Sunday, October 28, 2012

Switzerland Tries To Win Back Tourists


The Swiss currency gained 11 per cent against the euro in the first nine months last year, forcing the Swiss central bank to intervene with a pledge to buy unlimited amounts of the European common currency to ensure one euro would buy a minimum of 1.20 Swiss francs.
"The strength of the Swiss franc over the euro has caused a near nine-percent-drop in European tourist numbers" to Switzerland during the first seven months of this year, said Federico Sommaruga, who heads the emerging markets unit at Switzerland Tourism, the national tourist board.
But despite the strictly-enforced floor, Europeans still view Switzerland as an expensive, luxury destination that few can afford in a time of crisis.
To entice visitors back, rail operator SBB recently launched a 15-day offer for unlimited travel throughout Switzerland -- also including boats and buses -- for 199 francs. Initially aiming to snag 20,000 customers before the offer runs out in November, the rail operator says it has already sold 60,000 "Holiday Passports" since the launch only weeks ago.
Another initiative requires more of holidaymakers than catching a train.
Many ski resorts meanwhile have announced a freeze on ski-pass prices, conscious of the expected drop in bookings from many crisis-hit European countries. According to the Swiss weekly Der Sonntag, more than half of resorts contacted said their ski-pass prices were unchanged, whereas last year 80 percent of them announced price increases. Several resorts even announced price cuts for a day on the slopes, including Saas-Fee, in the southern Valais canton, and Engelberg-Brunni, in central Switzerland.
"We are preparing for another difficult winter, thanks to the strong Swiss franc", said Andreas Keller, spokesman for Swiss mountain lift company SBS.
Last winter season saw the number of skier days fall to 24.7 million, from 26 million the previous year, Keller said. "We struggled last year because of the strong franc, and because of several days of storms which affected the new year celebrations", he added.
But not all resorts are as badly hit. Those with a loyal Swiss following and which are close to towns have side-stepped the downturn.
But big resorts such as Zermatt, in the canton of Valais, and St Moritz in Grisons, often the preserve of well-heeled jet-setters -- have come down to earth with a bump.
To soften the landing, hotels in these resorts now offer sweeteners for guests: anyone booking in for at least two nights in in the Engadine region, for instance, is entitled to a ski-pass for around 25 francs a day, a fraction of the usual rate.
And in the Arosa ski resort, ski school lessons are free for children up to 12 years old, in an attempt to combat the growing number turning away from the sport.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Zermatt. A Gastronomic Paradise in the Swiss Alps

There is no greater pleasure after a long day of skiing than sitting down to enjoy a traditional raclette.
But Zermatt (Valais) offers much more than that. Twenty Zermatt Restaurants have been included in the latest edition of the most popular Swiss restaurant guide, the Gault Millau 2013.
The Omnia, the "Heimberg" Restaurant, and the Hotel Matthiol have entered for the first time in the prestigious guide.
"The residents of Zermatt and their guests are spoiled by the very best mountain restaurants in the Alps. Hotels with ambitious chefs…" The Gault Millau (GM) is full of praise for Zermatt in its 2013 edition. The restaurants included in the 2013 guide (18 up to now) have amassed a total of 248 points (246 up to now). The publishers of the Gault Millau write in their press release: "Gastronomic power continues to rise as before in Zermatt: the cuisine in the wonderful restaurants lining the ski runs is consistently good. There has been some change in the village but the density is impressive". The Gault Millau tasters have designated the boys from the isle of Capri as the undisputed "top dogs", who never cease to "amaze us every year" in the Mont Cervin Palace (Le Capri Restaurant).
The Omnia has been waiting a long time for its Gault Millau entry and now it's a case of "Welcome to the Club!" states the restaurant guide, referring to the 14-point performance by its chef Patrick Weber. The "Heimberg" Restaurant was also able to climb up the rankings. Christian Geisler garnered praise with the entry, "What the young chef from Salzburg, Christian Giesler, serves up, deserves to earn great praise", gaining the "Heimberg" 14 points (13 up to now). The press release goes even further: "Christian Geisler is the shooting star in the village. … we expect great things from him".
The Restaurant Dolce Vita is a new addition, although without an entry with points, as Roland Kilian only works in the Dolce Vita in Zermatt in winter. Like other chefs in Zermatt practically overwinters here like a migratory bird. He is now here for the second time (2012/2013 season).
The Hotel Matthiol also managed only an entry, as Chef Maria Gross is moving on with Patrick Zeh stepping into her shoes. He first needs to prove himself.
Nine Zermatt hotels included Tourists continue to seek out beautiful hotels where they can enjoy outstanding food. Of the 100 hotels designated by Gault Millau as "Gourmet Hotels", nine of them are now in Zermatt. This is because the Hotel The Omnia is now in the club, too. Zermatt has a total of over 150 restaurants, 50 of which are mountain restaurants plus a further 50 bars and nightclubs.

The 20 best restaurants in Zermatt
Gault Millau points
Hotel Alpenhof, Restaurant Le Gourmet15
Hotel Cervo13
Restaurant China Garden13
Restaurant Dolce Vita-*
Findlerhof Mountain Restaurant14
Restaurant Chez Heini13
Restaurant Heimberg14 (+1)
Hotel Matthiol-*
Hotel Mirabeau, Restaurant Le Corbeau d’Or15
Hotel Mont Cervin Palace, Ristorante Capri16
Hotel Mont Cervin Palace, Grill “Le Cervin”14
Restaurant Myoko13
Hotel The Omnia14 (new)
Hotel Post, Restaurant Portofino13
Hotel Schönegg, Restaurant Gourmetstübli15
Hotel Riffelalp Resort, Lounge / Al Bosco13
Hotel Sonnmatten13
Restaurant Zum See bei Max und Greti14
Chez Vrony Mountain Restaurant13**
Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, Restaurant Prato Borni13

*Two Zermatt restaurants have not been awarded points but have still been included. This is because the chef's successor must first prove himself (Matthiol) and because Roland Kilian is "only" working as a guest chef (Dolce Vita). However, he has cooked his way to 16 points in his former Rebstock Restaurant in Tschugg (Berne).
**Chez Vrony (picture attached) is one of a few restaurants that serves their own organic produce. The cattle eat nothing but the grass that grows on the mountain pastures. The dried meat, homemade sausage and mountain cheese served at Chez Vrony is all made according to time-honoured recipes handed down from one generation to the next, just like the restaurant itself. Indeed, all dishes on the menu are natural and authentic regional fare, but are often combined with a cosmopolitan touch.

Gault et Millau is one of the most influential French Restaurant guides. It was founded by two restaurant critics, Henri Gault (1929–2000) and Christian Millau in 1965. Gault Millau rates on a scale of 1 to 20, with 20 highest (Restaurants below 10 points are almost never listed). The points are awarded based on the (1) quality and freshness of produce, (2) creativity and professionalism in food presentation, (3) harmony of the menu, (4) timing of service, (5) presentation and salubriousness of dishes, and (6) consistency of performance.
Based on this rating, high ranking restaurants may display one to four toques.
The Swiss guide was established in 1982. Recognition is highly prized and requires a minimum of 12 points summarised as follows:

12 points. Good kitchen offering conventional and traditional cuisine
13 - 14 points. Very good kitchen with more than conventional cuisine
15 - 16 points. High level of cuisine and quality
17 points. Award for the best quality and consistency
18 points. Award for exceeding quality of cuisine and creativity
19 points. Award for a groundbreaking and outstanding cuisine
20 points. Never awarded

Mountain Rider’s Alliance and Brendle Group Announce Partnership to Advance Sustainable Ski Industry Model

Mountain Rider’s Alliance (MRA) has formed a partnership with Brendle Group, a Colorado-based engineering firm focused on sustainability that has worked for over a decade with the ski industry on climate change, energy, and other sustainability issues. MRA, a grassroots organization, is committed to transforming ski mountains into sustainable, eco-friendly playgrounds that benefit local economies and promote accessible outdoor recreation. Together, the two organizations will have a major influence in forging a new model for sustainability in the ski industry, focused on alternative business models for small and medium-sized resorts.
On the heels of MRA’s announcement of their partnership to convert Maine’s Mt. Abram—a recipient of a 2012 Golden Eagle Award from the National Ski Areas Association for its environmental stewardship—into its first sustainable Mountain Playground, Brendle Group and MRA will work together to develop and test a model for sustainability at Mt. Abram that can be replicated elsewhere. This will include comprehensive assessments of energy use, land use, procurement, and community sustainability to identify options for net zero carbon, energy, and water operations as well as integrating sustainability and local economic development.
Brendle Group will complete several other projects in support of MRA’s mission, including analyzing how sustainable practices can make small and medium-sized ski areas more economically viable. Furthermore, the firm will develop a screening tool for MRA’s future mountain conversion projects that includes environmental, financial, and community/social sustainability factors of the ski area and its local economy. MRA and Brendle Group will be working closely to coordinate their expertise and materialize their vision.
Jamie Schectman, CEO of MRA, has expressed his confidence in the collaboration: "We are extremely excited to be partnering with such an outstanding organization that has been a longstanding leader in ski industry sustainability. We look forward to implementing Brendle Group’s roadmap to sustainability at our first partner ski area, Mt. Abram. Our partnership will help MRA achieve its goal of creating sustainable Mountain Playgrounds around the world".
"By partnering with MRA, we have the exciting opportunity to help advance MRA’s Mountain Playground vision while bringing our newest services in net zero water, ecosystems services, and sustainable economic development to the ski industry. We believe Mountain Playgrounds will create a valuable new offering to the mix of skier experiences today",  says Judy Dorsey, President of Brendle Group.

Mountain Rider’s Alliance is a group of like-minded people dedicated to making a positive change in the ski area industry, as well as supporting the environment and surrounding communities. We believe riding is more than a sport, but rather a way of life.
MRA is an ongoing global collaboration, with over 50 active team members from 6 different countries contributing to our grassroots organization.



MRA signed an agreement to partner with the Mt. Abram ski area in Maine to try out a new ownership and management model aimed at boosting regional visitation, increasing awareness of sustainability issues, and focusing on the core values of skiing.
Mt. Abram, with 560 skiable acres and 1,150 feet of vertical, is located about 90 miles from Portland. In 2012 Mt. Abram have won the Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence in the small ski resort category. The award is given annually by the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) to three ski industry leaders for their environmental excellence. Mt. Abram is owned and operated by Maine businessman and recent Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductee Matt Hancock.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Wonder Reels: Episode 1 - Snow

Snow. Our common obsession. It covers our steep craggy terrain and rounds out the sharp edges to make Whistler Blackcomb rideable like nowhere else on earth. This is the story of how we are transformed every winter, told through the distinct visual artistry of Sherpas Cinema.





Whistler Blackcomb has been named the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine. The 26th annual readers' poll ranks the top 60 North America ski resorts in SKI Magazine's Resort Guide, hitting newsstands on October 16. The survey of 20,000 SKI readers is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the winter sports industry.
Along with being named the nº. 1 overall resort, Whistler Blackcomb ranked highly in many other individual categories, including: nº 1 overall in Terrain Variety, nº 2 overall in Service, Lodging, Apreski, Off Hill Activities, and Digital Presence.
Whistler Blackcomb also placed in the top five resorts for Challenge of Terrain, Lifts, On-Mountain Food, Dining, Scenery, Terrain Parks, and Overall Guest Satisfaction.

A New Video Series To Explore the Wonders of Whistler Blackcomb

Wonder. Is it a place or a state of mind? A physical space or a kind of grace? Find out on The Wonder Reels.
Are there places on the planet where wonder concentrates? Where it gathers, amasses, pools, comes in the night by the dumpload to bury yesterday's tracks? Or is it just a state of mind, a way of looking, a filter through which you see the world, wherever you may be?
We explore Whistler Blackcomb through the eyes of Whistler's lore-keepers, the time-lapse artists and the athletes, the kids who grew up here, and the mechanics who keep the place running, in an effort to find out where wonder strikes. These stories are pinned to Whistler Blackcomb's most special places for people to explore. To share. To rediscover.
Because Whistler Blackcomb is not a one-time destination you can tick off your list. It's something you have to experience. Somewhere that requires full-body immersion. Where you discover that wonder is neither an exclusive place nor a simple state of mind. It's constantly shifting. It's worth chasing. It's completely personal. And it's better when shared. Explore the wonders of Whistler Blackcomb. Claim Your Place...





Whistler Blackcomb has been named the No. 1 overall ski resort in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine. The 26th annual readers' poll ranks the top 60 North America ski resorts in SKI Magazine's Resort Guide, hitting newsstands on October 16. The survey of 20,000 SKI readers is the longest running and most comprehensive survey of its kind in the winter sports industry.
Along with being named the nº. 1 overall resort, Whistler Blackcomb ranked highly in many other individual categories, including: nº 1 overall in Terrain Variety, nº 2 overall in Service, Lodging, Apreski, Off Hill Activities, and Digital Presence.
Whistler Blackcomb also placed in the top five resorts for Challenge of Terrain, Lifts, On-Mountain Food, Dining, Scenery, Terrain Parks, and Overall Guest Satisfaction.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vail Resorts and GoPro Partnership

Vail Resorts and GoPro, maker of the world’s most versatile cameras, announced a partnership to provide exciting, unique videos for resort guests and online snow sports enthusiasts and greater opportunities for skiers and snowboarders at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood to capture and share their epic vacations using GoPro cameras.
During the 2012-2013 winter season, Vail Resorts guests and ski and snowboard enthusiasts can expect to see the unique GoPro perspective of epic snow conditions, skiing and riding the mountain, special events and behind-the-scenes happenings on the resorts’ social media channels and websites.
Furthermore, guests of Vail Mountain will also be able to watch videos shot exclusively with GoPro cameras on a special "GoPro Video Wall" at the base of the Eagle Bahn gondola in Lionshead. The video wall will feature nine, three-by-three-foot screens and run the GoPro ski and ride video footage to inspire guests as they board the gondola. All Vail Resorts guests can also look for special GoPro contests throughout the season and an opportunity to share their own best GoPro ski and ride footage.
"The Vail Resorts partnership with GoPro gives guests of our iconic, world-class resorts an even greater opportunity to visually share their mountain vacation experience of a lifetime with friends and families", said Kirsten Lynch executive vice-president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. "Vail Resorts is already a leader in the travel industry in social media engagement and we’re excited to work with GoPro to help us elevate our online video content and communicate the unparalleled experiences at our resorts to mountain enthusiasts around the world".
"Whether it's taking the first run on a bluebird morning at Vail or charging down the mountain bike trails at Northstar, Vail Resorts represent an amazing mix of beauty, action and adventure. There is no better way to capture these memorable experiences than with your GoPro camera", said Paul Crandell, vice president of marketing for GoPro. "We see how much our fans love Vail Resorts because they share their photos and videos with us on our GoPro Facebook page. We couldn't be more stoked to kick off this partnership and see what epic content will be created in the coming winter and summer seasons!".
GoPro will receive exclusive marketing and advertising rights as the "Official Camera of Vail Resorts" and its seven world-class resorts. GoPro also will be a key marketing partner of unique promotions and signature events of Vail Resorts, including Vail Snow Daze, Beaver Creek Talons Challenge, Spring Back to Vail, Breckenridge Spring Fever Festival and the Northstar Mountain Bike Series. Vail Resorts social media followers and online fans can expect to see first-hand, insider views of these events captured exclusively on GoPro cameras.




Vail Resorts is the leading mountain resort operator in the United States. Vail Resorts operate the mountain resorts of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, and Heavenly, Northstar and now Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada, and the GrandTeton Lodge Company in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Company's subsidiary, RockResorts, a luxury resorthotel company, manages casually elegant properties. Vail Resorts Development Company is the real estateplanning, development and construction subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc. Vail Resorts is a publicly heldcompany traded on the New York Stock Exchange.


7 Mountain Compilation Overview Video from Vail Films on Vimeo.

Utah Earns Top Spot in 11 of 20 SKI Magazine Reader Survey Categories

Utah ski resorts topped the charts of the 2012 SKI magazine reader survey. For the first time all three Park City resorts ranked in the top 10 overall, including Deer Valley at number two, Park City Mountain Resort at number four and Canyons Resort at number 10. Joining them in the top 30 list, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort ranked number 17, Brighton ranked number 21, Solitude ranked 22, Alta ranked 25 and Snowbasin ranked 30.
Utah resorts received the top rating in 11 of the 20 category divisions including Alta for "Snow", Powder Mountain for "Value"; Brighton for "Weather"; Park City Mountain Resort for "Off-Hill Activities" and "Access"; Deer Valley for "Grooming", "On-mountain Food", "Dining", "Lodging", "Family Programs", and "Service".
"Utah’s resorts are committed to enhancing our natural strengths as a destination. Our resorts continue to rank higher and higher each year within the SKI category rankings and I’m proud to work with such remarkable resorts", said Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty. "Year after year, these rankings positively reinforce that our efforts are improving the Utah ski experience for local and destination visitors alike".
Along with incredible representation in the overall rankings, Utah resorts dominated the categories Ski Utah considers its greatest assets – access, snow, weather and value. With 11 resorts less than an hour from the Salt Lake City International Airport, seven of the top 10 listings for "access" were Utah resorts (1.- Park City, 2.- Deer Valley, 3.- Canyons, 5.- Snowbird, 6.- Brighton, 7.- Solitude, 8.- Alta)
Famous for its trademarked Greatest Snow on Earth and average annual snowfall of 500 inches (12,7 metros), seven of the top ten listings for "Snow" were Utah resorts (1.- Alta, 3.- Powder Mountain, 4.- Snowbird, 6.- Brighton, 7.- Solitude, 9.- Snowbasin, 10.- Deer Valley).
With world-renowned blue sky days, the top six of ten resorts listed in the "weather" category were Utah resorts (1.- Brighton, 2.- Deer Valley, 3.- Solitude, 4.- Alta, 5.- Snowbird, 6.- Sundance).
"Value", another vital component of Utah’s wintersports product, had four Utah resorts in the top ten (1.- Powder Mountain, 3.- Brighton, 7.- Alta, 9.- Solitude).
Ski Utah is the marketing firm owned and operated by the 14 statewide ski resorts (Alta Ski Area, Beaver Mountain, Brian Head Resort, Brighton Resort, Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Eagle Point, Park City Mountain Resort, Powder Mountain Resort, Snowbasin Resort, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Solitude Mountain Resort, Sundance and Wolf Mountain) that make up the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association. The organization has been creating brand awareness of and demand for the Utah wintersports product since its inception in 1978.

Friday, October 12, 2012

2013 Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face. 100% of the Qualified Riders Confirmed

The Swatch Freeride World Tour By the North Face 2013 will kick off at Revelstoke (CAN), January 7, 2013, and then move on to the first European stops at Courmayeur-Mont-Blanc (ITA) and Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (FRA). After the following events at Kirkwood (USA) and Fieberbrunn PillerseeTal (AUT), the qualified riders will prepare for the finals at Verbier (SUI).
This season will be a season of firsts for the FWT, with new riders, a new unified calendar and a brand new partnership with ABS, who will be the tour’s Official Air Bag System Supplier. "Security is key for FWT so it’s essential to partner with the leading manufacturer in that field", said Nicolas Hale-Woods, Freeride World Tour General Manager Europe.
The top 12 male skiers from the Freeride World Tour 2012 and Freeskiing World Tour 2012 are automatically qualified. For female skiers, the top five from the Freeride World Tour 2012 and the top three from the Freeskiing World Tour 2012 are eligible to compete. The line-up includes skiers like 2012 Freeride World Tour champion Reine Barkered (SWE), 2012 Freeskiing World Tour champion Josh Daiek (USA), two-time Freeride World Tour champion Aurélien Ducroz (FRA), 2011 Freeskiing World Tour champion Drew Tabke (USA), as well as 2012 Freeride World Tour champion Christine Hargin (SWE) and two-time Freeskiing World Tour champion Angel Collinson (USA). Some tour spots have also been reserved for Wild Cards. There are two types of wild cards – those given to riders committed to follow the whole tour and local organizer wild cards given to riders for a single event. In skiing, one of the wild cards was given to Markus Eder (ITA) who recently shone at the Swatch Skiers Cup at Valle Nevado, Chile.
In the Snowboard division, the top six male riders from the Freeride World Tour 2012 and top four male riders from the Masters of Snowboarding 2012 as well as the top three females from the Freeride World Tour 2012 and the Masters of Snowboarding 2012 are automatically qualified. Confirmed snowboarders include 2012 Freeride World Tour champion Jonathan Charlet (FRA), 2012 Masters of Snowboarding champion Sammy Luebke (USA), three-time Freeride World Tour champion Xavier de Le Rue (FRA) from the Swatch Proteam, as well as Ralph Backstrom (USA), Flo Orley (AUT), and 2012 Masters of Snowboarding champion Shannan Yates (USA).
In addition, several riders in all categories qualified through the Freeride World Qualifiers 2012. Talents who now have the opportunity to prove themselves in the SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE include skiers Wille Lindberg (SWE), Léo Slemett (FRA), and Pia Nic Gundersen (NOR) as well as snowboarders Ludovic Guillot-Diat (FRA), Joel Rouge (SUI), and French sisters Margot and Elodie Mouthon (FRA).

Download the SWATCH FREERIDE WORLD TOUR BY THE NORTH FACE 2013 Pre-Qualified, Invited Athlete List: Men and Women
 
 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Future of the Industry Survey conducted by SE Group: Part 2

By Claire Humber
As published in Ski Area Management (SAM, October, 2012)


CHALLENGE 2: FUNDING CAPITAL EXPENDITURES WHILE PROVIDING VALUE TO THE CUSTOMER
The challenge of continually funding capital expenditures was the issue most frequently mentioned by survey respondents. As one participant so aptly noted, "the expense that it takes to operate a resort is just HUGE".
Survey respondents noted a number of common issues related to funding capital expenditures:
A competitive marketplace fosters a need for continuous improvements.
Investment in aging lifts, buildings and infrastructure is critical to avoid deferred maintenance issues.
Upgrading undersized, out-of-date guest service facilities is hard to prioritize without clear demonstration of return, and difficult to afford without a real estate component.
Funding upgrades and expansion projects must be balanced with the need to pay down debt.
Ski areas have historically operated with long-term investment horizons. Modern investment appetites demand shorter-term returns.
Outside investment dollars are hard to come by in the current economic climate.
The issue is further complicated by the need to provide value to the customer at the same time. "Can we continue to deliver with escalating prices? Can we still reinvest in infrastructure, provide high service levels, and STILL continue to offer good value?"
Three main opportunities were discussed that address this challenge:
Focusing on the bottom line, diversifying the product, and looking beyond the industry for inspiration.


OPPORTUNITY: FOCUSING ON THE BOTTOM LINE

A reader commented, "Frankly, it’s business as usual" in response to on our last installment on the economy, and we suspect many would respond the same way to the notion of focusing on the bottom line. Industry owners and operators are a savvy group, and few tactical moves are made without an understanding of the financial implications.
Respondents had a number of different perspectives on how this focus could be sharpened.
Pay closer attention to growing revenue and yield, rather than just skier visits. Improve the quality of service and create additional revenue streams to get greater revenue per visit. One example: become the “go-to” place for hard goods—as Internet shopping helps shrink the number of specialty sports shops, ski area shops may become the last place to shop where you can actually see and feel the product prior to purchase. Think of ways to improve food service offerings with healthy choices while achieving better margins from unique products.
Rather than thinking of expansion, make the most of what you have. Diversify your terrain by adding glading, sidecountry, and terrain parks.
Develop innovative products in response to changing consumer behavior and specific market demands. The new Mountain Collective pass, which joins Aspen, Squaw, Jackson Hole, and Alta, is a great example of this. Programs and packages that require pre-booking provide some guarantee for future visitation.
Utilize advances in technology to know your customers, and tailor your products accordingly. Reduce hassle through the use of online sales channels, and expedite your staff training.
Foster future visitation and participation in the sport, through attention to the experience of the first timer, the overall quality of guest services, loyalty rewards, and a diversity of activities. "There may be very little cross-over visits between your tubing park and terrain park, your zipline and liftline…but there is additional revenue to be had with these new users!"

OPPORTUNITY: DIVERSIFICATION OF PRODUCT

Over 80% of respondents mentioned diversifying operations as a significant opportunity for growth. This often means expanding into summer operations or adding to existing summer programs.
"…low capital, faster returns, increased asset utilization and increased room nights for lodging properties. Offered to 100% of the population vs. only the 4% for ski and ride".
"While the seasonal revenues will not fully equalize, the added revenue streams will stabilize our business, ease the “spikey” nature of our cash flows, and help defray fixed costs, to the greater profitability of our core businesses".
Respondents from destination resorts also noted the benefit and “sustainability” to both resort accommodations and the local community brought about by increased summer business. Smaller ski area owners noted that in today’s tough economic and competitive environment, you “have to be more than a ski area to survive.” It was also noted that areas that diversify with ski and non-ski winter activities will build “insurance”—this is, provide reassurance for guests considering booking winter vacations".
The diversification discussion also included the benefit of attracting more visitors to your resort outside the winter months and providing them with a mountain experience that will encourage repeat visitation, possibly leading to future participation in skiing or other winter sports. The importance of operational execution was also discussed, especially in regard to the “mountain adventure park” attractions that many areas are implementing. The industry is still relatively inexperienced in this broader world, and understanding all the implications of ongoing operations is key. One supplier noted, "all products have a life cycle, and after the third year, people want the next experience to be different than the previous one. The challenge for suppliers will be innovation and who will have the latest and greatest".
We also received a number of cautionary notes on diversification. One respondent observed that there are still some very successful “ski areas,” and that sticking to what you know and are good at was not a bad idea: “I think our MBA taught this as ‘stick to your knitting.’” Another noted the importance of not burying the primary message of “we’re a great ski area” under everything else going on, as lift tickets are still the leading revenue generator. There was also concern that four-season opportunities are limited to those well-positioned resorts that are located proximate to large populations or large numbers of transient guests.
These cautions speak to the importance of approaching the decision to expand into four-season operations with the same due diligence that one would approach other business decisions, and of understanding your marketplace and the extent of the opportunity.

OPPORTUNITY: LOOKING BEYOND THE INDUSTRY

"….stick (your) head above the crowd to see where the fun folks are headed".
 A number of comments, particularly in concert with the discussions on diversification of product and sharpening the focus on the bottom line, referred to the concept of looking beyond the industry for inspiration and best practices. The ski industry is small, and while its members have a number of venues to facilitate the exchange of ideas, the topics for discussion are focused on “what we know.” However, our industry exists within the much larger industries of leisure & entertainment and travel & tourism, with endless possibilities to find inspiration or learn something new.
We have seen a number of operators in recent years add the IAAPA tradeshow (the International Association for Amusement Parks & Attractions) to their educational “hit list.” Owners and operators benefit from conducting such research, as we all learn from viewing how others create success.
 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Where To Ski and Snowboard In October?

Austria is the leading country for October glacier skiing with the Hintertux, Pitztal, Solden, Molltal and Stubai glaciers already open and due to be joined by the Kaunertal, Dachstein and Kaprun’s Kitzsteinhorn glacier soon.
Year round Hintertux glacier has 28km and 13 lifts with snow depths of 65cm.
For the past 27 years, Kaunertal celebrates the start of the winter season with the Kaunertal Opening. This year the KTO will take place from 12 to 14 October 2012 with established contests, fat bands, cool movies and great Testival the new winter season. In the Testival area many freeski and snowboard companies will come up with their latest products, which can be tested the whole weekend.
After a month with no resorts open in France, Tignes re-opened on Saturday, 29th September, after a few weeks’ closure since the end of its summer ski season. There was reported to be 20km of slopes open with snow depth of 20cm and temperatures around -1C . It will be open until May 2013 and it will be the only French resort open until late November. Les 2 Alpes will be open from October 27th to november 4th.
Glacier ski areas Val Senales and Passo Stelvio will be joined by more glacier ski choices in Italy at the end of October with Cervinia and Passo Tonale openings. At Val Senales 8km of slopes are open with snow depths of 30cm and at Passo Stelvio, one of several claimants to being "Europe’s biggest glacier" 20km of runs are open.
Cervinia will open the weekends of 13th-14th and 20th-21st October then every day from 27th October to 5th May 2013.
In Switzerland , Saas-Fee (open since last July, picture attached is from september) and Zermatt (always open) have their glaciers open for snow sports, with Saas-Fee reporting a 122cm base with five runs open along with its terrain park and half pipe.
Engelberg is scheduled to open on October 13th but will close for maintenance work from 5 – 16 November.
The Diavolezza Glacier near St. Moritz will be a fourth choice by the end of the month, opening on the 20th.
The northerly latitude of Finland, Norway and Sweden get the cold temperature and thus the snow earlier than most. Ruka in Finland aims to re-open on Thursday 18th and remain open until 9th of June 2013 – the first non-glacier ski area in Europe to open.The Galdhøpiggen summer ski area on Norway’s highest mountain says it will stay open to October 14th but may be open longer subject to demand. There’s a 1.5km long trail served y a T bar lift. Trysil opened a fun snow run on Saturday, September 29th, using snow saved under a layer of bark chippings from the previous year. There’s a conveyor lift to access the snow. It says it will keep it open and free to use for as long as it lasts.
In the US snowmaking started last week on some of the world’s highest ski slopes in Colorado as the annual race to be first in the state is staged between areas like Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain and Loveland.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

iF3 Hintertux Freeski Session

iF3 Innsbruck officially kicked off this week with the iF3 Hintertux Freeski Session. Some of the world’s best freeskiers had a perfect bluebird session on the glacier earlier this week.
The iF3 Brand World opens its gates on Friday at 12pm sharp with the first screening starting at the Innsbruck Stadtsäle at 2.30pm.
Just in time for the iF3 Hintertux Freeski Session, the big jump line at the Hintertux Glacier opened for the first time on Wednesday. The jumps were perfectly manicured all day and were the perfect size for early season shredding. The sun was out and although there was a little wind, all the pro freeskiers that turned up were super stoked to be skiing again. It was the first time on skis since the summer for many of them, so everyone kept it pretty mellow over the awesome 16 and 18 meter jumps – a great opportunity to practice some styled out 720s and 540s. After an extensive kicker session many of the riders hiked the jib features which included a close out rail, a gas tank-like barrel, a down rail and a corrugated pipe with many more jib features ready to be set up.
The French Canadian, Scandinavian and Central European crews were joined by recently crowned "iF3 Best European Male Performance" winner Henrik Harlaut, as well as Sean Pettit, Luke Van Valin, Phil Casabon, freeski legend Tanner Hall and Richard Permin; so it was truly an international melting pot of freeski professionals at the Hintertux Glacier, and a great time for everyone to catch up with friends and get their ski legs back into shape.



At the same time in Innsbruck, the city halls rapidly turned into festival grounds. The Brand World tent is up and the big brands have set up their booths to be ready in time for signing sessions and exhibitions throughout today and tomorrow. With the newest products on the market and the latest trends from all the labels you love; the Brand World will be a very interesting place to check out. Inside of the stunning Stadtsäle everything is set up; to show the best freeski movies of 2012, as well as to host the legendary iF3 parties and music acts including DJ Friction (Freundeskreis), Electro Ferris aka Ferris Hilton (Deichkind) and DJ Harris aka DJ Binichnich and the Kaiser Chiefs DJ Set.



The International Freeski Film Festival (iF3) was created in 2007 as a result of a common idea shared by passionate ski industry veterans Felix Rioux, Doug Bishop, and JF Durocher. The idea was to create a film festival dedicated to screening freeskiing movies and expanding ski culture to new levels. iF3 stemmed from the need to unite all elements that compose freeski culture in one place, including ski cinematography, producers, athletes, photography, brands, music, art and parties.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ischgl Kicks Off the Winter Season with a Festival Opening Week

From 23 November to 1 December, the stars in Ischgl will be passing the mike to each other. To kick off the winter season, the alpine lifestyle metropolis is putting on an entire week of festival opening events. Unlimited skiing combined with world-class entertainment, Ischgl once again outdoes itself during this opening week: By day in the Silvretta Arena and from 18:00 at the live concerts with international artists.
During the Festival Opening Week, a total of four concerts featuring international acts will take place. And best of all: Admission is free with a valid ski pass. The legendary Top of the Mountain Opening Concert on 1 December with The Scorpions forms the rocking climax of the Festival Opening Week. When the most successful German rock band ever rings in the winter season with hits such as "Wind of Change", it's almost like it's putting down a marker. With the Festival Opening Week, Ischgl is taking the season kick-off to a whole new level.
Freshly groomed slopes over 238 kilometres at altitudes with guaranteed snow, unlimited, all the way into the Swiss Samnaun are expecting winter sports fans. Add to this new and modernised restaurants right in the middle of the skiing area. In addition to optimal skiing conditions, the largest skiing region in the Eastern Alps has plenty more to offer its guests. With the Festival Opening Week, the event-clock doesn't stop ticking for a whole week.

Top of the Mountain Concert
On 1 December, the Scorpions will transform Ischgl into a veritable "Rock-Zone". There's no doubt they can, because that's the name of one of their recent hits. The Scorpions follows in the footsteps of a galaxy of superstars who have entertained skiers and boarders in the Austrian resort's traditional Top of the Mountain gig. Fourteen years ago, Ischgl decided to put its entire advertising and marketing budget into staging two massive concerts a year to open and close the winter season. Elton John was the first star to feature in the Tirolean resort's now famous season closing concerts, back in 1995. Since then the resort has hosted Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Sting, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Atomic Kitten, Peter Gabriel, The Corrs, Alanis Morissette, Lionel Richie, Pink, the Scissor Sisters, the Pussycat Dolls, Rihanna, Elton John again, Gabriella Cilmi, Leona Lewis, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Gossip, The Killers,Roxette and Mariah Carey.
This is unlikely to faze the five rockers, however, because with 47 years of band history themselves, the can easily fill any shoes. In the valley, in front of an impressive mountain backdrop, the most successful German rock band of all times will fire the starting pistol for the winter season in Ischgl, while at the same time heading for the home stretch of their unique career. Following this year's world tour, the Top of the Mountain Opening Concert will be one of their last gigs, yet also a premiere because the band has never rocked amid the snow of the Alpine lifestyle metropolis. After 17 studio albums, concerts at the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York and the wedding of former Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schröder, their appearance in Ischgl is something special nevertheless. And when their hits such as "The spirit of Rock will never die" or "Wind of Change" are heard as German folksong of the century on 1 December in Ischgl, not only the audience will fall into a euphoric-emotional winter mood, but the Scorpions themselves, too.

Zermatt Nominated for the Milestone Tourism Award

Zermatt Tourism was nominated for the Milestone award’s Young Talent prize on 27 September 2012. Of the 92 contenders for the coveted Swiss tourism award, 20 have made it to the nomination – and this includes Zermatt Tourism’s "Cooperative eCRM Zermatt" project.
Over recent months, Zermatt Tourism’s Online Marketing Manager, Sven Hauser (28), has been working along with the users to develop a module enabling the hotels to professionalise their email marketing with custom layout and more content. As Anna Kracht-Julen, hotelière of the Hotel Mirabeau and user of the cooperative eCRM, points out:"With this new technology, the quality of our newsletters has improved and they now feature a good mix of both hotel and destination-related content". Her regulars, Zermatt fans that they are, are very pleased with this service. She gives, as an example, the events and news relating to the cable cars and other service providers. The Seiler Hotels, the Mountain Boutique Resort Hotel Cervo and the Zermatterhof are all using this technology.
"With the cooperative eCRM, we can make our content available to many more recipients at home and abroad thanks to our cooperation with the hotels", adds Sven Hauser. The cooperation between Zermatt Tourism and the service providers should take a big step forward with this instrument and this should markedly improve the link between the visitors and the destination.

Milestone is the Swiss tourism industry’s most important prize and it has been awarded in four categories (Main, Sustainability, Young Talent and Life’s Work) over the past twelve years. The Young Talent prize is awarded to a project submitted by a representative who is under 30 years of age.
The award ceremony for the four categories will be held on 13 November 2012 in Bern.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Future of the Industry Survey conducted by SE Group: Introduction

By Claire Humber
As published in Ski Area Management (SAM, October, 2012)

 In a continual effort to understand our core ski industry business and anticipate “what’s next?” SE Group recently completed an informal survey about the future of the industry. Respondents represent a true cross section of the industry—all regions of the country, destination resorts and day-use ski areas, old guard and young guns, suppliers and consultants, GMs and moneymen.
SE Group asked all participants for their thoughts and ideas for what the future holds: What does your crystal ball show you about the future—opportunities and challenges? How do you see the industry changing? What are you doing to grow your business as you think about the next 10 to 20 years? What is your greatest opportunity for growth? What is the most troubling aspect of your business as you look to the future?
As responses began to come in it became immediately apparent to us that our 10- to 20-year outlook was inappropriately long, and that a more reasonable timeframe was three to five years. As one respondent put it, "I do not think any business in today’s environment projects out that far". As well, “Business needs to be flexible based upon the changing landscape. Business plans are three to five years, not 10 to 20”.
The end result of our survey was nothing short of eye-opening and thought-provoking. We were amazed, though not completely surprised given the list of respondents, at the depth of thought found within the responses. Amazed, and somewhat at a loss about how to compile and summarize the information. As we organized the comments by subjects, a unifying theme emerged: CHALLENGE = OPPORTUNITY.
This industry is full of passionate folks who continually show tremendous tenacity, perseverance and ingenuity. This was evidenced by the numerous opportunities that were identified by respondents as responses to the evolving challenges faced by the industry.
So, SE Group decided to break down the results into six Challenge=Opportunity categories and present each one over the coming months. Our hope is that you will join the discussion in this digital forum, not just read them. We invite all of you to investigate the challenges facing the industry, and to explore the opportunities each challenge avails.

CHALLENGE 1: THE ECONOMY

While the economy was not the most frequently mentioned challenge by our respondents, it is a topic that has had a pervasive presence in all business discussions over the past four years, and thus seems a good place to start!

"Continued domestic and international economic uncertainty/volatility will likely prevail over the next 12 to 24 months at minimum, forcing operators and developers to be stingy with additional investment in the mountain, lodging and residential real estate projects. The current tepid flow of capital—both on the debt and equity side—will not change any time soon, forcing developers to halt projects, allow for assets to depreciate further into obsolescence, and postpone investments in personnel".

OPPORTUNITY: THE ECONOMY (ATTITUDE RESET!)

The industry has been dealing with the fallout of the economic crisis since 2008. It’s just business as usual for many.

But never waste a good crisis. Skier visits held, but many areas faced the realities of decreased yields, fewer overnight stays, a disappearance of the resort real estate market, a tightening of operational budgets and an absence of capital for upgrading or improvements.
In general, this restrained business environment has caused an “attitude reset” for both business operators and consumers. Within the ski industry, this reset has included a refocus on the success and longevity of operations, and a reprioritization of long-term thinking rather than short-term gain. It has also reminded many to get back to basics, and that the sport of skiing is one of the best ways to spend time with family and friends.
"Recognizing the hand it has been dealt, the industry (and its capital sources) is beginning to think more long term by taking a holistic approach to resort development, analyzing the mountain/real estate connection more closely and making sure that when all of their real estate is sold, the operating asset can succeed irrespective of volatile weather patterns or economic nadirs".
"More specifically, the industry is beginning to focus on leveraging off of its greatest assets—access/ownership of mountains/natural beauty—to create unique vacation experiences that are not necessarily defined by the amount of snow on the ground, but rather by the multitude of recreational opportunities available to the guest/owner".
"In short, we’ve recognized that while skiing is a fantastic sport, families don’t visit our resorts to ski per se—they come to us to be together and interact with nature. Offering many opportunities for them to do this does not necessitate extravagant development".