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  • Writer's pictureTony Harrison

Sustained media relations effort lifts Ski Idaho brand

Updated: May 7

Familiarization (FAM) tours get journalists, bloggers, and influencers to pack their gear and hit Idaho's slopes.

Cat skiing at Soldier Mountain is a bucket list experience on the slopes as reported by Steve Dent of ABCs KIVI-TV who joined us on our February 2024 FAM tour. Video: Idaho News 6

the client

The Idaho Ski Areas Association (a.k.a. Ski Idaho) faced an uphill climb when it came to getting new skiers and snowboarders on slopes and coverage in important media outlets. 

On the plus side, around 8 percent of Idahoans are skiers and/or snowboarders (that’s considered a lot) and Idaho ranks in the top five states in terms of skier days per capita.

Getting people that don’t live in Idaho excited about packing their skis for a trip was a big challenge, though.

Ski Idaho represents 19 destinations, with 11 Gem State ski areas boasting robust  summer operations. Funding from the Idaho Travel and Convention Grant Program — which is fueled by the state’s 2 percent lodging tax paid by travelers and collected by hotel, motel, private campground, and vacation rentals owners — is an important revenue source. Thus, increasing heads in beds by attracting skiers and riders from out of state is a critical part of the mission.

the challenge

“Idaho isn’t on my bucket list.”

When we first began our work with Ski Idaho and talking to people out of state about visiting Idaho to ski, someone said “Idaho isn’t on my bucket list.”

We think it should be and set about to change that.

We understand Idaho can be a tough sell if someone’s only exposure to the state is what they see on a nightly newscast.

our approach

Once we get people here, it’s easy for them to see how amazing Idaho skiing is. Hence, our focus on staging as many familiarization (FAM) tours as possible for small groups of journalists, bloggers, and influencers. They’re more cost-effective to stage than individual press visits and it’s easier to control the narrative since we’re with them throughout the trip serving as chauffeur, concierge, and guide. 

People smiling in ski gear standing on a snow covered mountain.
The best way to experience Idaho's skiing and snowboarding! Photo: Tony Harrison

Our overarching mission for Ski Idaho is focused on earned media — generating coverage about its 19 destinations by news media outlets, bloggers, and influencers. From year-to-year we strive to increase the number and quality of these placements. We also seek to ensure we garner coverage about Idaho’s smaller ski areas — most everyone knows about Sun Valley, but what about Rotarun, a tiny hill that thrives in the shadow of North America’s no. 1 ski resort?

“Write what you know,” Mark Twain famously advised, and it makes all the difference in the world when a writer who’s describing an Idaho mountain has actually schussed down it.

Lift tickets here are inexpensive compared to other states. Lodging and dining are more affordable. For now, resorts rarely have lift lines — especially midweek — and when they do, they’re short lived. Many of our ski areas are mom-and-pop hills or nonprofits and still have strong, independent local vibes. Oh, and let’s not forget about night skiing. 

Ringing in the new year in a torch procession under the stars. Video: Tony Harrison

These experiences move people past their first impressions they may — or may not — have about the Gem State (Idaho’s nickname) and into enjoying what there is to offer.

Slowly, over time, we have noticed it has prompted more people to add:

  •  go skiing in Idaho ⛷️

to their bucket list.

our results

In 2023 Ski Idaho garnered 215 stories — and those are just the online placements and don’t include print, broadcast, or social media coverage — yielding 75 million consumer impressions worth nearly $110 million in equivalent advertising costs.

Early on in our work for Ski Idaho the agency was grateful to receive great coverage from local media outlets and occasionally some big guns. We’re thrilled to report that coverage from large national and global outlets has grown tenfold from roughly 20 placements in 2018 to more than 200 in 2023. 

noteworthy publications

COMMposition’s work for Ski Idaho has also grown the association’s network of partners. Our PR expenses budget is very modest, and we rely on support from regional tourism organizations like Yellowstone-Teton Territory and Visit Southern Idaho, local chambers of commerce and restaurants, and such important lodging partners as Coeur d’Alene Resort, InnTrusted, One Lakeside Hotel, Talus Rock Retreat, and Wallace Inn to fund our highly successful FAM tours.

We take what we do for Ski Idaho very seriously. Media outlets regularly featuring Idaho among their top destinations stimulates Idaho’s tourism economy. 

Tourism is Idaho’s third-largest industry, behind agriculture and technology. The ski industry generated $309 million in gross domestic product in Idaho in the winter of 2020-21, which represents 8.35 percent of the state’s tourism economy.

These are no small potatoes (ah, Idaho’s infamous license plate campaign, a PR gold standard for tubers), nor does it include the ski industry’s summer operations at 11 destinations statewide. All this economic activity translates into nearly 6,000 year-round-equivalent jobs.

If you are a journalist, blogger, or influencer who would like to join us on a future FAM tour of Idaho’s premier destinations, please drop us a line.

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