Friday, September 4, 2009

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Whistler latest to drop skiing prices

WHISTLER, B.C.—Whistler-Blackcomb has cut its season pass price by 28 percent. Aspen Skiing Co. and the Sun Valley Co. earlier this summer also announced price cuts. Vail Resorts Inc. cut its season pass price last year.

The price will be $1,099 if purchased by mid-October. That's the lowest price in 10 years, observes Pique Newsmagazine. Ski company officials say that the price was reduced partly in response to the economy, but also in hopes of counteracting the so-called "Olympic aversion factor," in which visitors avoid Olympic host cities during the seasons when the event is scheduled.

Vail Resorts to recruit fewer foreign workers

BROOMFIELD, Colo.—Vail Resorts expects to hire 70 percent fewer workers from foreign countries this year. For a number of years it has arranged for H2B and other visas for workers to fill slots it can't otherwise fill at the offered wages. But with more U.S. citizens unemployed or underemployed, it doesn't need as many foreigners, company officials say.

The company has 16,000 employees, about 4 percent of them from international locations. The company has the greatest difficulty filling housekeeping and food-and-beverage jobs, which are mostly seasonal. As well, the company uses foreign workers in its ski schools, because of the communication skills needed for an international clientele. Their foreign workers speak 30 languages. Some specific jobs, such as operating winch snow groomers, also require skills that U.S. citizens may not have, said the company's Kelly Ladyga.

Vail operates four ski areas in Colorado, another one in California, and has a lodging property in Wyoming's Teton County.

Forest Service hopes to clear power lines

SILVERTHORNE, Colo.—The U.S. Forest Service hopes to begin removing trees within 200 feet of transmission lines and 75 feet from distribution lines in northwestern Colorado, where 95 percent of lodgepole pine forests are expected to die because of fungus spread by bark beetles now in an epidemic population. The Forest Service estimates it has 500 miles of such power lines on its lands, including 40 miles of power lines in designated roadless areas.

Health officials ready for winter of nasty flu

TELLURIDE, Colo.—Doctors and public health officials in San Miguel County continue preparations for the swine flu. Dr. David Homer, the San Miguel County health officer, said officials walk the line, wanting neither to cry wolf nor be unprepared.

This year, reports The Telluride Watch, people at high risk of contracting the swine-flu virus will be advised to get three vaccinations, one of the regular seasonal flu, and then two for the swine flu, but in doses a month apart.

But there won't be enough to go around, so those at highest risk will get first priority. Counterintuitively, those aged 19 to 24 will be at the first of the line among healthy people, and those who are 52 or older will go to the back of the line. That's because anyone alive in 1957 was likely exposed to a similar strain of swine flu circulating that year. That exposure gave them higher immunity to recurrent strains of the same flu.

Aspen Skiing to stress adventure in marketing

ASPEN, Colo.—The Aspen Skiing Co. has decided to shift its advertising message this year. Instead of emphasizing the need to reduce greenhouse gases, a campaign called "Save Snow," the company will be stressing the adventure of skiing.

In print advertisements, that translates into photographs showing snow riders hiking up Highland Bowl, an area of double-black-diamond ski trails, their skis and snowboards on their backs.

The Aspen Times reports that this isn't a black-and-white switch. Aspen Skiing plans to continue its environmental emphasis in some sectors, including direct-mail pieces sent to 400,000 addresses. But adventure, not climate, is now on center stage.

As well, Aspen plans to ramp up its marketing, although Jeanne Mackowski, the vice president of marketing, declined to disclose the budget increase at a recent community forum.

The company also plans some new products, including an offer for kids to ski and stay for free during March -- if adults book a vacation by Jan. 15.

Travel industry expert Ralf Garrison has warned ski industry marketereers that this coming winter will likely be a rough, similar to March during last season. He reports that some ski area operators have been putting their very best offers out in the market early, while others may be waiting, saving their resources for the 11th hour in the booking cycle.

Aspen's "kids in March" program appears to be well conceived, he says. "While historically a strong month, March underperformed last year, and with uncertain market conditions, they are rightly taking nothing for granted," Garrison says.




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