OGDEN — According to the old adage, “a rising tide raises all ships.” For the local ski industry, a good snow benefits all resorts.
In this case, the tide or the snow in question is a new campaign by Salt Lake City to brand itself as “Ski City USA.” The effort benefits not only the resorts in Salt Lake County, but all of the resorts in Northern Utah, including Ogden.
The $1.8 million campaign is an effort to lure skiers away from top destination spots like Colorado and earn a bigger chunk of the lucrative winter sports market.
“It’s catchy, it has a super strong brand to it,” said Jason Dyer, spokesman for Snowbasin Resort.
Elliot Bisnow, the founder and CEO of Summit, which owns Powder Mountain, agreed saying that having a compelling moniker like this can drive a lot of visibility and tourism.
“Huntington Beach, California is known as Surf City, USA and that has been a big boon for the town,” Bisnow said. “Given the number and quality of resorts within 60 minutes of Salt Lake City and the ease of travel, it certainly deserves it.”
A package of online and print advertisements highlights the benefits of Salt Lake City being a short drive from four ski resorts located in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons east of Salt Lake City: Alta Ski Area, Brighton Resort, Snowbird Ski Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort.
Resorts in Ogden Valley and Park City benefit as well.
The campaign will bring more skiers to the state, Dyer said, which is good for everyone.
“I think it is a win for the Utah ski industry,” Dyer said. “We’re very excited we think it will bring more eyes to the state of Utah and honestly bring more visitors.”
Salt Lake City is so centralized, Dyer said, that a skier can stay at the Little America, get on a laptop at 7 a.m. and choose one of numerous resorts within an hour.
Even for those staying in Salt Lake City, the Ogden-area resorts are usually a part of their ski vacation, spending at least one day in the valley, at Snowbasin, Powder Mountain or Nordic Valley.
Officials unveiled the campaign during a news conference on Tuesday.
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said prime ski destinations in the United States offer the quality of terrain and proximity to a major airport and large city with restaurants, bars and nightlife.
McAdams was joined by other local government leaders, tourism officials and ski resort executives during the unveiling of the campaign.
“It’s about time that we all got together and realized this whole valley is the base camp for the skiing that will happen in our four ski resorts,” said Tom Dolan, mayor of Sandy, a Salt Lake City suburb that sits down the hill from the ski areas. “We all benefit from skiers who come here from all over the world.”
Visit Salt Lake President Scott Beck said the new campaign is absolutely aimed at luring skiers away from Colorado, which annually registers about three times more skier visits than Utah, according to figures from the National Ski Area Association. Last season, Utah had 4.1 million day visits from skiers and snowboarders — compared to 12.6 million in Colorado.
Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, said her office’s research has shown that more than half of people who are shown a picture of Salt Lake City’s skyline with the mountains behind think it is Denver.
“It’s outrageous that we have the product and they have that brand,” Varela said. “This gives us the story that we deserve to have on the national stage.”
Although it may indirectly benefit from the campaign, the new marketing campaign doesn’t include three resorts near Park City, also located a short drive from Salt Lake City.
Last week, Vail Resorts Inc., a ski industry titan based in Colorado, purchased Park City Mountain Resort in a move that put an end to a messy legal battle between the two major companies and paved the way for the creation of what could be the country’s largest resort. Vail also operates the adjacent Canyons ski area.
McAdams mentioned Park City by name in listing other ski towns that don’t match what Salt Lake City has to offer. But Visit Salt Lake President Scott Beck said the campaign isn’t a response to Vail’s entry into the market or an attempt to steal skiers away from their neighboring resorts.
The four resorts in this program are partners with three Park City resorts — Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort — in another long-term plan that is being promoted by Utah ski officials. In a program being called, “One Wasatch,” a plan is being hatched to link seven ski areas with connecting lifts that would give the state a European-style experience.
If that plan comes to fruition — there is no timeline yet — it would be like “Sky City on steroids,” Beck joked.
The campaign is paid for by Visit Salt Lake, which gets its revenue from a tax visitors pay when they stay at hotels. The branding campaign won’t replace the long-running statewide slogan, “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” which is on Utah license plates and used throughout promotional materials.
Whatever the slogan, Bisnow said elevating the profile of snowsports in Utah generally has a positive impact across the industry — a rising tide lifts all ships.
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