Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Combining Ski PR with R’n’R

The 90th Opening Day at Mt Norquay - photo by Dan
Evans, Courtesy Banff/LakeLouise/Sunshine
The ski season has kicked off to a great start with early snow and the first resorts opening up across North America. In Canada, Mt Norquay launched its 90th anniversary season on Nov 5. Two-time Olympian, Ken Read was there to celebrate opening day at Alberta’s oldest ski resort. Plenty of new stuff happening there this season, including an updated trail map, several new ski runs, expanded tube park, and 90c lift tickets once a month. Partnering with Banff Ave Brewing Co, the resort is toasting its birthday all season long with a new craft beer, the Norquay 90 Kolsch.

Lake Louise Ski Resort Nov 6
Lake Louise opened last Friday and is now gearing up for its season opener party on Nov 14 when season passes will be included among the prizes. Low season pricing means 50% discounts on day tickets at the moment. 

With the launch of Sunshine Village this Saturday (Nov 14), all of Alberta's Big 3 will be open - a solid early start to the season.

Brand new heated Orange Bubble chairlift replacing old two-seater
at Teepee Town, Sunshine Village
I love hearing about all the resort openings, even if I can't actually be there yet! So far I've noticed that Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Wolf Creek are open in Colorado and Mt Rose, Mammoth and Boreal in California. Big WhiteBreckenridge, Copper Mountain,  Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley will follow suit this weekend. 

Lake Louise Ski Resort Nov 6

With wintery weather in mind, check out Seirus heated ski accessories in this article excerpt from my new book WinterSport Tourism (the ultimate Christmas gift for your ski friends - only $48US in paperback with discounts for bulk orders):

After a more traditional career in public relations, John Brice switched to snow sports in 2009 in order to further his personal goals of skiing more and eventually relocating during ski seasons to a ski area. Based in San Diego, California, his company, Snow Sports PR now represents snow sports’ gear manufacturers, mountain lodges, ski areas, heli-ski companies and snow sports’ trade associations. 

“In 2009, after years of doing concert publicity, making the fish taco famous over 17 years as the PR rep for Rubio's ‘Home of the Fish Taco,’ and even repping AT&T at the Republican National Convention in San Diego, I decided to follow a new passion and now persuade consumers to purchase snow sports gear and to travel to ski areas,” says Brice, who has since changed the name of his business to Snow Sports PR from Brice & Associates, which he started in 1986.

Seirus Heated Gloves
Since the focus switch, Brice has won ‘Best Public Relations Campaign’ awards from the Utah Office of Tourism (2011) and Visit California (2009). Brice himself achieved another goal, by skiing 24 days last season. “And I hope to get more in next season - not bad for being San Diego-based,” he says. “My family situation keeps me from living at a ski area during the season. When I am able to do that, I plan on tripling my ski days - or more. I love to ski and that is why I shifted the focus of my PR business to snow sports. I also love my Seirus schwag - nice gloves, hats and other accessories!”

But how has he managed this mid-career morph into the world of winter sports? Just like the process of learning to ski, success in the winter sports industry is all about passion and persistence, says Brice. When he started skiing at the age of 18, he tumbled off chairlifts and spent his first season falling over in order to slow his erratic descents. It was only when a friend pointed out the value of carved turning to address speed and stopping, that he started to improve. “Now, I strongly recommend everyone start with professional lessons,” he says. “It's a wonder I stuck with it - or a testimonial to how much fun skiing can be.”

John Brice in search of powder
Harnessing his own passion for the sport after 25 years in journalism and PR, he set his sights on the winter sports industry. “I targeted a resort in Southern Utah, because I could drive there - and just kept calling and calling them to get my foot in the door,” he explains. “I gave them a good deal and, that first season, delivered publicity ranging from the local paper to the Washington Post. I could not have done this out of the gate without my PR experience working for brands like Hyatt, Marriott, Hollywood Bowl and AT&T and as a print journalist.”

With the huge influence of the Internet and social media, PR agencies have to work hard to keep up with both the amateur industry chatter and professional competition. “There are many other good PR people that work in snow sports and we don't allow each other to get lazy,” says Brice. “I want to make sure I get my info to a journalist before the other PR person and do so as clearly and succinctly as possible. I know the journalists will have many options regarding what ‘news’ to put in their story.”

Ruby Mountain Heli-Experience
Research is intrinsic to Brice’s success. He uses studies from the National Ski Area Association to understand the demographics and motivations of wintersports participants. “It is a passion driven sport,” he says. “Even before fully recovering from a lingering economic recession in the US, the nation in 2010/11 saw a record number of skier visits, according to the National Ski Area Association: 60.54 million visits.” Although participants may spend less on après ski, they will still pay for lift tickets, Brice contends. And their passion for the sport is fueled by the growing number of multi-resort season passes and advancements in ski equipment, which make it easier to learn to ski and to improve.

The ‘Now Generation’ - Millenials who expect instant gratification at the press of a button or click of a mouse - is impacting the snowsports industry as well as Brice’s modus operandi. “The news cycle is now 24/7 - even in snow sports,” he points out. “So a snow sports publicist is not just pitching the Sunday travel section or the monthly issue of SKI Magazine. I am constantly pitching opportunities and it seems like every day there is a new app or social media tool that helps me know - and reach - my editorial targets more efficiently. What has remained a constant it that you still need to provide accurate info or you will burn bridges with journalists.”

Seirus Innovation
For the future, Brice is concerned about baby boomers aging off the mountain and young replacements being put off by the increasing expense barriers to entry: “lift tickets, equipment, lessons, travel to the mountain, possibly lodging, and the incredible number of other options for spending one's leisure time.”

Hippy Tie Dye from Seirus
Meanwhile he is concentrating on publicizing high quality products and companies such as Seirus Innovation, a global leader in winter sports accessories such as heated gloves and mittens. It is co-owned by Salt Lake City's Joe Edwards and past chairman of the SnowSports Industries America and current CBS TV football analyst, Mike Carey. Snow Sport PR also represents Arizona Snowbowl and Ski Lift Lodge, Southern Utah’s Eagle Point and Nevada’s Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience.

Committed to promoting ski and snowboard education, Brice is also a public relations specialist for the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month/Bring a Friend Program, the gateway for 500,000 introductions to snowsports over the past six seasons. “This program is supported by both National Ski Area Association and Snowsports Industries America making LSSM/BAF the biggest organized recruiting program in the snow sports industry,” he says. At the end of the day, he thinks skiing well is one of the best motivators to stick with the sport.

Meet John on Twitter @SnowSportScribe
Eagle Point, Utah

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