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In Utah, a combination of geography, people, and pollution have created a sticky branding situation.

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The Utah ski industry has a problem.

It’s not a problem with access, it’s not a problem with terrain, it’s not a problem with snow. It’s a problem with air.

This air.

The same mountains that make the Cottonwood Canyons “30 minutes from the airport” also form a bowl that traps inverted air for weeks at a time. As the population lives inside of this bubble, their pollution is trapped creating scenes that look more like Beijing than Salt Lake City.

I’m sure many of you have heard of or experienced this, but I want to bring up a unique aspect of this phenomenon as it relates to the marketing messages Utah’s ski industry pushes out to both locals and the world.

Cause & Effect
As you might have guessed, the pollution that gets trapped inside this inversion comes, in large part, from vehicles. Just under half, in fact. These cars and busses carry people to work, to school, and, yes, to the mountains to ski.

This puts an organization like Ski Utah in a really, unique spot.

On the one hand, what better way to escape the inversion than to get above it by going skiing? A perfect marketing message if there ever was one, right?

But telling people to drive to ski resorts is problematic on two counts because driving not only makes the inversion worse, it positions your message directly in opposition to requests from public officials.

So what do you do? If you’re anything like Ski Utah, you wrap it in an environmentally friendly package.

I’ve never been shy about my concerns surrounding POW, and I definitely have them here, but I do like how Ski Utah made the focus of their message a more universal, actionable drive toward the environment as a whole.

“To help praise The Greatest Snow on Earth®, on [POW Day] Ski Utah will be encouraging skiers and riders to carpool, take UTA or ride-share to help lower CO2 emissions, reduce traffic congestion and increase the overall awareness around environmental accountability.”

Ski Utah’s CEO, Nate Rafferty, used the word “Conscious which I thought was well chosen.

“To have so many local and national partners come together to help support UTA and alternative transportation methods to our resorts with an environmentally conscious attitude is great.”

There’s a bit more too this, however, so let’s dig one layer deeper.

Climate Change vs Inversion
As I’ve been watching this story over the last couple years, it’s hard to find stories or opinion pieces about the inversion that don’t also mention climate change. Which is interesting because, on paper, there’s hardly any crossover between the two. Climate change doesn’t cause the inversion and the pollution that makes it dangerous aren’t the ones that cause climate change.

But in the minds of Utahns – activists and bystanders alike – they are very much the same topic or at least along similar politic slants to bring one up while discussing the other.

So in the face of two topics that are getting stickier and more emotional by the week, I really think this sort of middle-ground, “let’s do something about it” stance is really, really smart.

The Future is Brown, but Intriguing
What’s also unique within POW Day is that, to my knowledge, these ski brands are some of the first within Utah to come together to actually try to do something.

Will it “get rid of the inversion” as one quote stated? No. That will likely never happen without Utah becoming a ghost town. But will it put Ski Utah a step ahead of other Utah industries on a topic that, more and more, is becoming a big one in the minds of Utahns?

Yes. It’s a bit of a bet, but they might just have the odds in their favor.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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