Ski execs to gather in Steamboat

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— More than 150 of the most influential people in the ski resort industry will gather in Steamboat Springs from June 14-16 for the 43rd annual meeting of Colorado Ski Country USA.

"This group will include CEOs, marketing executives, PR people and mountain operations managers," Ski County spokeswoman Molly Cuffe said. "They are decision makers, for sure. We're excited to come to Steamboat, and this is a great opportunity to showcase the community."

Colorado Ski Country USA markets the state as a skiing and snowboarding destination and lobbies for the industry. A group of top ski resort executives, including Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond, sit on its board of directors.

The group could be in a mood to celebrate if the state's ski areas succeed in eclipsing the 12-million skier-visit plateau for the first time. The final figures for the 2005-06 season will be released during the conference.

Colorado's 25 ski resorts combined to host 11.8 million skier visits in 2004-05, and the state was on pace to break the record through February 2006.

Also at the meeting, Diamond will speak during an industry roundtable with Tim Mueller, owner of Crested Butte Mountain Resort; David Barry, chief operating office of Intrawest's mountain resorts; Bob Nicolls, owner of Monarch Mountain; and Bill Jensen, co-president of Vail Resorts' Mountain Division.

Featured speakers include Michelle Peluso, president and CEO of Travelocity. Cuffe said Peluso is expected to discuss her Internet travel-booking company's plans to strengthen its presence in mountain resorts.

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said online travel booking agencies such as Travelocity are making determined efforts to improve their ability to book "multi-segment" trips -- vacations with multiple components -- on behalf of their clients. Currently, that is not their strength, he said.

Ski industry executives also will hear airline consultant Deborah Meehan talk about the trends influencing airline route planners' decisions about how to best use their aircraft. Meehan is president and CEO of SH&E.

Denver Metro Sports Com--mission Chairman Rob Cohen will talk to the group about opportunities for attracting international sporting events to the state. Colorado's ski resorts are familiar with World Cup skiing competitions, Cuffe said, but Cohen will talk about efforts to attract events such as speed skating and gymnastics competitions.

Mueller's scheduled participation in the industry roundtable marks a rare public speaking appearance here since an effort he led to purchase the Steamboat Ski Area abruptly ended in early 2002.

Triple Peaks, a group of investors led by Mueller, signed a contract to purchase the ski area, but the sale never closed after American Skiing Co. withdrew from the deal. Mueller subsequently purchased Crested Butte.

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