Tiny resort report contains poor publicity for Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

Tiny resort report contains poor publicity for Snowmass

Janet Urquhart

One paragraph in a story about the struggles of tiny Hesperus ski area in southwest Colorado threatens to undermine the marketing efforts for one of the largest ski areas in the state – Snowmass.

Resort officials in Snowmass and Aspen Skiing Co. executives can do little more than groan and shake their heads over the latest publicity about Snowmass. The single paragraph in an Associated Press story that has likely been picked up by papers around the state, if not the country, notes a 30 percent drop in reservations at the resort. Expensive lift tickets, air travel problems and outdated reservation systems get the blame.

“We spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars a year encouraging people to book to come here,” said Rose Abello, director of communications for the Skico. “It’s really disheartening.”

The AP report distilled information from a story about Snowmass that ran last week in the Rocky Mountain News. It quoted a Snowmass ski shop owner who said business was down and who blamed the resort’s woes on problems within the Snowmass Village Resort Association, as well as lift ticket prices and airline problems.

“Sometimes I think people are looking for ways to lose,” said Skico Chief Operating Office John Norton in a letter to the editor. (The letter appears on page 9-A.) “It’s too bad because it makes it harder on all of us who like to win. Good luck, Snowmass Village. The challenges for this season just got bigger,” he concludes.

The Rocky Mountain News reported the changeover in leadership within the Snowmass Village Resort Association and made note of the resort’s holiday deals, like lodging rates starting at $59 per person and $40 lift tickets for those who reserve lodging.

In addition, the Skico has for two years successfully marketed an early-season deal on lift tickets that lets buyers ski for as little as $39 per day, Abello said. And, by all accounts, airline service into Aspen has improved dramatically over past years.

But the Associated Press, noted Norton, has no clue about the recent upheaval within the SVRA. Instead, he said, the AP’s abbreviated information about the resort could be summed up as: “Snowmass problems linked to lift ticket prices and airline problems.”

“Early January is traditionally the strongest period for reservations for the entire year,” said Norton in his letter. “It’s heartbreaking to think of all the work people have put into selling Snowmass this season being ruined by someone who presumably is on the Snowmass team.”

“I don’t know where that AP story has run yet, nor will I for a few weeks,” said Abello, who receives copies of reports about Aspen and Snowmass from newspapers around the world through a clipping service. “What the specific impacts will be, I don’t know yet,” she said.

Norton, in his letter, offers a list of observations he wishes the ski shop owner had made, including steps the SVRA has taken to re-energize the organization, along with “terrific ski packages, airline seats available and the best conditions in years.”

Fortunately, said Abello, this busy week in Snowmass and Aspen may help counteract the poor publicity, as visitors go home and report the great ski conditions they found here.

Snowmass was reporting 2,350 of 3,010 acres open yesterday and a 35-inch base on top – a far cry from the dismal conditions at this time last year. And the steep and deep of Hanging Valley Wall, which rarely opens before Christmas, was opened last week.

“The good thing is, when these folks go home, they’ll talk about it. That word of mouth will help,” Abello said.

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