Colorado Ski Country says time ripe for shot at Utah
Colorado’s ski resort association made no apologies Thursday for taking the latest shot in what is developing into a marketing battle with neighboring Utah.
Colorado Ski Country USA – which represents 25 resorts in Colorado, including the Aspen Skiing Co.’s four – rubbed Utah’s nose in the fact that it lost early-season World Cup ski races to Colorado due to lack of snow.
It’s all really just “friendly competition,” according to Charlie Mayfield, Colorado Ski Country’s vice president of marketing and communications.
But Aspen Skiing Co. executives don’t think it was all that friendly to our neighbor to the west.
“For us as a state to draw national attention to lack of snow in the Rockies is stupid,” said John Norton, Skico chief operating officer.
Colorado doesn’t exactly have snow conditions worth bragging about right now, Norton added. Besides, he said, a ski trip should never be based simply on snow depths.
“In two weeks Snowbird is going to get 60 inches of snow and we’re going to get 10. That’s the end of the contest,” said Norton.
Dishing it back to Utah
The latest round of the dispute started when Colorado Ski Country issued a press release Monday with the headline, “Colorado Trumps Utah to Host World Cup Openers.”
“The switch is a coup for Colorado and a tough pill for Utah to swallow heading into a season when Utah had launched a major marketing campaign in an effort to lure Colorado skiers to their state,” said the press release.
“Colorado has averaged over 11 million skier visits the past two seasons while Utah’s total numbers don’t match those of Summit County,” Colorado Ski Country’s material added.
The press release was repeated in a Colorado Ski Country insert in The Denver Post Thursday.
The copy has definitely attracted attention, said Mayfield.
“I’ve actually gotten positive feedback” from some Colorado resort executives and marketing directors, he said. He indicated he believes that all is fair in love and ski area marketing wars.
“We’ve had this one-upmanship for quite a while,” Mayfield said. “Utah fired the first shot. This was a chance to give Utah a little taste of their own medicine.”
He noted that Ski Utah, that state’s trade association, poked fun at Denver International Airport when it opened a few years ago by running advertisements that suggested luggage would get smashed.
Ski Utah has also erected billboards along Interstate 70 west of Denver telling people they would be skiing by now if they were in Utah.
And this season, Ski Utah’s goal is to increase skier visits from 3 million to 4 million in a flat market. They can only accomplish that by siphoning off skiers from states like Colorado, Mayfield noted.
Given that history, he believes it was time for Colorado to fight back.
Violated marketing maxim
But Norton, who rose through the ranks of marketing before entering ski area operations, said there is a marketing maxim that “the number one brand never takes a shot at brands further down the pecking order.” In this case, Colorado, the number-one skier state, violated that rule, he said.
“We [the Skico] continue to believe that Colorado – being the number one ski state – has the responsibility of ski stewardship,” said Norton.
Therefore, the Colorado Ski Country comment was “regrettable,” he said.
Skico President and Chief Executive Officer Pat O’Donnell, who is a member of Colorado Ski Country’s Board of Directors, said he complained yesterday about the press release to the organization’s leader, John Frew.
“I didn’t think it was necessary to word that press release in the way that it was,” O’Donnell said. “It was bully-boy stuff.”
O’Donnell noted that Frew was out of the country when the press release went out. Frew didn’t think it was necessary either, according to O’Donnell.
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Intersect Aspen, the new contemporary art fair at Aspen Ice Garden, will run Aug. 1-5 and will include 30 exhibitions.