Ski Channel hopes to catch skiers stuck at home | AspenTimes.com

Ski Channel hopes to catch skiers stuck at home

Catherine Tsai
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Economy got you down? Shrunken portfolio keeping you from splurging on that luxe ski getaway?

The Ski Channel debuts Christmas Day, several months later than the video on-demand channel’s founder initially predicted yet still in time to catch skiers and snowboarders longing to take advantage of fresh snowstorms ” but who may be stuck at home instead.

“We are like Disneyland,” The Ski Channel Chairman and CEO Steve Bellamy said Wednesday. “We want to create the happiest place on television.”

Disneyland calls itself “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

The channel will offer free mountain sports programming to an estimated 15 million customers of Verizon’s FiOS TV, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, DirecTV and Bright House Networks.

That’s fewer than the number of people who watched Sunday night football on NBC this week, but Bellamy said he hopes to add another cable provider with viewers in key ski states within a few weeks.

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The Ski Channel will offer three television series and a handful of cult adventure films including Warren Miller’s “Steep and Deep” as soon as it launches.

Bellamy didn’t disclose costs for launching the channel but said they were far less than what it would take to launch a traditional television channel. The tennis club owner and avid skier previously started The Tennis Channel, estimated to have had launch costs of at least $100 million.

Though ski resorts have benefited from snowstorms in the Pacific Northwest, Rockies, California and Northeast, companies like Vail Resorts Inc. and Intrawest ULC that draw big spenders from other states have announced job cuts this season amid a weak economy.

Bellamy conceded that generating advertising is much harder given current conditions, but he’s not convinced the ski industry will suffer more than anyone else.

SnowSports Industries America, a trade group for snow sports manufacturers and distributors, reported that sales from August to October were up 9 percent from the same time last year to $507 million, albeit driven by preseason clearance sales. Vail Resorts said earlier this month that while lodging reservations are down, season pass sales for its five resorts are up.

Bellamy said he has been working 18 hours a day, seven days a week for the past two years to launch The Ski Channel, based in Pacific Palisades, Calif. On Christmas Day, he plans to watch his kids open presents ” and sneak a peek at his new channel.

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