For the first time in recent memory, Whistler is going into an American Thanksgiving weekend with what the marketers might call "extreme early season conditions" (i.e., hardly any natural snow and a minimum of runs open). Meanwhile the major resorts in Colorado have lots of snow a couple of them have been open for two months.
That a significant number of people will be vacationing here this weekend, despite the conditions, is a testament to mankinds faith, marketing and the experience the Whistler resort and the Whistler people provide. But the fact is, Whistler is starting the season well behind many of its major competitors in Colorado.
Of course how you start a race is not as important as how you finish, but as the Colorado consortium know only too well, the start can have a major impact on how you finish. In this regard the Colorado resorts have one huge advantage over Whistler that we will likely never overcome: the Denver Broncos.
Year in and year out the NFLs Broncos wind up on prime time international television just before American Thanksgiving like the Nov. 18 Monday Night Football game or the Nov. 24 Sunday night game. And with half the American public (and a good percentage of Canada) glued to their television sets in anticipation of a fourth quarter scoring drive, invariably it starts to snow in Denver. Even in years when theres no snow in the Rocky Mountains, it seems to snow on the Broncos stadium.
The next morning the phones are ringing in Vail and Telluride and Aspen. A light has gone on in the head of casual skiers across the continent, many of whom have to be led by the nose to book a ski vacation. In the middle of football season theyve begun to recollect snow, and winter, and the Christmas frenzy, and winter vacations. Whether the Broncos have won or lost, Colorado resorts have scored early.
For Whistler, it doesnt make much difference what the B.C. Lions do they play under a dome and too few people watch them anyway. They dont compete with the Broncos, on the football field or in television ratings. Skiers in some of Whistlers other markets, like the U.K. and Japan, probably arent influenced by the Broncos, but its unlikely were going to get Manchester United or the Yomiuri Giants to play a game in Vancouver in November.
How much influence do professional sports have on skiers and boarders? When the Seattle Mariners tied the all-time record for most wins in a season in 2001, and expectations were high for a long October run to the World Series, early season sales of ski and board equipment in the Emerald City were down. Once the Yankees eliminated the Mariners in the league championship series, equipment sales picked up.
This year, with the Mariners not making the playoffs, the people of Seattle prepared early for the ski season, and many of them are here this weekend. The snow may not be quite what theyd hoped for but the Canadian dollar eases the pain, and should stimulate a serious weekend of Christmas shopping.
Its way too early to panic. There have been winters that started with less snow and finished with metres of the stuff. But we havent seen one of those seasons in the last six or seven years, when Whistlers profile has become truly international.
It may take a second half effort to overcome the Broncos first quarter lead.