Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Sun Valley Rolls Dice with Epic Pass and Wellness January
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Sun Valley Resort is now Epic. What will that mean?
 
Friday, November 15, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

There’s an elephant standing squarely in the middle of the tilled corduroy ski runs as Sun Valley Resort prepares to embark on its 2019-20 ski season.

It’s called the Epic Pass, and it’s the industry-leading ski pass offering access to 68 resorts in eight countries.

Sun Valley Resort and Snowbasin Resort joined the Epic Pass collective this year in hopes that the pass  will introduce more skiers to Sun Valley’s storied slopes. But it’s anyone’s guess how it will play out.

 
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Scott Fortner said focus groups indicate people plan to vacation in Sun Valley this winter but they haven’t booked transportation and lodging yet.
 

“We can’t just expect people to show up,” Visit Sun Valley’s Marketing Manager Ray Gadd told more than a hundred business owners attending the Visit Sun Valley meeting at Ketchum’s Community Library on Wednesday. “We need to make sure those who have the pass know we’re part of it.”

Being the new kid on block, there’s an opportunity to get people here who have never been here before, noted Scott Fortner, Visit Sun Valley’s executive director.

Misconceptions abound, including the belief that skiers will overrun Sun Valley and that Vail will do the marketing for Sun Valley, he added.

“We will have to go out and get our fair share. The competition is going to be tough.”

 
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Aly Swindley, Visit Sun Valley’s community relations representative, said the Visitor Center got 75 visitors wanting information per day during peak summer months. July Fourth tallied 159 inquisitive visitors.
 

Even “SKI” Magazine noted that some Sun Valley devotees are nervous about whether the Epic Pass could affect the authenticity of the resort. But, wrote one skier: “While it remains to be seen how the Epic Pass will impact Sun Valley, it’s safe to say that if any resort has the history, community and spirit to handle it, it’s this one.”

Industry analyst Ralf Garrison has cautioned Sun Valley representatives not to take the pass for granted: “It can help you hold your own. Or, it can pose a threat because there are only a limited number of skiers and it gives those skiers more choices of where to go. If someone in the Epic family increases business 30 percent, someone else is down 30 percent.”

That said, there’s reason to believe that skiers and boarders will want to check out the resort that was voted second best in country by “SKI” magazine readers this past month. It doesn’t hurt that the resort consistently places in the top five year after year, scoring tops in lifts, service, lodging, apres ski activities, family ambience, charm and overall satisfaction.

Fortner said colleagues across the country are seeing a lot of enthusiasm for the upcoming season, thanks to last year’s bountiful snow and early season snow in Colorado.

The always enthusiastic, fun loving National Brotherhood of Skiers will return to Sun Valley in late February and early March, and they are stoked to come back, he said. And the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame will bring skiers and boarders to Sun Valley in late March.

Additional winter air service should feed more skiers into the area, as well.

WELLNESS JANUARY

Fortner noted that the $600 wellness tourism industry could bring a new crowd to Sun Valley. The term “wellness” is vague enough that it could encompass everything from fly fishing to yoga.

Fortner said Visit Sun Valley is eyeballing January as “Wellness Month, inviting people to visit Sun Valley while New Year’s Resolutions are fresh in their mind.

It also can tap into new visitors with its Dark Sky Reserve, the local arts and culture scene and Sun Valley’s attention to the intellectual, he said

LODGING NUMBERS UP:

Every month but May saw an uptick in the number of hotel rooms occupied in the span between May 2019 and October 2019.

May saw a decrease of 371 rooms compared with May 2018. June was up 381; July, 453; August, 701; September, 643, and October 1,010.

Occupancy exceeded the average occupancy rate for competitor resorts in June and August.

LOT (local option tax) collections in Ketchum were up 8 percent between May and September. Room nights were up 3 percent. Enplanements were down 2 percent with fewer seats available this year compared with 2018.

FRIENDING US:

The Net Promotor Score based on the number of people recommending Sun Valley to friends and family was 96 percent this past year. That is extremely high, Fortner said.

BUSINESS PEOPLE WEIGH IN

Eight percent of local business people said that business during summer 2019 was worse than the previous year; 28 percent, the same, and 64 percent better.

MARKETING STRATEGY

Visit Sun Valley is getting advertising out to target markets--Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, New York, Boston and regional cities--sooner than past years, said Gadd.

Visit Sun Valley is targeting the next generation through Matador Network’s Cody Doucette, who grew up in the Wood River Valley. Doucette will write a story examining the differences between then and now.

Visit Sun Valley plans to advertise in AFAR magazine, and print media, such as “Seattle” magazine in flight markets. It also plans to try podcasts on regional NPR stations.

Advertising will carry the message: You have to act on this now.

Promotions include Epic Pass lodging discounts, $400 VISA Reward Card and 5th Night Free and Delta.com 4th night Free.

Visit Sun Valley is partnering with Teton Gravity Research, feeding them up-to-date content. It’s running a pre-roll video featuring Sun Valley Resort at Warren Miller movie showings on the Eastern seaboard.  And it’ll target Accuweather with snow-related messaging.

Visit Sun Valley has put together four new website videos for this winter. One is an overview of what you will find in Sun Valley. Another examines the culinary scene through The Covey. The arts and culture video features a dancer and the active outdoorsy video, mountain biker Rebecca Rusch.

MOUNTAIN TRAVEL SYMPOSIUM COMING

Sun Valley Resort has been chosen as the host for the Mountain Travel Symposium in March 2022. Probably one of the largest events ever hosted here, the five-day event will feature tour operators from 35 countries.

“We’ve been working a few years to get this,” said Fortner. “It’s the opportunity to showcase all that’s going on.”


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