Diversity taken into consideration, new event in the works for Mt. CB
[ By Kendra Walker ]
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council has granted funding to five local organizations and companies to help with the marketing of their events taking place this winter, using funds from the town’s admissions tax collections. Along with the usual suspects of grantees, a newer Mt. Crested Butte company has been awarded funds to help market an event that may bring a new wave of tourism to the town.
Also new this cycle, the council gave applicants the opportunity to apply for up to an additional $5,000 specifically for targeting a more diverse audience, in line with the council’s goal to be more inclusive and welcome diversity to town.
Adaptive and the Chamber
Among the applicants, the council unanimously supported the full funding amounts requested from the Adaptive Sports Center and the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m personally proud to have the Adaptive Sports headquarters in Mt. Crested Butte,” said council member Nicholas Kempin during a special meeting to consider the applicants on October 13. “Their building reflects really well on Mt. Crested Butte.” The council granted Adaptive $24,090 to market to individuals and families in markets within an eight-hour drive from Mt. Crested Butte for participation in Adaptive’s winter programs. The council also awarded Adaptive an additional $5,000 for their marketing plans to target diverse groups.
The council awarded funds for two chamber of commerce events: $3,500 for the annual Light Up Night lighted holiday tree in Mountaineer Square; and $3,000 for its new Mountain Money gift card program, similar to what ran in August this year. Light Up Night “makes a memorable experience for our guests and benefits our residents as something they can really enjoy as well,” said Kempin. For the Mountain Money program, the chamber will sell $20 gift cards for the price of $10. The cards can be used at participating Mt. Crested Butte businesses during the month of November.
The Chamber opted out of applying for additional diversity marketing funding at this time.
The council decided to fund $160,000 for TAPP’s winter air marketing program, taking into consideration the general uncertainty of what travel will look like for the upcoming season.
“I think everyone that I’ve talked to understands and agreed this is a time of tremendous uncertainty… With the state of the airline industry, how much should we be focusing on travel, what is the appetite for airlines right now?” said Kempin. “Are we going to spend the same amount of money to try to get a piece of what is now a much smaller piece of pie?”
“Part of my reluctance to spend money for more marketing is because I’m on the Mountain Express board and aware of needs there coming up,” said council member Dwayne Lehnertz, regarding the anticipated uptick in the drive market impacting the town’s transportation and infrastructure capacity. Fifty percent of the admissions tax collections go toward funding transportation, including Mountain Express.
The council did express concerns for marketing visitors this winter during a global pandemic. “The one thing that’s been amazing through this summer is we’ve all been astounded by how many people have come here. We’ve stayed so darned healthy here,” said mayor Janet Farmer. “I want to keep us healthy at the same time as keeping us in a reasonable place.”
Council member Michael Bacani noted the recent announcement of JetBlue and Southwest flying to Montrose. “I’d hate to lose our presence there. With that, my opinion is that I would like to see us continue to market the air, not just for this year but keep our market, keep our presence. Set it up so we’re not getting shoved out by Montrose or other ski areas that continue to market air.”
In the event of COVID-19 shuttering the resort for the season or cancelling winter flights, TAPP executive director John Norton assured the council that the granted funds would not be spent. “If there is some hiccup in the ski season… we’re able to turn off the tap. We’ll turn off the money spending. Without alpine skiing we’re not going to have a winter. I understand we have a great Nordic program and great backcountry skiing but that isn’t going to drive Mt. Crested Butte this winter.”
“I hope you’ll keep in mind the time periods of when to market the higher rates,” added mayor Janet Farmer.
Travel Crested Butte
The council awarded Travel Crested Butte $107,000 for its winter air and drive market marketing campaign. One new element Travel Crested Butte plans to incorporate is to integrate code into its lodging partners’ websites to track the booking traffic from Travel Crested Butte’s marketing ads. “So we’ll be able to see direct conversions and booking numbers from our ads specifically,” said Travel Crested Butte’s Josh Futterman.
Futterman had also already incorporated a diversity element into his application, so the council agreed they would include the diversity funding as part of the $107,000, asking him not to apply for an additional $5,000 grant opportunity.
“I appreciate that diversity is taken into consideration. I feel confident that we’re going to make that part of our guidance for future grants,” Kempin noted.
The council also expressed concerns that Travel Crested Butte’s grant request of Mt. Crested Butte accounted for more than half of the campaign’s budget, and council members reiterated to Futterman and all applicants that the grant awards are intended to be only a kick-starter for organizations and they are expected to eventually support themselves and their events independently. “Applicants should not depend on long-term line item funding for events,” said Kempin. “I don’t think anyone should depend on this funding in the future.”
The council awarded $90,000 to Blister for marketing the launch of its new Blister Summit. The ski equipment demo event will take place in February, inviting 600 attendees to test and demo ski gear and products from participating brands.
“We wanted people to come to us with brand new projects, and this is something that has the potential to grow,” said Farmer about founder Jonathan Ellsworth’s vision. “He’s already thinking five years down the road on how this project can grow and become something really phenomenal for Mt. Crested Butte.” Farmer also noted from previous conversations with Ellsworth that despite an uncertain winter, he wants to jump on the opportunity this year in order to secure the town’s spot for hosting the event.
Blister is also collaborating with Eleven and Irwin Guides for backup ski options if the resort is closed due to the pandemic. Kempin expressed some concern if the lifts are closed and there’s also high avalanche danger in the backcountry. “Having been a member of SAR [Search and Rescue] for a long time, I would encourage a heads-up in communicating with those folks,” he said. “It’s quite possible local rescue crews could be stressed at that time.”
The council also awarded Blister an additional $5,000 for marketing to diverse groups. Ellsworth has contacts with the National Brotherhood of Skiers, a black skiers group the council has expressed interest in hosting to the mountain. The last time the group held their annual Black Summit at CBMR was in 1986. “I love the idea of being able to act as a bit of a liaison between the National Brotherhood of Skiers and Mt. Crested Butte…I think we’re in a good position to plant some seeds,” said Ellsworth.
“The key is to set the example for other people to start other new things up here,” said Farmer. “We’ll collect sales tax on all those purchases, which is another huge plus to this.”
“It’s a local guy living in Mt. Crested Butte, with an office in Mt. Crested Butte, bringing people in on a non-busy time, which is what we’re trying to do,” said Bacani. “This is exactly what admissions tax is for.”
“This is exactly the type of event that gets me excited in the admissions tax grant arena,” said council member Steve Morris. “The more we can kick-start events like this, the better.”
The council awarded a total of $397,590 in admissions tax grant funds.