Ski lovers told to ‘bring a friend’ |

Ski lovers told to ‘bring a friend’

by Andrew Kirk, THE PARK RECORD

The best way to grow the sport of skiing is to get current enthusiasts to introduce it to their friends and family.

That’s according to National Ski Areas Association President Michael Berry, who shared his thoughts on how to increase business at the Park City Chamber/Bureau’s annual Fall Forum on Wednesday at The Chateaux at Silver Lake.

An advertising strategy like the hugely successful "Got Milk" dairy campaign would not work for skiing, he said.

"That’s not how skiing works," Berry explained. "People come to skiing today the same way you did through a friend or neighbor."

Almost everybody drinks milk, but some people will never try skiing no matter how much advertising they see. It is therefore crucial to know your target market and how to reach them. The message needs to be, "Someone changed your world forever; change someone else’s: introduce them to winter sports."

Despite the challenges of the recession, skiing has remained popular; resorts nationwide last spring reported record-breaking skier days. Resort operators have been seeing a 30-percent increase in gross revenue, he said.

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"It’s been the most amazing 10 years in history," Berry said. "These are the golden days."

In fact, the golf industry is looking to associations like his for answers.

"They sell a walk in the park on a sunny day. We sell snot-sicles," Berry joked. "But have you ever had a bad day on the mountain? Have you ever had a good day playing golf?"

It’s typical to see old men waiting for a resort to open at the crack of dawn, Berry said. Skiing energizes them.

If skiers are already a loyal group, the way to expand that base is to give them such a great experience they will tell others.

"A customer who is beyond satisfied will get other people interested in the sport and interested in you," he said.

The old men who visit the resorts are few in number, but have high frequency in the sport. And who can blame them? The skis are safer, the terrain easier, the food is better and the lodging is more comfortable, he said.

Everyone else in the sport visits the resorts less often, but make up a diverse demographic.

"That gives me huge optimism for the future," he said.

How easy it will be to grow those numbers, however, is not the same for everyone.

Vermont is not a growing state. The young people there tend to move away. New York resorts have no space to expand. As a result, these states, which currently see the same number of visitors as Utah, will be strategizing on how to maintain their numbers in the future.

Colorado and California resorts see about four times as many visitors as Utah, but their ski towns are about maxed out.

"Utah’s population is growing. You’re in the best position to change your numbers incrementally in a positive way," Berry said.