VANCOUVER -- Despite a lackluster 1999-2000 ski season, thanks in part to so-so weather conditions, Intrawest broke its own records with a 10% increase in ski and resort operations revenue.

What's its secret?

There are several, the first of which is geographic diversity, according to Michael Coyle, senior vice president marketing, for Intrawest.

Because winter sports are weather-dependent, the company opted to spread itself out rather than cluster in one area, Coyle said.

"The reasoning is that if you have bad weather in one place, it will probably be good elsewhere, and you will probably succeed," he said.

The company, based here, owns 10 mountain resorts, including Whistler/Blackcomb in British Columbia and Tremblant in Quebec.

Another factor, Coyle said, is a broad mindset.

"We don't consider ourselves a ski company, but a resort company," he said.

"People are coming to our resorts to gather family experiences and memories that encompass more than just the hours that they spend on the mountain."

That's where Intrawest's village concept comes in, he said, offering everything from restaurants and nightlife to family-friendly activities.

"Our mantra is: 'Who can visit when, seeking what experience?' " he said. "We apply that to every time of day, day of the week and season of the year."

In addition to appealing to a broad range of visitors, off-slope activities encourage people to stay longer, he said.

"If there is a nice bar, skiers might spend another hour [after the slopes close]; if there is a restaurant, they might grab something to eat, and at that point, they might decide to stay overnight," Coyle said.

Although these last-minute decisions might not seem to benefit travel agents at first glance, "it's the visitors who have stayed overnight who are coming back for a week next time," he said.

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