September 24, 1995
A wet, heavy snowfall wreaked havoc in Denver Sept. 20, a sign from Mother Nature that the 1995-96 ski season is just around the corner. Prior to Sept. 20, snow was reported at 12,000 feet in Telluride in southwest Colorado. The early snows could help make 1995 one of the longest ski years in recent memory, as heavy spring snows extended the 1994-95 season late into May, June and July. Hardy backcountry skiers may experience a full 12-month ski season.
Long before the lifts start carrying skiers uphill, however, ski resorts have kicked off their marketing programs, which invariably creates a little friendly, and sometimes not-so-friendly, competition. Such is the case between neighboring states Utah and Colorado. Utah has long cultivated an in-your-face marketing attitude toward Colorado and this year is no exception. Capitalizing on the steady stream of negative press about Denver International Airport, Utah’s ski industry trade organization, Ski Utah, in July unveiled an ad campaign that continues to chide Colorado for real or perceived woes at DIA and the often bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-70. (Last ski season, according to the Rocky Mountain News, Vail Pass on I-70 was closed 35 times). Last year, Ski Utah placed ads with photos of mangled skis, a reference to DIA’s infamous baggage system.
While Colorado has been rather gentlemanly in its advertising, Rachel Biederman, communications manager for Colorado Ski Country USA, takes off the kid gloves when asked about Utah’s advertising. “They’re not exactly breathing down our necks,” she told Cyberwest, citing Colorado’s huge lead in skier days last year. “We’re so far ahead of them.” In response to the continuing jabs at DIA, Biederman said, “Our best response is going to be time … That place works beautifully.”
If Utah has an Achilles’ heel, it’s its puritanical image. “If you enjoy apres-ski, Utah’s about the last place you want to go,” said Biederman. Colorado resorts have better dining, nightlife and shopping, she added. “Our towns are much more fun.” Biederman also touts Colorado ski areas’ high-speed lifts, grooming equipment, capacity and on-mountain amenities. Another feather in Colorado resorts’ caps is deep pockets. According to the Rocky Mountain News (Sept. 5), Colorado ski resorts are spending at least $55 million on improvements this year. From the $14 million Vail Associates is spending on improvements at Vail, Beaver Creek and Arrowhead, to Telluride’s $12.5 million elaborate new gondola, an avalanche of cash is being invested in Colorado skiing.
Perhaps a more objective comparison between the two states is Snow Country magazine’s annual ranking of Western ski resorts. Ten of the top 20 resorts are in Colorado. Only Park City, at # 8, and Snowbird, at # 20, made the grade. Yet Utah’s famous snowfall, particularly at Alta, and the proximity of several ski areas to Salt Lake City are undeniable advantages. As for nightlife, well … We at Cyberwest will be skiing both states this season, and we’ll report our findings. In the meantime, prepare for another great season.