By Tyler Allen Explorebigsky.com Staff Writer

BIG SKY – The Montana Ski Areas Association will hold its spring meeting at Big Sky Resort Thursday, April 4, a chance for the state’s 16 ski areas to exchange ideas about operations and share marketing resources.

“We have such a variety of ski areas [in Montana],” said Nick Polumbus, MSAA president and Director of Sales and Marketing at Whitefish Mountain Resort. “It’s a friendly group and we want to help one another.”

The spring meeting moves locations every year, Polumbus said. “Big Sky is a good location for a bunch of our areas, it has a good facility, and we like to go somewhere we can ski around.”

The semi-annual meetings are an opportunity for members to hear from industry professionals including the Forest Service – many areas operate on public lands – insurance carriers and snow cat manufacturers.

It’s also a chance for the large resorts to learn from the smaller operators in the state, said Mike Unruh, Big Sky’s Mountain Manager.

“Everyone has similar challenges due to economics,” Unruh said. “We find some really ingenious solutions that come from smaller areas – like long-term employees wearing multiple hats – that have tons of creative ingenuity to solve problems.”

There is a lot of commonality among resorts around the state in how guest experiences can be improved, from trail building to terrain parks, to improving guest services and safety, he said.

The MSAA has worked with the Montana Office of Tourism to promote skiing in the state for more than 20 years, and since 2002 the organizations have partnered on the “Go With a Pro” program, said Katy Peterson, Chief of Marketing for the MTOT. The program offers discounted lift tickets, rentals and lessons to introduce people to the sport.

The Office of Tourism also hosts the web presence for the MSAA at skimt.com, so the association can dedicate those funds for advertising. “It offers a much bigger pie [for MSAA] by working with the Office of Tourism,” Peterson said.

“Having the state behind the sport … is a big win for all the ski areas,” said Greg Pack, General Manager of Moonlight Basin Resort. “It’s nice to speak collectively … other states like Colorado lead with one voice, and Montana is just starting to get in on that.”