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June 13, 2007
WHITEFISH, MT – (News Release) – Winter Sports, Inc. President and CEO Fred Jones said today that it is launching a new branding and positioning initiative for Big Mountain Resort. Big Mountain will change the name of the ski and summer resort from Big Mountain Resort to Whitefish Mountain Resort to drive awareness, taking its namesake from the historic railroad town where the resort was founded in 1947.
From this new positioning strategy, the resort is launching a comprehensive set of initiatives that will deliver on and enhance the unique guest experience that the resort has been valued for, by focusing on everything that impacts guests’ experience, from products, services, and employee actions, to facility design and amenities. Within the past year, the company has already invested $20 million dollars into a new Day Lodge, two high speed quad chairlifts, a new beginner-skier area with a Magic Carpet and new beginner chairlift, and other amenities to improve the guest experience.
“On the eve of our 60th anniversary, we have looked back to understand what has made us special and unique to our guests,” said Jones. “We have looked at where we are today from the perspective of our guests’ current and evolving needs, as well as our dynamic competitive landscape and where gaps exist to meeting and improving on guest needs.
“Our offering is often underestimated and misunderstood and to many more, our name is highly generic. Therefore we are changing our name and graphic identity to Whitefish Mountain Resort and rolling out both substantive programs as well as communications that better set us apart and convey our unique guest experience.
“This initiative is also about a closer integration between the town and the resort, because Whitefish truly represents who we are,” emphasized Jones. As we market the resort and deliver an improved experience, we really are aligning ourselves more closely with Whitefish, which is recognized for the many attributes that makes us special and distinct, such as the friendly and helpful attitudes, unpretentiousness, and a laid-back comfortable environment. This initiative is in part about helping to preserve these qualities by formally integrating them into our culture, behavior, and service.”
The new branding platform is a culmination of nearly a year of research and analysis that included interviews with customers, employees, influencers and community members, visits to and analysis of major competitive resorts, as well as analysis of Big Mountain’s relevant strengths, differentiators and opportunities to improve the customer experience.
Winter Sports, Inc. developed its new branding platform in conjunction with brand advisors of San Francisco. President and founder Charles Rashall served as executive strategic director and Tom Suiter, a part-time Whitefish resident and artist, served as executive creative director. Rashall has positioned, developed, and implemented programs for some of the world’s leading brands including FedEx, NFL, NPR, Jackson Family Wines, Shutterfly, and Cisco. Suiter has directed corporate identity and integrated marketing programs for companies including Apple, GE, Pebble Beach Resort, Hyatt Hotels, United Airlines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Japan Airlines.
“We have taken our findings and analysis and focused on what makes Big Mountain and Whitefish special,” continued Jones. “By doing this and establishing a blueprint for our business, we can ensure that in the decades ahead, we can grow in a manner that builds on our rich heritage, retains our values and strengths, and incorporates enhancements and changes that are true to who we are and what makes us relevant and different. This new focus will ultimately help to sustain the resort as a viable and competitive business.”
The name of the ski area has had iterations over time. After the first cabin was built by Whitefish volunteers in 1935 in the headwateers of Hell Roaring Creek, The Hellroaring Ski Club was formed in 1937 when Whitefish skiers organized loosely to sponsor races and social events, but the club changed its name to the Whitefish Lake Ski Club at the urging of townspeople who did not like the Hell Roaring name. In 1941, before t-bars or chairlifts were present, skiers recall climbing up “Haskill Mountain.”
According to writer Jean Arthur, who wrote Hellroaring: 50 Years on The Big Mountain (1996) promoters stumbled upon the name “The Big Mountain” simply because one of the mountain’s earliest skiers, Lloyd “Mully” Muldown, pointed up to the peak he loved to ski and called it “that big mountain.” In the mid-1980s, there was a push to rename the mountain “Legendary,” but the idea didn’t hold.
In many ways, this name change is more a shift in emphasis, as “Whitefish” has been a part of the naming and graphic identity at the resort since the beginning, from the “Whitefish Ski Club” to the “Ski the Fish” promotional line, to the “Fishbowl” terrain park. While the Whitefish name will now be brought to the forefront of the resort’s identity, the Big Mountain name will continue to live in various forms. The new village-to-summit high-speed quad that is currently under construction will be renamed The Big Mountain Express. Resort officials emphasized that they are not changing the name of the mountain. USGS maps will always point to the official name of the 6,817-foot peak as Big Mountain. Big Mountain is also a part of many local business names.
The transition will take place over the course of the summer season and will be fully integrated into operations, guest services, and marketing and sales for the upcoming 60th anniversary.
Launching on June 13, the new brand identity was unveiled to the Whitefish community at a grand opening of the new Day Lodge.
Whitefish Mountain Resort opens for summer season June 20 – Sept. 3. It will reopen for its 60th winter season Dec. 8, 2007 – April 6, 2008. For more information on Whitefish Mountain Resort, visit www.WhitefishMountainResort.com.