Vt. Ski Resorts Use Social Media To Stress They’ll Open

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(Host) Vermont’s largest ski resorts are trying to get the message out that, despite the wrath of Tropical Storm Irene, they are open for fall visits and will be ready for the ski season. VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck) Bonnie McPherson is director of public relations at Okemo Mountain. Her own marketing offices were flooded, and while the carpet and walls had to be torn out she says they’ll soon be replaced.

Across the street, an access road that was completely torn up has already been fixed. Considering the storm damage in some parts of the state, she says Okemo was lucky.

(McPherson) "We had a bit of a mud slide come in and deposited about 4 feet of sand and silt. But we’re big time in recovery mode right now. So the lift shack is back on its feet. We’ve graded out and removed a lot of the sand and silt. And now we’re putting in some fill and additional drainage and as you can hear and the work is going on!"

(Keck) While repairs are still under way, resort officials say come winter, skiers at Okemo shouldn’t notice anything amiss.

Farther south at Mount Snow, PR director David Meeker says their resort suffered only minor damage.

Access was the biggest problem, he says, because Route 9 and neighboring communities like Wilmington were in such bad shape. Thankfully, he says, things are better.

(Meeker) "Now the message has gone from, ‘Don’t come because we need to give these guys some room to work,’ to, ‘We are open for business, the leaves are changing and it’s one of the most beautiful times of year. So please come and enjoy.’"

(Keck) But getting that positive message out can be difficult. Meeker says social networks like Facebook and Twitter are playing a much bigger role than even a year or two ago.

Chris Danforth, marketing manager for Killington and Pico Ski resorts, says social media sites are changing the way companies deal with a crisis like Irene.

(Danforth) "Perfect example: Part of our base lodge collapsed and a photo gets out on the Internet with the caption that the entire base lodge has collapsed. And if you don’t get out ahead on the story on social media, then someone else is likely to tell the story for you and it might not be correct."

(Keck) For the record, Danforth says, only the Superstar Pub section of the base lodge was destroyed. The good part of that story, he says, is they’ll be replacing it with a large outdoor deck and two heated umbrella bars.

(Danforth) "Lemonade out of lemons, definitely."

(Keck) Of all the ski resorts in the state, Killington was probably hardest hit by Irene. Danforth says most of the base lodges had water damage, some worse than others.

But he says the gondolas and chair lifts were not harmed.

And while he says there was some erosion on ski trails, it was minimal and can be repaired. He says the resort has posted a lot of photos on its website to highlight cleanup efforts and have ramped up advertising on social media sites.

(Danforth) "On paid search and Facebook we’re blowing through our budget, so that means people are clicking on and are interested in Killington and foliage. The interest is out there and people are checking in with us. At the very least to see how we’re doing and I see that as a positive sign."

(Keck) One, he says, that will hopefully lead to bookings.

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.

(Host) The ski resorts say despite all the extra work with flood cleanup, they all plan to open as usual late this fall – as long as there’s sufficient snow.

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