Rossland has been making the big-time news in a big way lately, with some admiring mentions and ratings in some prominent places.
The town placed eighth on a New York Times list of 46 places to go in 2013. Beating out the Golden City were: Rio de Janeiro, Marseille, Nicaragua, Accra, Bhutan, Amsterdam, and Houston (?). Rossland placed ahead of New Delhi (9), Singapore (11), Hawaii (16), two other ski towns – Jackson Hole, WY (32), and Charlevoix in Quebec (37) – Ireland (40) and Paris (46).
This comes on the heels of Red Resort, in combination with Whitewater, being voted North America’s best ski town by Powder Magazine readers and a few weeks before CTV brings its national morning show to Rossland Carnival.
Between its web site and print editions, paid circulation for the New York Times is more than 1.5 million daily and more than two million on Sundays. When the Times speaks, others listen as papers such as the Vancouver Sun have reported on Rossland’s coup.
Local economic development officer Sandy Santori noted in a speech to the Rotary Club of Trail the other day that such publicity is worth big money. He wasn’t exaggerating.
Like many things, ad charges are subject to all kinds of discounts but the rack rate for a full page in the NYT is $175,000. You would have to sell a few lift tickets and nachos to get a pay back on that kind of expenditure, but the savvy marketers at the ski hill and Rossland Resort Association have gained the exposure – and greater credibility of editorial content – largely for nothing.
Rosslanders and other local citizens also deserve some credit for the publicity boon as they were no doubt a significant part of the turnout through the various stages of voting in the Powder Magazine poll. They are also being asked to turn out in the middle of the night to serve as extras during the CTV’s broadcast.
This is great news for the ski area which, despite all the years of trying, remains largely undiscovered. Despite the fabulous snow this winter, and substandard conditions in many other North American ski regions, Red is asleep on weekdays and drowsy on weekends now that the Christmas rush is over.
Although the peacefulness and quiet charm of Rossland and Red Mountain should be appealing to skiers looking to escape the big city for a vacation, the extra expense and bother of getting here is a difficult obstacle to overcome.
The heavy play of the “steep and deep” theme over the years has also been a tricky sell. Although many people do travel to collect stories and bragging rights, the typical skier in Toronto with money in his pockets isn’t looking to jump off a cliff for holiday fun unless he is attached to a bungee cord or a parachute.
Other worrying factors are the continued strength of the Canadian dollar, tighter lending rules and declining real estate values in most Canadian markets, a stagnant economy, and an aging population being replaced by immigrants from countries with no winter sports cultures. Oh yes, and climate change research indicates that the Kootenays are warming faster than any other region in southern Canada.
(Someone hand me a drink – this is beginning to sound like a ditty some of my long-ago student newspaper pals used to sing on Dec. 31: “Death, destruction, and despair, people dying everywhere; Happy New Year, Happy New Year.”)
Given all of the above, Red’s investors are showing a degree of boldness that is unheard of in this area. They plan to add a new chairlift this summer, opening up Grey Mountain to skiers who, until a snowcat was added this season, have had to hike there.
It is this expansion project, announced when everyone else is retrenching, that has really gained attention for Rossland and Red Mountain. We will have to wait to see if it also attracts appreciable new business.
Finally, although the recent round of publicity, especially the Times travel article, is great news for the local economy, they are a sobering reminder of the consumer beware principle when it comes to the media.
As much as I enjoy spending time in Rossland and skiing at Red Mountain, the notion that the Alpine City could leave Paris in the dust as a preferred destination this year is, as the French would say, “incroyable.”
Ray Masleck is a former Trail Times reporter