In February of 2016, Snowmass Tourism announced it was partnering with other mountain towns in the state to “connect the Colorado adventure dots,” by helping to develop two business-to-business adventure travel inbound operators. These companies, Ursus Adventures and Mountain Travel Logistics (MTL), will feature itineraries covering 10 different regions of the Rocky Mountain State. This is a year-round endeavor, designed to encourage longer, more meaningful trips to these often “weekender” destinations, both during ski season and the popularizing “off-seasons.”
“Mountain communities and mountain resorts like Snowmass are ideal hub locations for adventure travel,” says ATTA’s Director of North America Russell Walters, “They often times have much of the built eco-system already in place to support the needs of the traveller, the tour operator and the local guide community.”
Destinations that are primed for winter recreation have everything they need to support robust summer and fall travel -- plentiful quality accommodations, excellent restaurants and transportation infrastructure, as well as well-trained staff all along the supply chain. And while this is a trend we’re seeing around the globe (especially in Europe), the ATTA was very interested in how this one small town took the lead in creating a statewide effort, so we asked Fred Brodsky, Group Sales Director at Snowmass Tourism, where the idea came from to support two new companies to lead this charge.
ATTA: What kind of itineraries and activities will Ursus and Mountain Travel Logistics offer?
Brodsky: Ursus Adventures offers fully guided, full service itineraries whereas Mountain Travel Logistics is geared toward the fly-drive market. Both will offer multiple-day itineraries (most longer than a week) that feature daily adventure-based activities that move through the great mountain towns and backcountry of Colorado. Additionally, these itineraries will offer opportunities to visit great craft breweries and distilleries, restaurants unique to the mountain towns, historic hotel stays and access to the summer festivals that help define mountain town culture.
ATTA: What exactly was Snowmass’ involvement in the creation of these new operators? Was it purely financial or were you more involved in planning and business development?
Brodsky: Snowmass Tourism has really been the catalyst for the development of these companies. We feel strongly that in order for the mountain towns of Colorado to be truly successful, we need to work together in order for guests to be able to book longer-stay vacations as opposed to just weekend jaunts. We saw Ursus and MTL as avenues to do this and approached the now owners of the companies to gauge their interest. Both companies are extremely experienced in the mountain towns, so they developed the itineraries. We have helped with website development and will be active in marketing them.
ATTA: How does the business-to-business model work in this case? Why did Snowmass choose this model in the case of developing these new operators?
Brodsky: We chose this model because we were responding to the needs of tour operators wishing to book the area. Ursus and MTL will work direct with outbound tour operators to create custom itineraries that both meet the needs of that operator as well as conform with their company culture. The itineraries will be offered up on a commissionable or net-rate basis. That said, Ursus will be moving to both B2B and direct to consumer. They have a long history as the premier outfitter in the area with both a deep database and a loyal customer base so it just made sense for them to do both.
ATTA: How can a small municipality like Snowmass represent all of what Colorado has to offer in the way of mountain towns? Or, in other words, why is this initiative being spearheaded by Snowmass?
Brodsky: We don't feel we can stand alone and "win" in the summer, so instead of initiating a discussion about partnership with a multitude of entities, we decided it was just best to lead by example. We hope this will be a launching point for adventure travel in the Colorado mountain towns and others will join in.
ATTA: You’ve personally attended a few Adventure Travel World Summits and Snowmass hosted the first annual AdventureELEVATE in 2015. Was this new push by Snowmass in any way inspired by these ATTA events?
Brodsky: Absolutely! Over the past two years we have met a myriad of outbound tour operators who are intrigued by the natural assets available in Snowmass and the surrounding areas. However, they have no way to really access or buy these areas. Ursus and MTL are our answers to this issue: Experts in the area who can create appropriate itineraries, book lodging & activities, and fulfill the needs of tour operators and their guests.
The ATTA often acts as a convener of local communities, bringing together suppliers and buyers, DMOs and the media, which is exactly what happens at events like the Adventure Travel World Summit and AdventureELEVATE. Russell Walters explains how to apply this formula specifically to mountain communities that want to become year-round destinations:
“The ATTA can shine a spotlight on those places that are successful and share best practices from around the globe,” says Walters. “We know that mountain towns are having success with events (music events and festivals, races and marathons), they have built attractions such as golf courses and zip lines, but their true year round potential could lie in the experiences they offer. The ability to weave local experiences such as hiking, biking, mountain biking and fishing into multi-day experiences and tours when coupled with local culinary, beer tasting, wine tasting etc will appeal to the adventure traveler.”
Other North American winter destinations like Jackson Hole, Whistler and Banff have been successful in promoting summer travel, but what Snowmass is doing is a uniquely collaborative take on re-marketing what you’ve already got. “Snowmass is working with regional activity providers, lodges and hotels (in some cases direct competitors to Snowmass) to develop region wide itineraries,” Walters points out. “This combined with logistics and transportation expertise makes packaging simpler and the buying of travel in the mountains easier.”