Steamboat audience told bloggers enjoy increasing clout in travel industry

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— Park City Mountain Resort does not offer on-site child care like Steamboat’s Kids Vacation Club, yet the readers of SKI Magazine ranked Park City the No. 1 family resort 2012, ahead of Steamboat Ski Area.

How is that possible?

Speaker Amber Johnson told an audience during the Colorado Tourism Conference this week at The Steamboat Grand that a team of bloggers Park City calls its Snow Mamas gets part of the credit.

At Park City, Johnson said, Snow Mamas has risen to the point that it is a top-referring site for the resort accounting for $3 million in business during the 2011-12 ski season. People who visit the blog are 10 times more likely to book a vacation, she said.

Vail Resorts has caught on and has a similar blog: Epic Moms.

Johnson also blogs independently of Park City. As the moderator of Mile High Mamas, she has created with other bloggers an online community that shares the experiences and challenges of moms in the Denver area. She also blogs for The Denver Post as its $mart columnist.

On Thursday, at the Tourism Conference, Johnson was a member of a panel speaking to resort marketers and executives of visitors bureaus in Colorado. Attendees overflowed a conference room in The Steamboat Grand to learn how to leverage their marketing budgets by cultivating bloggers.

The term blogger is a contraction of the term Web log, which is a kind of personal Web page that is designed to be updated easily and frequently.

Johnson said for moms, contemplating a ski vacation can be nightmarish with all of the detailed planning involved. Snow Mamas, with its 15 writers (one of them is a Snow Dad), provides answers to those challenges and allows vacationers to ask specific questions and receive an answer from one of the veteran vacationing ski moms.

The latest blog posts on Snow Mamas discuss preseason fitness, easy treats for preparation après ski in a condo and transportation options in and around Park City. Perhaps most important, it provides strategies for coaxing along and supporting a young child who has resorted to faking an injury because of anxiety about the challenges of skiing on a big mountain.

Roland Alonzi, of national travel marketing company MMGY Global, introduced the session by pointing out that as traditional print media outlets have shrunk, the proliferation of mobile devices has expanded to included half of American adults. As a result, independent bloggers have grown to become significant influencers in how people plan vacations and choose their destinations.

Steamboat has a blog, My Steamboat, which serves as as a vacation planning community. Olympic skier Caroline Lalive was an occasional contributor last ski season, writing about Ski 4 Yellow and the younger generation of up-and-coming Alpine racers in Steamboat.

Kara Williams, who is based near Basalt, is another mom who blogs for The Denver Post. She began her media career as an assistant editor for Working Mother Magazine and has been associated with print products in Aspen, but her professional life changed in 2009 when she co-founded Vacation Gals with two other professional travel writers.

Vacation Gals covers everything from Halloween parties at Disneyland to gear reviews of waterproof cameras for adventurous travelers.

As the Out West columnist for the Post, she has written about the importance of laying out every piece of her children’s ski gear the night before a ski outing.

Williams said she recently has reached the conclusion that the majority of her income as a blogger will result from partnering with travel companies to facilitate successful blogging events at their resorts to generate a large number of tweets and Flickr uploads.

Whenever she has a contractual arrangement with a travel destination or related industry, she always lets her readers know about the business relationship, she said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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