Saturday, December 23, 2000
Steamboat Springs Executives at the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. are planning to unwrap a couple of their holiday gifts early this weekend, as the ski area knocks down some national television exposure.
The first came Saturday when Steamboat aired the first national commercial spots in its history during the U.S. National Disabled Ski Championships. Steamboat Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said that although the disabled ski championships were not held in Steamboat, the time slot, just before NFL pre-game shows on a big holiday weekend, was an attractive part of a six-commercial package arranged with ESPN.
Three additional commercial spots will be cablecast in early February during tape-delayed coverage of the Nordic Combined World Cup that takes place in Steamboat next month.
Steamboat's second shot of face time comes at 2:30 p.m. Sunday when the community's own Park Smalley is the on-air host for a CBS broadcast of the Papa John's Bumps and Jumps freestyle skiing competition from where else? the Park Smalley Freestyle Complex on the VooDoo trail.
Portions of that show were taped in the middle of a blinding snowstorm and Wirth is like a little kid on Christmas Eve, contemplating what the show could do to spur bookings at Steamboat.
"We're going to have a party at the Bear River Grill from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. so we can all watch it together," Wirth said.
The ski corp.'s marketing veep is being circumspect about quantifying this year's business at the direction of Dan Cashman, American Skiing Co.'s director of investor relations. Cashman is cautioning American Skiing area executives about publicly projecting future business lest they run afoul of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations that prohibit them from attempting to influence the company's stock price. American Skiing is waiting for federal approval of a merger with MeriStar hotels.
But Wirth would say that year-to-date skier numbers are "a bit ahead" of last year at this time.
"I think everyone is aware we had a terrific Thanksgiving and first couple weeks of December," Wirth said. "We lost some group business from college groups we had last year, but group business is cyclical. We are tracking the numbers of passengers arriving on the airline program and they are up significantly this weekend and even a little more Dec. 26 to Dec. 28, which are the critical days."
Wirth said that system wide, load factors on all arriving flights are up 7 to 8 percentage points over this time last year.
Growing load factors will become Wirth's theme song this winter as he tries to increase Steamboat's total skier days in spite of the fact that the total available roundtrip seats into the resort this ski season are down 11.9 percent.
Year to date, the total number of passengers booked is up 2 percent, Wirth said.
"There's a huge success story in that, when you consider it's in the face of an 11.9 percent drop in airline seats. There's no doubt, we need to grow some load factors," Wirth said.
He emphasized those numbers reflect jet traffic into Yampa Valley Regional Airport only. Commuter flights also are an important factor in increasing the ski area's business.
A pair of large ski groups, the Texas Ski Council and the North American Airlines Ski Federation, will make an impact on Steamboat in January.
"Director of sales Katie Brown and her crew booked those groups a year ago, and that's great business to have a year out," Wirth said.
The Texas Ski Council will bring between 750 and 900 skiers here for stays ranging from five to seven days during the second week in January.
They'll have lots of special events, including a party and auction that will benefit local causes like the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club," Wirth said.
The ski federation will bring 800 to 900 skiers here the last week in January for stays ranging from four to six nights.