Deer Valley owner taking hands-off approach to brands
The Aspen Times
ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen Skiing Co.’s new sister ski conglomerate will soon announce its name and, probably more importantly to skiers and snowboarders, unveil some new pass options later in the season for 2018-19.
David Perry, president and chief operating officer for the new firm, said this week his team has selected a name and will release it before the holidays.
However, the name won’t be prominently used in marketing the resorts under its umbrella, Perry said. The emphasis will be on keeping the strong individual identity of each of the resorts, which include Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, Deer Valley in Utah and Mammoth and Squaw Valley in California.
“It’s not going to be a public-facing brand,” Perry said of the new name. “You’re not going to pull into Steamboat and see a sign that says, ‘Welcome to Steamboat, part of the XYZ Company.’”
The resorts will collaborate on a ski pass or passes that will be marketed through a shared name.
“I don’t think there’s any secret we will have a pass product on the market next year,” Perry said.
How Aspen Skiing Co.’s four ski areas fit into the ski pass plan remains a secret.
Skico currently offers a pass that is good at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk. It’s also a participant in the Mountain Collective Pass, which was created to help independent operators compete against Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass.
The Epic Pass was created in 2008. Aspen and other independent resorts responded with the Mountain Collective Pass, good for two days of skiing at each of the participating resorts, in 2012.
“There’s no plans to decommission the Mountain Collective,” said Christian Knapp, chief marketing officer for Aspen Skiing Co. and a creator of the pass. He said it has been particularly popular with urban millenials.
Perry said two of the new ski company’s resorts, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Mammoth, are members of the Mountain Collective and will continue to participate.
Whatever pass the new company offers will be able to “work alongside” the Mountain Collective, he said.
Knapp, like Perry, wouldn’t hint at how Aspen Skiing Co.’s resorts will be marketed with the new company’s resorts, if at all.
“Clearly there’s a new collection of resorts coming together” that have overlapping ownership, he said.
Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan said during a recent public meeting that the top question about the resort-buying binge is whether a joint ski pass will be offered.
“We’ll be working something out,” he said.
Henry Crown and Co., owners of Aspen Skiing Co., teamed with KSL Capital Partners of Denver last winter to form a new affiliate to dive into the ski industry. They made their first splash in April with the purchase of Intrawest Resorts Inc. and its six resorts. They later added four ski areas held by Mammoth Resorts. KSL already owned Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows and brought them into the mix of the new company.
The buying binge was topped off with the purchase of Deer Valley in August.
Aspen Skiing Co. remains “fiercely independent” and owned separately by the Crowns, Kaplan said. The bonds are tight. Perry was a top executive at Skico for 15 years and Kaplan’s right-hand man. Both men have said Aspen Skiing Co. and the unnamed firm will look for opportunities to share resources.
It’s a safe bet that Perry and Kaplan and their teams are working on plans to get skiers at Mammoth, Deer Valley and Steamboat interested in trying out Aspen-Snowmass, and vice versa.
While waiting for the new ski company to step out of the shadows, some in the ski industry have dubbed it Newco.
Gregory Wagner, teaching associate professor in the University of Denver Department of Marketing and a former advertising industry executive, said it was smart of the new company to take its time and conduct thorough research before selecting a name.
The company doesn’t want to come across as big brother for fear of alienating customers at the individual resorts, he said. It had to determine its mission statement and its objectives at each of the 13 resorts before coming up with a moniker.
“Once you have all the input, it’s so much easier to come up with the name,” Wagner said. “It avoids false starts. You can’t just say, ‘Hey, give me a name.’
“It’s a big deal to get it right,” he added.
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