Ski Corp. looks to Front Range for April boost

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— Families with students attending the Cherry Creek School District have already heard from the Steamboat Ski Area about the 90-inch base at the top of Mount Werner. The hope is that when they pack up the SUV for spring break this week, they'll head for Steamboat.

Early forecasts on April tourism here indicate it will be down from last year. As of March 26, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association lodging barometer indicated advanced reservations for Saturday, April 5, stood at 5,066. If late reservations don't close the gap, Steamboat would be off by 2,800 visitors on that night.

Marketing officials at the Steamboat Ski Area have already launched a direct-mail campaign intended to tap residents of Front Range school districts in April.

Steamboat Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said the promotion offers two-for-one skiing to couples that purchase a two-day or longer lift pass. If they book two nights of lodging, they are eligible for a third night free.

Families with teenagers will find Steamboat's long standing "Kids Ski Free" program has been extended to their older children.

"We feel like we have been ahead of the competition and we've been working very hard every day," Wirth said.

Public Relations Director Mike Lane said the ski corp. has used extensive research about when various school districts break for spring holidays to target the mail campaign. A month ago, for example, ski corp. sent a direct-mail piece to everyone living in the zip code that encompasses the Cherry Creek School district.

Wirth said when the ski season is over, he expects final numbers to reflect the Front Range has been an area of strength for Steamboat despite competition from heavily discounted "buddy passes" at ski areas along Colorado's I-70 corridor.

Steamboat's skier visitation declined slightly last ski season to 1,001,003. But the Front Range was a bright spot. Steamboat posted a 20 percent surge in visitation by Front Range skiers. Those guests stayed an average of 3.6 days.

Ski area President Chris Diamond said Steamboat succeeded in repositioning itself as a primary short vacation destination for in-state skiers, Diamond said. The conclusion was many families were looking for a safe place to come together in the post-9/11 environment.

"It will be interesting to see if those numbers settle back a little bit next year," Diamond said in June 2002.

Wirth said this week, based on on-mountain surveys, he anticipates Steamboat will hang onto that market share and perhaps increase it by a slight margin.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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