Putting Up A Brave Front
by Martinique Davis
Nov 22, 2005 | 903 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was exactly 235 days ago today when outrageously costumed spring skiing and snowboarding fanatics took those last turns on Telluride Ski Mountain.

Today those hardy souls will probably strap on their tuned sticks and boards again, for the inaugural first ride of the 2005-06 season, down the ski area's few open runs.

Today the Telluride Ski Resort fires up lifts 1, 4, and 7 for its annual fund-raiser Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club Donation Day.

All skiers and riders, whether they're season passholders or not, will need to purchase a $24 lift ticket. The day's net proceeds will benefit TSSC.

Open terrain includes upper Misty Maiden and Village Bypass to lower Boomerang. Lift 4 will be open; lifts 1 and 7 will run for access only. There is currently no mountain access from the top of the gondola, but more terrain will open as soon as conditions permit, Telski officials report.

Although the 2005-06 ski season has revved up more like a lamb than a lion, Telski remains optimistic that things will soon shift into high gear. Airline bookings on guaranteed flights for the season are up 500 seats from last year; bookings for December alone are up 26 an impressive percent.

Reservations are up by an even more impressive 33 percent, with group bookings up 31 percent and regional pass sales well ahead of last year's totals.

"All the leading indicators are extremely positive at this time," said Ken Stone, vice president of sales and marketing for Telski. "With our new advertising, marketing and branding message, our strategy has become much more targeted toward our destination visitor and we are continually attempting to increase awareness for Telluride."

That means the word is out about Telluride, despite the lack of early season snowfall. And locals and visitors hitting the slopes this season will note a few additions and transformations to the resort's offerings, which Telski staffers anticipate will bolster the resort's reputation as one of the nation's leading ski areas.

On-Mountain Dining Experience Enhanced With New Staff

It's been a hot topic for the last few seasons: on-mountain dining in Telluride could use a boost. In Ski Magazine 's 2006 Resort Guide, Telluride was ranked at 15 among ski resorts in North America. The resort held its own in the top three for scenery, but the publication was not so complimentary about skiers' on-mountain dining experience in Telluride (the word "awful" was used).

This season, Telski plans to turn that culinary criticism around with its experienced crew of new food and beverage specialists.

The new cuisine team, which oversees operations at Gorrono Ranch, Giuseppe's, Big Billie's, High Camp, and That Pizza Place, have spent the last weeks readying the mountain for the upcoming onslaught of hungry, and discriminating, clients.

"We are really excited to find good, quality people in our community to fill these roles," said Chuck Horning, owner of Telski. "This group cares about the product, the customer and has a strong, hands-on work ethic."

Rich Fake and Jane Miller, who ran the food and beverage department at Telski from 1990 to 2002 have returned to help restore a high level of food and food service on the mountain.

Fake and Miller met, and later married, in Vail while working together in that resort's food and beverage industry. After six years in Vail, they moved to Telluride and built Telski's on-mountain dining department. The two were instrumental in the development of Big Billie's Restaurant, The Pizza Chalet and High Camp, as well as operating Gorrono Ranch and Giuseppe's. Although absent from the company's food and beverage roster for the past three years, Fake and Miller are thrilled to be back at Telski and excited to bring back the quality experience they offered in the past. The couple is strongly committed to the sustainability of Telluride and knows that top notch food is part of achieving this goal.

"We volunteered to come back," said Miller. "We wanted to return to Telski because we feel the community deserves more when it comes to on-mountain dining."

"We are passionate about developing a team with core values," Fake added. "Core values include strong work ethic, commitment to customer service and quality food. It is time to get back to basics."

Brennan Wells was named the new general manager of on-mountain dining, and brings many years of restaurant and business management experience to the Telluride Ski Resort. He grew up on South Padre Island, Texas in the tourism and restaurant business, working for his family's restaurants and rental business. Wells ultimately opened and managed several successful restaurants and bars where he met Texans that traveled and raved about Telluride. In 2003, he and his wife took their customers' advice and made the move to Colorado, landing in Telluride.

"I am eagerly anticipating the new season, with an opportunity to meet, greet and visit all who enjoy the slopes," said Wells. "My goal is to combine what I have learned, to improve the quality of food and service, while building a strong relationship with the local community that is so vital to our success."

Wells is accompanied by new executive chef of on-mountian dining, Dean Sprague. Sprague, who moved to Telluride last year, brings ten years of Colorado culinary experience to Telski, including his time as executive chef at The Glacier Club in Durango. He apprenticed for four years at the Four Season's in Dallas and has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America.

"I am focusing on quality food and putting out a quality product that the company will be proud of and the locals will enjoy," said Sprague.

Environmental Department Implements Sustainability Initiatives

Although the changes may not be obvious to the everyday Telluride Ski Resort visitor, the company has undertaken a sizeable sustainability mission for this winter's operations. Fuel-efficient snowmobiles, energy-efficient lighting, recycled paper plates and biodegradable utensils at all on-mountain restaurants are just a few of the sustainability measures initiated by Telski's Environmental Department Programs Manager, Deanna Belch.

After the resort hosted a sustainability workshop earlier this year, a new sustainability program was developed to help steer the company as a whole in the direction of greater environmental awareness.

"We created three company committees to drive the program," Belch explained. "This winter's action plan will focus on reducing waste and increasing recycling, conservation of energy and fuel reduction. The message of sustainability has been addressed in all orientations and management accountability... This is probably the most important new initiative."

This winter the company added two, four-stroke Polaris snowmobiles to its fleet. The four-stroke snowmobiles are more fuel-efficient than their two-stroke counterparts, are quieter and generate less pollution. Belch said the downside of the four-stroke snowmobiles is that they are heavier, less powerful and a bit slower, so they may not be used in emergency situations or on steep slopes.

Telski's restaurants will use recycled paper products, like plates and cups, as well as biodegradable plasticware utensils made from corn, wheat or sugar. New, more prominent recycle stations are also planned for the restaurants.

New energy-efficient lights have been installed at Gorrono, and the program to retrofit all on-mountain facilities with new bulbs continues this season. Current installation plans include Plaza offices and the vehicle maintenance shed. "The new lights use significantly less energy, last longer and provide higher quality lighting for our employees," said Belch, adding that the project at Gorrono reduced the lighting load by nearly 50 percent.

"I think it's really important that Telski plays a part in the regional sustainablity initiative, in that we start something that goes outside the company and into the community itself," said Belch. "For me, it's exciting to see all the different departments get involved. It's refreshing to see more and more people taking an interest in sustainability within the company. It's something we can all do together and feel good about."

GearUP Program Takes Shape

This year the Telluride Ski and Snowboard School has teamed up with Burton Snowboards and Rossignol Skis for an exclusive new program known as the GearUp Program. The goal is to bring beginner skiers and snowboarders to a more advanced level, while providing the opportunity to own custom fitted equipment at no extra cost. The program combines two days of first time lessons, lift tickets and the latest rental equipment from Telluride Sports. When lessons are completed, rentals are traded in for Telluride Sports custom fitted Rossignol skis with bindings or a Burton snowboard with bindings, matched to the participant's ability level.

Diehard Skiers Earn Mileage on Continental Airlines

For the first time ever, ski resort guests can track their on mountain experience with the Telluride Mountain Miles Program. In a partnership with Continental Airlines, Slope Tracker and Telluride Ski Resort, skiers who participate in the program can receive one air mile for every 100 vertical feet skied.

Vacationers who book a four-day or more stay through Continental can participate by checking into the Mountain Village ticket office. They will receive a GPS Ski Tracking System armband to track their mileage on the mountain. At the end of the day, the armband can be returned and its information downloaded to calculate the amount of ONEPASS frequent flier miles earned. Participants take home a souvenir map detailing their skiing experience, including number of runs, vertical feet, speed, calories burned, distance traveled, time skied, and terrain difficulty skied. Anyone can participate for a daily charge of $35 (no miles accrued).

Tempter House Opens for Business

Perched at 12,200 feet near the crest of Gold Hill, the Tempter House overlooks the Telluride Ski Resort, the town of Mountain Village and perhaps some of the most dramatic views of Bear Creek canyon you'll ever see. Nestled in a spectacular setting, it is one of the highest elevation homes in North America. A steam shower, Jacuzzi tub, pool table, sub zero appliances, ski-in/ski-out access, log fireplaces, feather beds, fine linens and spectacular views from every room are just some of the amenities guests will find.

Featured in the December issue of Playboy Magazine as one of the nation's ultimate mountain playspots, guests wanting to experience the utmost in high altitude luxury will have to foot a hefty bill. A just-the-basics night at the Tempter House goes for $5,000, while $20,000 gets you a personal chef, masseuse, butler, and heli-skiing service.

Increased Reservations Credited to New Sales and Marketing Campaign

Telski's new advertising campaign features burled wood and leather with beautiful photographs of Telluride, inspiring copy and glowing quotes, such as "The snow is feather light, the skies are turquoise and the nearest Wal-Mart is 65 miles away." - The New York Times . Launched in the Fall of 2005, the campaign is running in publications such as SKI , Skiing , Powder , The New York Times , Denver Post , and Town & Country , among others.

Thanks to its new creative design layout and simplified navigation structure, Telski's web site traffic for September and October has doubled since last year. Mentioned on the web site are some of Telluride's new promotions, including the Mountain Miles and GearUp programs.

Rounding out the ski resort's marketing efforts is the addition of collaborative partnerships with American Express, Coca Cola, Amstel Light, Absolut and Subaru. This season American Express launched a new online sweepstakes where Telluride is featured in a trip giveaway. The resort is also working with the above-mentioned sponsors to create unique programs that complement each other's marketing objectives - one more way to increase visibility to the consumer.
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