long-term results of great holiday snow (see word-of-mouth, above) are people go home and tell everyone else what a great time they had.

“We have noticed a lot of great buzz about the quality of conditions,” Allen said. “Everyone wants to brag about a powder day!”

Texler noticed something else, particularly about Colorado Front Range skiers, those who commute to Summit County and all-too regularly get stuck in what amounts to the Interstate 70 parking lot.

“People are learning that we’re not that far away, and if they are going to be stuck in traffic for four hours, why not be moving and enjoy our lack of crowds and great snow?” she asked. “We carried the snow advantage into the holidays and this year a lot of people are deciding to drive a little rather than fly to their vacations.”

Colorado resorts announced January is learn to ski and ride month and there are a sleigh-load of offers and deals available.

Powderhorn, for example, is offering women $10 off the price of a lift ticket every Thursday along with special deals on women’s clinics. See the Colorado Ski Country USA Web site, http://www.coloradoski.com, for more offers.

“The public knows there are good deals out there, and they are learning how to find them,” Texler said. “But there’s no marketing that beats uncrowded conditions and great snow.”


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