Ski group had planned ad cuts

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— An advertising pullback already was planned for Colorado Ski Country USA when Vail Resorts left the group last month, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond said.

At its annual meeting last week, Colorado Ski Country USA announced it would cut most of its national advertising.

"We've cut back probably more than we'd like, but we figured it was the best thing to do," said Diamond, who is immediate past president of the group and serves on the executive committee. Vail Resorts' exit from the nonprofit trade group reduced the member resorts from 26 to 22. The Steamboat Ski Area and Howelsen Hill belong to the organization.

Ski Corp. doesn't intend to change its advertising plans because of the cuts, Diamond said. The company has said it plans to ramp up international advertising this year.

Vail Resorts, which includes Breckenridge, Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek and Keystone, had accounted for almost half of Colorado Ski Country USA's income from annual dues, The Associated Press reported. The group had to cut its budget to $1.7 million from $3.5 million and plans to lay off five people, according to the AP.

"There's just going to be less of a focus for Colorado this year," Diamond said. "We'll still have an energized Web site, and we'll still do communications. It's an office of nine people instead of 14 or 15."

The group won't increase dues, Diamond said. If Vail Resorts hadn't left, Ski Country USA would have lowered them, he said.

Jennifer Rudolph, communications director for the group, said Colorado Ski Country USA won't drop programs or public policy efforts.

"We're going to move forward to do more with less," she said.

The group will continue to advertise internationally, focusing on its top markets: Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, Rudolph said. Colorado Ski Country USA plans to have a limited or no presence in its other top two international markets, Germany and Mexico.

In brighter news last week, the group announced that Colorado resorts had more than 12.5 million skiers during the 2007-08 season. The number is a decrease of about 30,386 skier visits compared with the record set in 2006-07, according to a news release.

Resort-by-resort figures won't be available until fall, Rudolph said. Diamond said he didn't know whether Ski Corp. would release actual numbers for Steamboat.

"I think we're right on the mark for last year if you adjust for the nine days we lost going in," he said, referring to the season's late opening. "Like Ski Country, with that late start, plus the first part of December being weak, we came out of the month of December being behind double digits - more than 10 percent - and clawed our way back."

The record-setting snowfall was a boon, too, he said.

"Great snow helped," Diamond said.

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