Intrawest joins MoD squad Ski deals, better pricing, aim of multi-resort alliance By Chris Woodall A group of eight independently-owned ski resorts in eastern United States has linked with Intrawest's eight resorts across North American to attract each other's skiers and broker better supplier deals. The eight eastern resorts had already formed the Mountains of Distinction group in 1996 to initiate those kinds of savings and skier trades. "The key three things this alliance achieves is it does something for the pass holders in the north-east U.S.; we hope they'll come here rather than go to our competitors; and we can look at it in a partnership and sponsorship perspective," explains Mike Davis, Intrawest's vice-president marketing, resort operations group. The eight Mountains of Distinction resorts are Okemo Mountain, Vermont; Jiminy Peak and Wachusett Mountain in Massachusetts; Ski Windham and Holiday Valley in New York; and Seven Springs, Ski Liberty and Ski Roundtop, in Pennsylvania. In the first case, pass holder skiers and snowboarders of a MoD resort will be offered discounts on lift tickets and accommodation when they visit an Intrawest resort during special MoD ski weeks. Similar deals will be offered Intrawest and MoD skiers visiting other MoD resorts. Intrawest's resorts include Whistler/Blackcomb, of course, but also Tremblant and Mont Ste. Marie in Quebec, Copper in Colorado, Stratton in Vermont, Snowshoe in West Virginia and 58 per cent of Mammoth in California. Intrawest’s chief rivals are other multi-resort owners Vail Resorts, the American Skiing Company and the Aspen Ski Company. Any skier who doesn't go to one of the resorts owned by those three is a good thing for Intrawest, Davis says, underlining the second key point. "Very much so," Davis replies when asked if this alliance is an attempt to corral skiers and boarders away from Intrawest rivals. "It's part of our strategy to draw people in the U.S. north-east to the rest of Intrawest's resorts in North America," Davis says. Although these skiers haven't been tracked to which western ski resorts they have been to, Davis says it's enough to know they do make trips west. The American Skiing Company is currently the largest ski resort company on the continent, in terms of skier visits. It is largely based in the east, but has expanded into Colorado, Utah and California in the last year. The third point in the strategy may not mean much to the ticket buyer, but could have favourable results for ski resort bottom lines. By combining MoD's 2.7 million skier visit buying power with Intrawest's 5.2 million visits, the alliance can negotiate better pricing for everything from snowcats to bulk food stuffs such as French fries, coffee and cleaning supplies. While Intrawest has a lot to offer in terms of accommodation, many of the MoD resorts don’t. "Some MoD resorts have accommodation to a minor extent, but some are strictly day trip resorts," Davis says. The ink on the "entente cordiale" is still too wet to consider extravagant marketing schemes during this ski season, Davis says. Marketing this year will be mainly at each other's resorts, testing package deals along the way, Davis says. "The main push will be for 1998-99." Television and magazine campaigns may be in the future, but are "down the list" of benefits with the new setup, Davis says. Special connections with airlines and their tour groups aren’t contemplated at this point.