Thursday, April 30, 1987

Utah's Interconnect

My wife and myself have been involved at different levels in the Ski Industry, both share an obvious interest in the Interconnect. Prior to living in Park City, our home was Morzine-Avoriaz, France, the hub of what may be the largest Interconnect in Europe. We know what can be gained from networking ski areas; European resorts that are fortunate to be part of Interconnects are doing fine, other are struggling.

One reason is the addictive nature of Interconnects; once a skier has experienced them, single mountains feel like molehills. Another reason is because today's skiers are more fit and have better equipment so they can ski longer, go farther and enjoy the more diversified experience that Interconnects provide.

As far as Utah's Interconnect goes however, we must look at the competitive market place. For the past years, Colorado areas have waged marketing wars among themselves benefiting their visitors in many ways. Besides, and because of their sheer number and revenues, Colorado resorts have been able to afford high-powered marketing at the national level.

Last, but not least, Summit county which is relatively close to Stapleton airport has begun to erode Utah's reputation for easy access. In addition the heated competition that prevails in Denver between Continental and United has had a significant impact in driving down airfares. This, of course, stands in stark contrast with Salt Lake where Delta enjoys a de-facto monopoly.

At a time when skiing is no longer a growing sport, it becomes imperative to either compete aggressively with other ski regions in order to maintain market share, or start offering something that is truly unique. Since Ski Utah has less resources than Colorado to sell its product, we must take advantage of any feature that might make us desirable and different, and that where our interconnect comes into the picture.

When snow wasn't here for Christmas, many a visitor had to drive over the canyons to access some decent snow in Alta or Snowbird. Have we have the interconnect up and running that two-hour round-trip drive would be history. Thirty minutes would suffice to take skiers from Park City to Alta! Have we had the interconnect, Park City would have retained a great many winter visitors this season; instead, they'll go to Colorado next year. Bad snow years will unfortunately return and because of its lower elevation, Park City must rely on neighboring Cottonwood Canyon ski areas when this happens.

Let's face it, Utah's Interconnect has the potential to enhance the personality and the assets of every single resort involved; Alta offer great snow cover and a superb scenery, while Snowbird is – from a skiing standpoint – up to par with some of the best European resorts, and Park City rounds off the offering with the most charming mining town around, complete with a great choice of lodging, dining and entertainment. What could be more complementary?

While resorts like Sugarbush or Mammoth are contemplating connections with adjacent ski mountains and Colorado is making high-speed quads a standard in the business, Utah can no longer afford to wonder if the interconnect is a desirable asset in its tourism arsenal; it has instead become an urgent necessity.