The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Sarah Neith, Director of Public Affairs at Ski Vermont, a ski area association for the state of Vermont, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 12/4/2012:
Nick: Thanks for partipating in the Q&A with the AlpineZone community, Sarah! How do you see the competition between yourself and other state associations nearby, like New Hampshire and Maine?
Sarah Neith: While we are all competing for visitors from a similar region, we all also share the goal of promoting the sport of skiing and New England tourism in general. However, I think Vermont also stands apart from other states on the East coast on many points. We certainly have the most amount of skiing terrain per capita and square feet. We also have superior snowmaking at 80% coverage and of course, the Vermont charm and landscape are all a part of our attractive brand.
Nick: Can you talk a little to the history and goals of Ski Vermont, and what kinds of measurable impacts you have had on the Vermont ski industry?
Sarah Neith: Ski Vermont was originally founded in 1969 as a lobbying presence in Montpelier, the state’s capital, when significant changes were being developed at the State House on a host of issues affecting ski areas, including tax and environmental policy. That year, there was a move in the legislature to make lift tickets subject to a higher sales tax than other goods and services, which we were able to defeat. In the years since, we have achieved countless victories on a wide range of issues, some with very measurable results while others more intangible, ranging from repealing the statewide property tax on lifts and snowmaking equipment, to making the land use permit process more streamlined and predictable, to successfully lobbying for the designation of skiing and snowboarding as the official state winter sports.
As the collective voice for the industry, the expansion of our efforts into marketing and public affairs was a very natural and logical progression, and since the 1970’s we have anchored and developed the Vermont winter brand on behalf of the resorts in our core markets through a constant presence in the marketplace – whether through conventional methods such as advertising, social media, ski shows and media receptions with members of the press in key cities or through more creative means, as with our Ski Vermont magazine and our iconic poster series. In addition, we are able to constantly amplify our messaging through impactful partnerships with the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, Cabot Cheese, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Long Trail Brewing and others. While the results of these efforts can be measured year to year on the basis of skier visits to our mountains, the brand loyalty impact of all of these efforts is truly immeasurable.
Nick: Can you describe a little what benefits you bring both from the standpoint of the skier / snowboarder; and of the resort?
Sarah Neith: Our outlined impacts on the Vermont ski industry that we touched on in the last question very basically cover the resort benefits. All of our resort partners benefit from the marketing, governmental affairs, and public affairs work that we do. For the skiers and riders, we are a great resource for an overarching view of what is going on at ski resorts in Vermont. Our website provides stats and contact information for each resort, as well as a daily ski report with snowfall and trails open – all in one place. We also collect details on events, programs, developments and deals from each resort and disperse them through press releases, newsletters and via social media to help keep our skiers and riders informed about all the great things happening at Vermont ski resorts.
Nick: Are there any new pass deals or cross-resort pass ideas in the works you can share with us?
Sarah Neith: There have been several new pass options this season from Vermont ski resorts. Here are a few highlights:
The Millennial Pass is the newest season pass offering from Okemo. Designed for the “20 something” crowd, the Millennial Pass is valid 7 days a week, including holidays at Okemo and Mount Sunapee without blackout dates.
The 2 for U is an unrestricted, all access College Season Pass to Smugglers’ Notch and Bolton Valley! This pass offers skiing and riding at two big mountain resorts that average over 300 inches of snowfall, with a total of 148 trails, hundreds of acres of glades and eight terrain parks to choose from.
Threesome College Pass to include both mountains of Sugarbush Resort as well as Mad River Glen for full time college students.
The Judge Pass – Unite the Kingdom and ski Burke Mountain and Jay Peak all season on one pass. No restrictions. No blackouts. And over $200 in on-mountain discounts.
Scotty: I love Vermont, however I live in New York and the North is just too far away to make trips to unless it is for 3 days or more. Do you have any efforts to try and either push for improved access or plan your own trips up (e.g. bus rentals, transit deals, partnerships with clubs, etc.)
Sarah Neith: I think I heard something about faster Amtrak service to New England in the future…not sure if that entails the Vermonter route, but its certainly a possibility if they are looking into it. I’ll try to see if I can find out more with our Amtrak contacts and swing back around to this!
BenedictGomez: What happened to the app, will you bring that back? Looks like it was built out, but than barely utilized. A few mountains put some very limited stuff on there, but it seemed to me like it would/could be a good source for push marketing, especially last minute deals etc…
Sarah Neith: The app was before my time, and from what I gather it was done for free by a company that wanted to give us a trial run. Unfortunately, it wasn’t stellar and the expense to keep it after the trial was not worth the investment.
This year, however, we’ll be launching and Ski Vermont: Check In to Win program that gives incentive to check in to your ski resorts via FB or FourSquare to be eligible to win prizes like swag, lift tickets of bragging rights. It will launch within the next month.
Also, the new app Vermont Powder looks like a similar approach to the app we tried out a few years ago.
darent: Do you have a e-mail list that you can join to get information from your participating resorts on last minute deals, upcoming events and other pertinent info?
Sarah Neith: You can sign up for one right on our homepage at http://www.skivermont.com/
Sky: Any chance Sugarbush will return to participating (in some fashion) to the Mountains of Distinction program? Stratton, Okemo, Bromley and Killington are currently listed as participating in some fashion. SB used to. Thanks.
Sarah Neith: I can’t answer for Sugarbush, but let me dig and get back to you
steamboat1: What was the reasoning for changing the purchase limit on 3 day Ski Vermont Passes to only one? For as long as I can remember the purchase limit has been 2.
Sarah Neith: They sold out so quickly and we had many customers that lost out – by limiting them to 1 per person we helped spread the love and made more people happier (though they still sold out fast!)
jimmywilson69: What does Ski Vermont consider to be there most significant challenge to helping growing skier visits in Vermont?
Sarah Neith: I think most resort will tell you getting and retaining first time skiers is one of the biggest challenges we face. The Learn to Ski and Snowboard month initiative is one of the ways we are working nationally to make that process more affordable and enjoyable to new skiers. Vermont offers $29 packages for beginners in the month of January which includes a beginner lift ticket, rentals and professional lessons. LSSM really promotes that professional lesson so give first timers the best experience.
xwhaler: Do some of the smaller VT ski mtns not join your organization simply due to the fees you charge to represent them? Nick adds: perhaps a better way to phrase this question, are there any non-participating resorts in Vermont; and are there efforts to get them to participate?
Sarah Neith: Which smaller mountains are you referring to? Cochran’s, Middlebury Snowbowl, Northeast Slopes, Suicide Six are all part of Ski Vermont as well…
To view forum comments on this Challenge and the Challenge Results, please visit the following page: