Inches aren’t all that matter, Skico advises customers | AspenTimes.com

Inches aren’t all that matter, Skico advises customers

The Aspen Skiing Co. hopes to convince prospective customers that inches aren’t all that matter – at least not when it comes to snow depth.

The Skico has launched a campaign to show that while West Coast resorts might get more snow, they don’t necessarily get better snow.

A lack of early-season snow and ongoing misperceptions about lousy snow conditions ruined business for the Skico last season. Skiers stayed away in droves after word spread after Christmas that the snow conditions here and in most of Colorado were poor.

Despite advertising efforts by the Skico and other ski areas, out-of-state skiers just never bought into the idea that conditions were respectable by late January.

The Skico’s business was down about 5 percent. Statewide, skier visits sagged even more.

To try to avoid that disaster again, the Skico devoted an entire press release in this year’s media guide to “facts on snow conditions and climate at Aspen and Snowmass.” The goal of the press release and information that will be posted on the Skico’s Web site is to get customers to look beyond inches of snow and consider issues like type of snow and coverage of slopes.

“Overall I think that’s one of the biggest challenges in the ski industry – not just in Aspen,” Skico communications director Rose Abello said of trying to educate customers about snow conditions.

Tourists are booking vacations later than ever these days, and many of them are using the Internet, newspapers and other sources to compare snow depths and go where there’s the most snow. The Skico wants to try to educate skiers and riders that the “most” snow doesn’t necessarily equate to the “best” snow.

The stakes are high, as Skico President and CEO Pat O’Donnell noted throughout last season. “I think you’ve heard Pat say if we have to have seven feet of snow before Thanksgiving to have a good season, we’re in trouble,” Abello said.

The emergence of the Internet as such a major tool in getting out information has been both a blessing and curse when it comes to snow conditions, according to Abello. It provides instant access to data, but not necessarily complete information.

The Skico’s Web site, currently under construction for the 1999-2000 season, will feature some of the same information about quality of snow that’s touted in the Skico’s media guide. Both feature a attention-grabbing chart called the “Aspen-Snowmass snow-base-depth index.”

That chart shows how increasing snow depths during the season affect the opening of terrain. For example, it shows that at about 30 inches of snow cover, black diamond trails start opening at Snowmass. At about 40 inches, black diamond and double-black diamond trails open at Aspen Mountain.

In addition to the chart, the press release in the media guide is loaded with information about weather, snow quality, terrain and grooming at the Skico’s four ski areas. Here’s a sampling of the Skico’s “facts” in that press release:

n “Aspen-Snowmass has the ideal climate and conditions for light, fluffy snow. It may snow more inches at West Coast resorts, but the snow there tends to be heavy and wet.”

n “Once storms arrive in the Roaring Fork Valley, the snow is significantly drier compared to coastal resorts – their snow has a water content of 15-20 percent, compared to less than one percent for Aspen-Snowmass snow.”

n In a thinly-veiled reference to Whistler-Blackcomb, the Canadian super-resort that has emerged at the industry’s 800-pound gorilla, the Skico information notes: “Some mountain resorts experience winter rainfall at the base or even on the slopes, but due to the inland climate and altitude of Aspen-Snowmass, winter rainstorms are an anomaly.”

n The Skico claims that its mountains provide “an ideal surface for snow to stick, therefore less snow needs to accumulate at Aspen-Snowmass to produce quality skiing and riding conditions.” It notes that the majority of its slopes are covered in summer with dirt, grass and wildflowers – not rocks. Even the steeper slopes, the press release said, “are not rocky due to years of summer slope maintenance.”

Is that type of information enough to ease fears of prospective tourists in a marginal snow year? Maybe, maybe not. Last year’s media guide included a similar press release with snow facts, but didn’t seem to lead to media coverage that helped.

The Skico’s best bet is early cooperation from Mother Nature.


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