Warren Miller boosts Utah tourism
A narrator’s voice says, "The fabled Wasatch Range erupts" as waves of powder surround a bouncing object floating through the mist.
Soon Jeremy Nobis materializes from the whiteout, sticks a pole into the snow abyss, leans back on his skis and speeds away from the camera.
"It pukes snow." Nobis says of the Wasatch Range on Warren Miller’s new film "Off the Grid."
In other scenes, Utah athletes seemed to mock the sheer, snow-blanketed cliffs presented by the Wasatch. "Off the Grid" cameras shot dare-devil moves of skiers like Nobis, Jamey Parks, Jenn Berg, Julian Carr, Aaron Ward and Jaime Pierre, slicing insane lines through boulders and leaping off heights that would scare Evil Knievel.
Utah skiing and tourism may never have been portrayed in a better light than in the eight-minute segment showcasing Utah resorts."
The Utah Office of Tourism helped to fund the movie that showcases "The Greatest Snow on Earth."
"It was a $350,000 deal," said Nathan Rafferty, president of Ski Utah.
The investment, he said, was made possible because of Governor Huntsman’s "renewed interest in tourism and funding for tourism."
"They have recognized tourism as a viable economic engine," Rafferty said. "Something that has been almost nonexistent in the past."
The amount paid by the state of Utah encompasses more than just a spot in Warren Miller’s film.
"It’s important for people to realize, for that amount of money, you get a whole lot more than eight-minutes in a movie," Rafferty said.
Utah and Ski Utah will now piggy-pack on the marketing shoulders of Warren Miller as his movie tours the world, Rafferty said. This will also include the resorts and people who live in Park City.
"The Warren Miller Company is part of Mountain Sports Media, they own ski magazines and they will show that athletes live here because it’s easy to get in and out of the resorts and it has the best snow in world."
"We get the segment in the movie and access to the Warren Miller database, ski commercials, and our logo on all the movie posters. We’ll be in 185 markets in TV, radio and print," Rafferty said.
"The great thing about this partnership," said Leigh von der Esch, the director of the Utah Office of Tourism, "is that Warren Miller has a reputation, it’s a targeted market for people that are just crazy about skiing. We are announced as a sponsor, and the only state sponsor. We are really getting the message out; we have Park City residents saying, ‘This is the greatest snow on Earth.’"
Rafferty said the state wanted to get its new brand, "Utah: Life Elevated," recognized around the world with skiing and the other outdoor activities throughout the state. This, he says, will be a major strategy to improve an already effective campaign.
"I got a call from Boston that Utah is polluting my television screen," Rafferty said. "This stuff is finally in the market, which is great."
"Utah is going to be in every ‘Off the Grid’ showing that we have, even in Australia and New Zealand," said Nancy Richter, the media contact for Warren Miller.
Any Utah footage taken by the Warren Miller staff is available to the Utah tourism campaign. Similar shots would be extremely expensive, according to Rafferty.
Rafferty said, "It’s a huge savings for us. We’ll definitely get our money out of it. All of our tourism entities now get to use that footage. We feel like its going to pay the taxpayers back many times over."
Requests have already been made for some of the footage not included in the film, which is what von der Esch believes will be used the most.
"We already had a request from Delta Airlines for snow footage they can loop on flights," von der Esch said.
The state is looking to draw in visitors to all of Utah’s recreational possibilities. With that same tone, "Off the Grid" doesn’t mention resorts specifically but the quality of Utah skiing in general and why people live and come here.
"They don’t talk about any of the resorts," Rafferty said, "just purely about the snow and why there are all these athletes that live here.
"Park City is a hub of all these professional ski athletes because it’s close to resorts. These athletes are here for the exact reason that other people come here, it’s consistent, dry, and the greatest snow on Earth."
Warren Miller almost missed an opportunity to film quality snow in Utah because they filmed during the months of March and April. However, Mother Nature provided a little luck, Rafferty said.
"This deal came really late in the season," Rafferty said. "That’s not an ideal time to kick a movie in production. They wouldn’t have been able to do it unless they had a bunch of athletes here either, we lucked out; we had a storm and we had the best powder available.
"I was hoping for powder, we almost had too much powder, it was incredible and they got some great footage," Rafferty continued.
As a child, Rafferty remembers going with his father to Abravanel Hall and seeing Warren Miller narrate his movies live.
"Going from that to being part of these movies is really cool." Rafferty said.
During the production of the film, Rafferty was heavily involved.
"I was talking to the cameraman everyday," he said. "I was standing at the top of Snowbird’s Hidden Peak at 2:30 in the morning, at the same time it was an epic, blue-bird powder day. At the same time a helicopter came by shooting for the Warren Miller movie.
"It was then I realized we are on the same playing field with our neighbor states that had huge funding for years. We hope to see big gains down the road," Rafferty said.
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Summit County heard from the Park City Community Foundation that the county’s $1 million grant last year likely helped hundreds of people avoid homelessness. The nonprofit’s representatives said open lines of communication were key to ensuring that grant money went where it was needed. | Courtesy of the Park City Community Foundation