If North American ski travel planners are witness to any single
trend as the century draws to a close, it's the impact from the
rapid consolidation of the winter resort industry.
In many markets, locally owned destination ski resorts are now
the exception rather than the rule because several large corporate
operators now manage resorts in many geographic regions.
As these publicly traded companies gather capital from the
booming equities markets, various improvements -- and thus enhanced
selling opportunities for agents -- are beckoning.
Some new inducements include provisions for the business
meetings and incentive travel sectors. Others represent more
mundane yet certainly welcome upgrades to existing vacation
Additionally, several of these mega companies are being staffed
with executives from industries (cruise and hotel) that have
traditionally grown through direct partnership with travel agents.
It may all be adding up to a more agent-friendly environment in the
At the least, additional funding certainly means ski areas will
be better equipped to provide a comprehensive winter resort
For instance, at New Hampshire's Attitash Bear Peak -- owned by
the American Skiing Company which operates resorts in six states --
last season's improvements are helping the resort stand out against
While this destination, two hours from Boston, already featured
conventional on-slope condominium lodgings, the addition of its
Grand Summit Hotel has opened up the property for business
functions, giving it an edge over independent ski area lodgings in
the White Mountains.
For example, the Grand Summit features 11 meeting rooms, a
5,300-square-foot ballroom, full-service restaurant, cafe, fitness
center, outdoor heated pool, valet ski storage and that most
popular activity for executive retreats these days: A
rope-climbing, leadership challenge course.
Besides business travel improvements, other general benefits of
resort management consolidation include reciprocal lift ticket
arrangements at various other company-owned resorts, and the
standardization of amenities for instructional and equipment rental
programs. While traditional destination resorts are being
constantly upgraded, some conglomerates are also improving the
rubber tire operations in their domain -- hoping to eventually draw
legions of novices to their larger resorts.
This is just the case at Intrawest. The company owns destination
resorts in British Columbia, Quebec, Vermont and West Virginia, but
it also operates day trip-oriented ski areas in California and, for
the upcoming season, in New Jersey.
Skiers at these smaller operations will certainly be witness to
cross-marketing promotions designed to get them to book vacation
products at Intrawest's larger destination resorts.
In the end agents may see this trend bringing them clients
looking for the familiar surroundings of a "corporate brand" of