Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Marketing group touts progress

Taxpayers see how their $800,000 is being spent

Express Staff Writer

It remains to be seen whether Candice Pate, interim leader of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance’s operations, will be awarded the permanent position. That decision will be announced in no more than 20 days. Photo by Willy Cook

The progress of the fledgling Sun Valley Marketing Alliance has remained behind the scenes since $800,000 of taxpayer money was given to the nonprofit three months ago.

That all changed Monday when the alliance—charged with promoting the Sun Valley and Ketchum areas—revealed the fruits of its labor at a joint meeting of the two city councils. The cities each bet $400,000 on the new organization last winter when they abandoned their longtime promoter, the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, in the hope that new blood would spur new ideas.

Candice Pate, interim leader of the alliance's marketing efforts, advocated on Jan. 20 that the cities showcase the area's status as the original American ski resort through the creation of short video stories.

Three of these eight videos—each a couple of minutes long—were shown for the first time Monday. The first centered on the Trail Creek sleigh ride. Pate read a short introduction before pressing the play button.

"Your chauffeur is a cowboy," she says. "He picks you up at the Inn in a sleigh and carries you through meadows, to a dining room Hemingway frequented. Eating at Trail Creek Cabin is a tradition for many, and an experience for all."

The video shows all that Pate reads, beginning with tight shots of a horse in a stable and the slow, steady, sincere voice of a cowboy—the sleigh driver.

"Something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a human," he says.

Pate then shows two others, the themes being "Sun Valley Suns hockey team" and "Galena Lodge."

The common thread throughout is repeated at the end of each video: "the original mountain town." Then appears a Sun Valley logo.

"There's an opportunity to disconnect here that doesn't really exist in other places," said the Galena Lodge operator in a video.

The other films centered on ski patroller Ashley Young, snowboard coach Andy Gilbert, mountaineer Melissa Arnot, photographer Dave Stoecklein and a snow groomer named The Beast. The alliance also produced 12 photo vignettes on Apple's Bar & Grill, Grumpy's, Java on Fourth, Iconoclast Books, Silver Creek Outfitters, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, fly fishing on the Big Wood River, The Elephant's Perch and Sun Valley's tubing park, bowling alley, Roundhouse restaurant and Nordic Center.

Pate said more would be produced around summer activities, still centered on the same theme of family-friendly fun. The original plan was to put all this content on a website——within Sun Valley Resort's existing site. However, Marketing Board President Jake Peters said in an interview that the alliance is no longer committed to this plan and is reconsidering how to expose this material to as many people as possible.

Peters said rethinking the website has nothing to do with a similar site that has sprung up in the meantime,, which is the same address minus a period. Hailey resident Jennifer Biondi said in an interview that she created this site shortly after the alliance's Jan. 20 presentation, which she attended and which was where the alliance revealed its plan to use

Biondi said she questioned the intentions behind using taxpayer money to build a site with Sun Valley Resort's site and checked to see if was already taken. In discovering that it wasn't, she built her own site dedicated to letting anyone in the community post their events, businesses or anything else.

The possible website is just one project of many filling the alliance's plate.

Peters said a permanent candidate has been chosen for Pate's interim position. That person will be announced in 20 days at most. He said the alliance launched a central lodging booking system on its website, He said $20,000 worth of reservations have been booked there since the mid-January launching. The site itself is averaging 15,000 visits a month, up 20 percent from this time last year.

Greg Randolph, manager of the chamber and visitors bureau within the alliance, said the shared Facebook page with Sun Valley Resort has attracted 1,000 new fans since January. He also said the alliance brought senior editors here from Powder magazine, The Ski Journal, Ski magazine and other publications. He said it was the first Sun Valley visit for five of the seven editors.

The alliance, in conjunction with Sun Valley Resort, has also submitted proposals to host Transworld Media's 2012 Industry Snow Conference here and Powder magazine's 40th anniversary in 2012. The area has already been awarded host of the 2011 and 2012 USA National Mountain Biking Championships, and a website has been built for everything related to the races—

Despite the contentious transition of the alliance's taking over the previously independent chamber of commerce, Randolph said membership hasn't dwindled much and totals 350, eight less than this time last year.

"The business community is putting some faith in us, and that's exciting for me," said Randolph, who took the reigns in late February.

All members of both city councils praised the progress, using words like "fantastic" and "fabulous."

Ketchum Councilman Curtis Kemp said he stopped paying for his chamber membership about five years ago.

"I'll be in there tomorrow with my checkbook," he said.

Trevon Milliard:

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