As they do each and every ski season, the West Virginia Ski Areas Association gathers its member owners, Presidents and management teams and staffers from the WV Governor’s office and the media to recognize this month as officially Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month.
First of all – kudos to Joe Stevens and to all of the member resorts for taking time out of their busy schedules to gather and take the time to “make a production” out of the announcement. I say that because I have received a few emails from people asking us why SkiSoutheast takes this time each year to collaborate and broadcast the 20-30 minute proclamation that sounds like politicians getting together for the sake of getting together.
I want to tell our readers that it is a 2.5-3.5 hour drive from Snowshoe and Davis, WV to Winterplace Resort where the meeting was held. It is around an hour drive from the state capitol in Charleston, West Virginia to Winterplace.
The best answer I can provide as to why we cover the news conference is for the same reason that the WV Ski Areas Association members and others in attendance find it important enough to take the time to host the meeting. It is important to advertise and promote the growth of the sport that we are all so passionate about.
Joe Stevens is the official spokesperson for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association and a tireless ambassador for the industry. He got the news conference going by bringing attention to how great the weather has been of late.
He then recognized those in attendance – GM Steve Drumheller and Director of Mtn Ops Mike Chaney of Canaan Valley Resort; President Terry Pfeiffer of Winterplace as well as Tom Wagner who is the Executive VP of Winterplace. Timberline Resort sent their Ski School Director, John Anderson as well as Chris Negley. Snowshoe’s PR Specialist, Shawn Cassell also made the trek down Hwy 219 to attend the meeting.
Ski Barn’s Morgan Long and Rhonda Hazuka were the only representation from local ski shops. Good on them for attending. We work with a number of ski shops in the region and I can attest to the fact that the Ski Barn team is top notch and very passionate about the industry.
Lisa Schrader of the Southern WV Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Executive Director of Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Jamie Null took the time to attend as well.
Joe graciously recognized SkiSoutheast.com and our viewers as we broadcast the LIVE FEED brought to us by The Media Center in Charleston, West Virginia. (Special thanks to those guys as Kenny Griffin and myself were not able to make the trip today.)
After some cursory introductions, Joe spoke very briefly about the importance of the ski industry as a whole to the economic impact to the state of West Virginia. A lot of people see the crowds that dot the parking lots and slopes at the resorts themselves and lose the fact that those very same people are eating somewhere; lodging at the various cabin rentals, hotels and bed & breakfast inns, and they are playing and shopping within those mountain communities closest to the ski resorts.
Stevens added, “Ski shops, restaurants, gas stations and all area businesses benefit from the draw of the ski areas within the state.”
With those introductions and brief comments made, Joe turned the mic over to the President (not only of Winterplace Resort) but also of the WV Ski Areas Association, Terry Pfeiffer.
Terry quickly broached the subject of how COLD it’s been by saying, “Hi guys. It’s snowing, it’s cold. I mean how often are we inside a building and half the people are wearing hats (boggins). I either need to call the electric company or turn up the heat a little.”
He then brought up the fact they are in the “middle week” between the just-wrapped-up Christmas week and the approaching MLK weekend and how great things have gone thus far this season. He punctuated his comments by adding, “What we call this weather outside is ‘white gold’.” He then reminded everyone in attendance about how up and down the last couple of Christmas weeks had gone.
Pfeiffer then appropriately boasted, “Every resort in the state has invested millions and millions of dollars on their snowmaking infrastructure. We have some of the highest capacity snowmaking systems per acre in the country, right here in West Virginia.”
The subject then turned to the reason that all those in attendance gathered – Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month. Pfeiffer noted, “It’s our goal not only to introduce people to the sport of skiing and snowboarding, but to create lifelong enthusiasts.”
He spoke more about how skiing is such a generational sport and that we need to keep passing that passion on to others in our families and circle of influence.
Since Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month is upon us, it is important to note that all of the ski areas within the state of West Virginia have staffs of professional ski instructors and their goal is to make first time skiers have a memorable experience.
As any good representative would do, Pfeiffer then shared, “The impact of 800,000 skier visits create over a quarter of a BILLION dollars of economic impact and this is not just for the ski areas.” He asked, “Are the hotels going to be full for MLK weekend? Absolutely. Go out to any of the restaurants and look at how full they are with skiers. You know how you can tell they’re skiers? They are all wearing lift tickets.” – added as he smiled.
Terry then introduced the main speaker for the news conference – Chelsea Ruby, Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Tourism – a position she was appointed to by Governor Jim Justice about one year ago. Interestingly, Pfeiffer noted that Chelsea was not yet a skier or snowboarder – so maybe she’s the next candidate to invite during Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month!
Mrs. Ruby began by bringing special attention to our buddy Joe Stevens. She started by saying, “Joe does a fantastic job with the ski association. I work with all of tourism but I can tell you of all the different groups within the tourism industry – without question the most organized of the industry groups is the ski areas association. So thank you to Joe.”
She then went on to share that while Governor Jim Justice could not be in attendance today, that one of his biggest priorities going into this legislative session – is an additional $20 Million Dollars to the tourism advertising budget. That is significant when you consider that West Virginia already spends more than any other state within the region to promote the sport of skiing and snowboarding.
Chelsea went on to say, “We are able to formally make that kind of request in large part because of this industry. This industry can show us a return on investment for every dollar that we are putting into tourism advertising.”
She spoke a few minutes about the economic impact and she also shared an important piece of data that I had not heard before. She shared, “One of the great things about West Virginia is that our data shows that when people visit the state – about 86% of them come back.”
She added, “So this month is not just important to the ski industry but to tourism and the state of West Virginia as a whole.”
She then invited each of the resort ops representatives up to the stage and presented them with official proclamations from the Governor’s Office for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month within the state of West Virginia.
Joe Stevens wrapped up the news conference and things adjoirned.
Editor’s Note: I will tell you that it was awesome seeing each of the resorts come together as a group and to hear from Chelsea Ruby who is obviously a passionate spokesperson for the State of West Virginia and tourism as a whole.
You can watch the entire news conference as it was recorded LIVE at the top of the page.