Snowmass, Aspen turn attention to younger, more aggressive crowd |

Snowmass, Aspen turn attention to younger, more aggressive crowd

Catherine LutzSnowmass Sun correspondent

Faced with an aging population and an increasingly staid and stodgy reputation, promoters of Snowmass and Aspen are faced with a conundrum: how to convince young people to come here. After all, kids and teens often drive the vacation decision-making, and they and young adults are the future’s potential big spenders. Buy their loyalty early, marketers say, and you’ve got a solid leg to stand on in the future.”The [Aspen/Snowmass] brand has been hijacked,” Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry said at the Thanksgiving Snowmass winter launch event. “There’s a veneer over the resort that has a lot of glitz and glam, but it’s not the soul of the place.”Recognizing that “the definition of a family resort has changed forever,” Perry’s marketing and PR department is continuing a campaign that started a few years ago – right about when the Skico started courting the Winter X Games and beefing up its parks and pipes. “We have to make sure this resort is appealing to the next generation of skiers and riders. The success is in long-term efforts; you build the reputation and profile, which then translates to increased business.Roughly 20 to 25 percent of Skico’s marketing efforts go toward “filling the pipeline for the future,” Perry said. That’s marketing to youth and the youthful elements of families.And while Skico doesn’t track ticket buyers’ ages, Perry said internal surveys show that visitors are beginning to ski younger. Overall business growth has been about 2 percent or 3 percent the last two winters.Aggressively pursuing stories and photos in magazines like Freeskier, Transworld Snowboarding and Powder – which are generally read by young, single adults – has paid off in more visibility for the resort, Perry said.In Snowmass, the marketing department is taking the “young and hip” message and running with it. Shots of local athletes hucking cliffs and shredding deep powder grace Snowmass’ brochures, fliers, and magazine ads, such as the one in the December issue of Skiing magazine.Since its inception in the winter of 2002-2003, Snowmass’ marketing board has recognized that one of its prime markets is young, aggressive athletes, an important segment to lure, and one they hope will want to come after seeing Warren Miller’s latest movie featuring Snowmass’ extreme terrain.”One of Snowmass’ biggest strengths is customer loyalty, but one of its biggest weaknesses is not having new visitors in the pipeline,” marketing director Susan Hamley said.To that end, said Hamley, Snowmass’ family mailings also include messages targeted to the young, aggressive athlete category. But how much effort to focus on the young adults – who are not as liberal with their dollars as the older, wealthier families – is the source of some debate.”You can’t afford not to coddle someone sleeping on a couch,” said Reed Lewis, owner of Village Liquors and a 30-something single skier. Lewis pointed to an experience he had while traveling, when a resort spokesperson dismissed his inquiries about affordable lodging. Because of the disrespect, he said he’s less likely to visit that resort when he has enough money not to sleep on a friend’s couch anymore.But marketing board member Mary Harris, who runs the Mountain Chalet, said, “I will go bankrupt before they’re able to come back” if she drops prices to meet their expectations.