Scott Condon

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September 22, 2006
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Aspen tells skiers sport may be doomed

ASPEN " The Aspen Skiing Co. hopes potential customers are ready for a snow job.

On Wednesday, the company unveiled a new advertising campaign for the 2006-07 season that centers around the message that snow " and skiing " will disappear around 2100 if humans don't take drastic action to slow global warming. Three full-page ads, which show a melting snowflake imposed over Highland Bowl, will run in SKI and Outside magazines in the next few months.

One ad portrays a "certificate of death" for snow. Another labels snow an "endangered species" and explains why. The third pretends to be a "future definition" describing snow when snow is gone.

The company is gambling that it can capture the attention and interest of potential customers through environmental advertisements. That's contrary to advice it received five years ago when it paid an outside market research company to help it determine its "brand strategy."

That July 2001 study by a firm called the Z Group concluded that environmental issues were "neither highly important nor motivating for our three target segments." It advised company officials to focus on other issues that were more capable of selling lift tickets.

"That is not to suggest that Aspen/Snowmass should reduce its commitment to environmental responsibility, but rather simply to recognize that its value to the company does not lie in its marketing contribution," the study said.

Company officials insisted Wednesday that times have changed.

"We think that the environmental awareness has really come to the forefront in the last five years," said company spokesman Jeff Hanle. "The timing is right. The target market is right."

In a letter to reporters that accompanied copies of the new ad campaign, Aspen chief executive Pat O'Donnell wrote that "recent surveys" show 30 percent of visitors ranked environmental sustainability as an important factor when choosing a place to vacation. That is up from about 10 percent five years ago, O'Donnell said.

The "Save the Snow" ads are only part of the company's print ad campaign. More traditional ads, featuring skiers and snowboarders, will appear in magazines such as Powder, Freeskier and TransWorld Snowboarding, Hanle said.

Former company public relations director Jeanette Darnauer, who now owns a public relations and marketing firm in Aspen, said "there is no question they're taking a risk" with the global warming ad campaign. The risk, she said, is that it won't get noticed or won't motivate people.

But Darnauer gave the company credit for being bold and different. She thinks the risk will pay off.

"I admire them for sticking their neck out like this," Darnauer said.

The company's "Save the Snow" ads don't attempt directly to sell lift tickets " they don't say anything about skiing Aspen. Instead they direct readers to visit a new Web site, at www.savesnow.com, that shows what the company is doing and what individuals can do to combat global warming.

The company is confident they will garner attention.

"It's a risk worth taking, if it is a risk," Hanle said.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 22, 2006 12:21PM Published Sep 22, 2006 12:21PM Copyright 2006 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.