Regional Resorts Rolling Out Ski Deals

By Beacon Staff

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming and Montana ski resorts are rolling out deals to counter hard economic times that are cutting into their advance bookings.

Skiers heading to the three ski resorts in the Jackson Hole region of northwest Wyoming can get a free airline ticket with the purchase of three airfares.

The Whitefish Mountain Resort in northwest Montana is offering rental condos for half price through January.

Incentives are being offered at other resorts as well.

“I think what makes this year different is, of course, the economy, and the concern that people are really going to cut back on travel spending and so the packages this year are much more aggressive,” Tim O’Donoghue, executive director of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce.

Nationwide, early sales and reservations figures for some destination ski resorts suggests the economy is putting a crimp on the $6 billion ski industry.

At Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s leading destination ski area, advance bookings for December were off about 30 percent to 50 percent from last year, O’Donoghue said.

However, the trend lately is for people to book ski trips closer to the time when they actually travel, he said.

“The well-informed, experienced skiers are waiting longer to see what deals are available,” O’Donoghue said.

Donnie Clapp, spokesman for Montana’s Whitefish resort, said advance bookings were down less than 10 percent.

“We’re feeling pretty good about it,” Clapp said.

Whitefish received a big boost when it landed a group trip that is bringing some 420 college students from California.

“They usually go somewhere different every year,” Clapp said. “They chose us this year.”

There’s encouraging signs for Jackson Hole, too.

Enplanements of air travelers is down only 16 percent, and reservations at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s ski school and for private lessons are running about the same at last year.

In addition, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is debuting a new, $32 million aerial tram next weekend that can carry up to 100 skiers in a car at a time. It is one of the few U.S. ski resorts with a large aerial tram.

“In the ski world it’s big news,” resort spokeswoman Anna Olson said.

But the key to any ski resort, in good economic times or bad, is the amount of snow on the hills.

Grand Targhee Resort in the Jackson Hole area was one of the few U.S. resorts to have all its lifts and terrain open by last Friday thanks to plentiful snowfall.

“Travelers will go skiing and snowboarding if the snow is there — hands down despite what the economy is doing,” Grand Targhee spokesman David Hudacsko, said.