Setting up ski trips are no longer simply a matter of putting
together air, lodging, transfers and lift tickets. Now agents also
have to know about snowboarding, snowshoeing, heliskiing, spa
treatments and children's activities.
And, as Beth Lynge, director of ski products for Mark Travel,
points out, they must cope with the fact that ski trips are
evolving into winter vacations in which one member of a couple skis
while the other ice skates, shops, uses the spa or goes
This means that agents must watch for flexibility in their
packages, says Lynge, whose Milwaukee-based wholesale firm runs
tours for several airlines and for its own tour operator
subsidiary, Mountain Vacations, located in Denver.
For instance, she says, buying a package for four doesn't mean
having to buy four lift tickets if one or more travelers is not
Indeed, because there are so many other things to do, even
skiers are likely to spend more time off the slopes than
previously. A 1996-1997 study of Colorado skiers conducted by
Colorado Ski Country USA shows proportionately more visitors skiing
relatively few days - seven days or fewer - per season.
Much of the increasing complexity of selling ski trips is due to
changes in the types of people who take them. For instance, the
percentage of female skiers has risen from 30% of Colorado skiers
in 1990-91 to 39% in 1996-97.
And snowboarders can now be anywhere from 10 to 70 years old,
according to Bruce Rosard, president of Moguls Ski & Snowboard
Tours in Boulder, Colo. In fact, he says, 30% of snowboarders are
at least 30 years old.
Despite all these complications, some suppliers and resorts are
trying to keep things simple for the agent. They say that selling
ski vacations really should be no more difficult than selling
"All of our products are available in the CRS," Lynge says. "Ski
is perceived to be harder to sell because there are more
components, but we have made it fairly easy with a
fill-in-the-blanks system. Our electronic bookings are growing
substantially each year."
Ski packages are becoming more popular with agents not just
because they reduce complexity, but also because they provide full
commissions on components ranging from air travel to lift tickets
and equipment rental.
This year, says Lynge, her company has introduced what she
claims is a first in the industry: A 14-day advance-purchase lift
ticket, available with certain multiday passes and fully
commissionable to agents. "This is not a yield-managed discount,"
says Lynge. "[The discount is] available to anyone who books 14
days in advance."
To help navigate all the elements in ski trips, says Lynge, "our
two ski call reservations centers are in Denver and Salt Lake City
so reservations staff have the mountains in their backyards. We can
get them to mountains for fam trips and keep them up to speed on
Simplification has its limits, says Lynge. "Each of the airline
programs we run is different depending on the airline itself.
"For instance, Southwest is a value-oriented airline while
United focuses on frequent travelers, usually business travelers.
They also differ because of the markets in their gateway
One of the most challenging aspects of staying current in the
ski market is keeping up with constant changes in ski areas that
result from massive investment by the new industry giants.
For instance, Jackson Hole, long a preferred destination for
serious, highly skilled skiers, has opened up a new intermediate
area of its huge mountain to widen its appeal.
"We are filling the gaps in the market," says Anna Olson, a
spokeswoman for the area, "with a new children's program and new
lift to that intermediate area. We were not for the faint of heart
before but now we can handle a much broader range of skiers."
The on-mountain changes won plaudits from Ski Magazine, which
has named Jackson Hole as one of the top eight resorts for mixed
Olson adds that agents should not only be familiar with what
resorts offer, but also neighboring attractions that might be of
interest to clients.
Neighbors of Jackson Hole include the Grand Teton and
Yellowstone national parks, where winter activities include
snowshoeing and wildlife viewing.