Ski Country, Vail Resorts getting along |

Ski Country, Vail Resorts getting along

VAIL – It’s been nearly three years since Vail Resorts, the largest ski company in the state, withdrew its membership from Colorado Ski Country USA, the state’s ski industry trade association. The departure meant the trade association had to reorganize quickly, especially since Vail Resorts’ membership accounted for about one-third of its budget.

Vail chief executive officer Rob Katz said in a statement in 2008 that Vail Resorts wanted the association to refocus toward a more traditional public-policy role with less of a focus on marketing.

Melanie Mills, president and chief executive officer at Colorado Ski Country USA, said that while there aren’t any active discussions about Vail Resorts returning to the organization, the working relationship is very healthy.

“There’s no hostility at all,” Mills said. “We talk amongst ourselves all the time. There’s a lot of interaction going on. I had lunch with three people from Vail Resorts on Monday.”

Colorado Ski Country represents 22 ski resorts in the state. Vail Resorts is the only ski resort operator in the state that is not a member. When Vail Resorts pulled out in 2008, Colorado Ski Country USA released its 2008-09 Colorado ski map which omitted Vail Resorts’ mountains. There it was, a map showing every ski area in the state, except for Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek and Keystone. Mills said the association has used the ski map for decades as a promotional map, therefore including non-members on it wouldn’t make much sense.

“It’s not a highway map,” Mills said.

When asked about Colorado Ski County and whether Vail Resorts has any interest in rejoining the association in the future, and about Katz’s comments at the time about wanting the association to focus more on public policy than marketing, Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga issued the following statement:

“Vail Resorts is a leading voice promoting Colorado winter and summer tourism, through our own marketing efforts, serving on the board of the Colorado Tourism Office, and as a member of both Visit Denver and the Denver Metro Chamber. We also work in partnership with numerous organizations across the state, including Colorado Ski Country.”

Mills said the association focuses on three specific areas – public policy, communications and public relations, and marketing.

“We were founded as an organization to work on policy in 1963,” Mills said. “Our emphasis on that hasn’t changed.”

Mills said all three areas receive pretty equal amounts of attention from the association, but that no season is identical.

“Some years it seems like you spend more time and energy on one than another, but it’s not by design,” Mills said. Members get different things out of their membership, too. Some members might find policy more important and for others it might be marketing, but everyone gets something they need, Mills said.

Would Colorado Ski Country USA want the four VR ski areas to rejoin the association? The door is always open, Mills said.

“It would make sense for them to join and be a part of the industry trade association,” Mills said.

Both Colorado Ski Country USA and Vail Resorts reported in January a 10 percent increase in skier visits for the early part of the 2010-11 winter season.

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