Vail Valley: Small shops get big marketing muscle |

Vail Valley: Small shops get big marketing muscle

VAIL VALLEY – Tony Lyle believes he’s involved in the next big thing in resort marketing. A couple of Vail Valley ski shops think he may be right.

Lyle is the North American representative for, a European company that Lyle says wants to become “the Hertz of the ski rental business.”

That might not be quite right. To a layman, the Skiset model sounds a bit more like AAA.

Whatever the analogy, the Skiset model has already taken off in Europe, with more than 700 participating ski and snowboard shops on board in nine different countries. Despite starting just in April, Skiset North America already has affiliates in Vermont, West Virginia, Utah, California, Montana, Wyoming, and, of course, Colorado.

The company expects to have deals with 150 North American shops by the end of this ski season, and as many as 400 by the end of the 2011-12 ski season.

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So what is Skiset, anyway? Here’s where the AAA analogy comes in. Skiset owns only a very few shops, in Europe. The rest of the businesses that use the company’s marketing muscle remain independently owned.

Skiset evaluates ski rental shops for the kind of inventory they have for sale and rent, as well as the shops’ level of customer service and proximity to the lifts. Shops that meet Skiset’s criteria are then put into the company’s database of participating stores.

Like AAA evaluations, independent shops have to continue to meet Skiset’s standards to stay in the database.

If they do, Skiset delivers something most small shops can only dream of: a giant, Web-based marketing company that puts their shops on a very short list when people are booking vacations and renting gear.

“The benefit to the shops is they don’t have to do the marketing,” Lyle said.

Skiset makes life easier for people booking tours, too, Lyle said.

“A tour operator that goes to 25 resorts would have to contract with all those different shops,” Lyle said. “This way, they go through us.”

Aalta Sports was the first local shop to sign on to Skiset. Aalta Sports operations manager Preston Klomparenz said the shop has already seen benefits from the deal.

“It’s generating business already,” Klomparenz said.

Right now, a weak dollar, combined with better snow in North America, are bringing European tourists to the U.S., Klomparenz said. A lot of those customers are using Skiset to set up their gear rentals.

Aside from the immediate benefits, Klomparenz said the long-term prospects for the partnership with Skiset are positive.

“We really researched them,” Klomparenz said. “They’re experts in marketing.”

The Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead just started its deal with Skiset. Store general manager Matt Carroll said he’s looking forward to see what the company can do for his store.

“They’re the biggest rental company in Europe,” Carroll said. “They have a huge presence there.”

That established brand name allows stores like Aalta and Double Diamond to get in front of clients who are ready to rent.

“It really opens up a huge pool of customers,” he said.

But getting into the Skiset database requires face-to-face meetings with potential member shops. That means Lyle is going to be on the road a lot this winter, recruiting new clients.

“There’s a lot of flying and driving,” Lyle said. “But since we launched this site, we’re constantly updating the content. Now I’m about to start again.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or (It’s in French, but you can adjust the language on the page)

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