Throwdown title paying dividends for Kootenay ski towns
BY DARREN DAVIDSON
With media calls and public inquires being fielded from around the province and country following Nelson and Rossland’s Powder Magazine Ski Town Throwdown win, Mayor John Dooley is praising the community’s efforts in helping land the high profile honour.
Over Christmas, Nelson and Rossland beat out 32 other North American ski destinations in a two-month on-line contest to choose the continent’s very best ski town.
“I believe we were successful for several reasons,” says Dooley. “Both Nelson and Rossland have a population that has deep roots here. Community pride was a huge factor.”
The mayor says residents from both cities truly believe they live in an adventure tourism paradise.
“And our ski hills are just one piece of that,” Dooley adds, stressing the city’s four-season holiday opportunities.
Rossland mayor Greg Granstrom agrees, saying Nelson and Rossland share tremendous community spirit and rich history.
“There’s a commonality between the two communities, not a competitiveness,” says Granstrom. “It’s a huge asset. And we’re more than willing to share it all with the world. We really compliment each other.”
Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism and Tourism Rossland are now working together to leverage the Ski Town Throwdown victory through the rest of the winter and warm-weather months to follow.
The contest saw Whitewater and Red Mountain win head-to-head vote-offs with Sugarloaf, Maine; Whitefish, Montana; Crested Butte, Colorado; Sandpoint, Idaho and lastly, in an 11,426 to 10,572-vote final, Bozeman, Montana.
Dooley pounded the pavement for every round, urging locals and visitors alike to vote.
“We made calls and emails to all our employees and Regional District [of Central Kootenay] directors and staff. Any chance we got, the contest was front and centre in every conversation we had for a number of weeks.”
On a number of occasions, the mayor walked Baker and Vernon streets and Lakeside Drive, visiting business owners face-to-face.
“I talked to, Facebook-ed, emailed and phoned almost every contact I have across Canada and around the world,” Dooley adds. “And that’s a lot of contacts.”
The promotional impact of the win, which saw Whitewater and Red out pace even global year-round resort greats like Whistler, Aspen and Jackson Hole, is already being felt. Whitewater Resort’s Anne Pigeon has already conducted over a half dozen interviews with provincial and national media. Tourism Rossland’s executive director, Deanne Steven, says she’s almost been overwhelmed by “a tonne of calls.”
Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson says the regional tourism sector’s impact on local job creation and economic stimulus is tough to understate.
“Our board feels it is vitally important to our local economic well-being to create a sustainable tourism industry for the Nelson Kootenay Lake region. Holidayers here purchase accommodation packages, food and beverages, retail items, transportation, and all sorts of visitor services during their stay.”
Thomson says he believes the impact of the Ski Town Throwdown will be felt even more next year.
“It will be another marketing angle that we will be able to continue to build on, and I am certain we will see the notoriety of Nelson and Rossland continue to grow in the years ahead.”
Questions and answers with Powder Editor John Stifton
When it comes to powder, both the coveted snow variety and the esteemed ski publication (which has been around for 41 years), the man behind the magazine knows Whitewater and Red Mountain well. John Stifter has skied both resorts many times. Stifter was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. As a youngster he played Pee Wee and Bantam hockey in Trail and Castlegar. He also spent a lot of time in both Schweitzer, Idaho and Bozeman, Montana – two of the four finalists in Powder’s Ski Town Throwdown. Stifer first interned at Powder in 2004, then worked for ESPN during the Winter X Games, going on to write for many magazines and websites including espn.com, The National Post and Nelson’s own Kootenay Mountain Culture. He was named Powder’s Associate Editor in 2007, Senior Editor in 2011, and finally, Editor in 2012. Stifton spent a week in the Kootenays over New Years.
Darren Davidson: How the heck did a couple of off-the-beaten-path places like Nelson/Rossland manage to beat out all the other incredible ski resorts included in Powder’s Ski Town Throwdown?
John Stifter: You tell me. (Laughing). A contest of this nature that pits ski towns from across North America against each other elicits a lot of town pride and passion. And Nelson and Rossland, respectively, possess a lot of both. To be frank, watching this play out as a staff, we were relatively surprised how well all the small ski towns did against the giants, like Summit County, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Whistler. But it’s safe to say that although those Goliath-like towns might have bigger ski areas, the skiing and towns of the smaller lot are certainly no Davids, especially when factoring in all the original culture and skiing options of the Kootenays. Ultimately, though, Kootenay people are simply cool, creative, and sincere.
DD: How many years has the Powder Throwdown been running, and will there be another next winter?
JS: This is the first year. And, yes, we’ll most likely continue it next year, especially after gaining 57,000 new Facebook followers to our Powder FB page.
DD: You’ve got a longtime relationship with three out of the four Throwdown finalists: Whitewater/Red, Schweitzer and Bozeman. Talk a bit about them all.
JS: I grew up in Spokane and went to university from 2002 to 2006 at Montana State University in Bozeman. I’ve skied Whitewater and Red a bunch. My buddies from Montana and I would make an annual trip to the Kootenays every winter over New Years because we love the Kootenays so darn much. My resort of choice in the Bozeman area was Bridger Bowl for its infamous Ridge and proximity to town (a 20-minute drive), Big Sky for the park skiing, and Moonlight Basin because it was always empty and full of big descents. The Kootenays have more personality and a communal feel. Bridger most closely resembles Whitewater, as it’s a community-run, non-profit ski hill. No condos or anything. I’d argue the Kootenays have better backcountry and it’s more accessible from the two ski areas.
DD: So, when are you coming back?
JS: Sooner than later. Probably for The Gathering at Red Mountain in late March. I’d do anything to call the Kootenays home.