Reservations company VacationRoost took two big steps this off-season in its quest to increase the number of winter vacations it books.
Last week, it took over Alta Ski Area's central reservations system, helping out-of-state tourists arrange everything from airfare and lift tickets to accommodations, either at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon or in the Salt Lake Valley.
That contract complemented VacationRoost's earlier move into the Park City hub of the state's ski industry. In March, Park City Mountain Resort said it was outsourcing its reservations system to VacationRoost, with preparations set to be in place for the coming ski season.
Representing Alta, said VacationRoost CEO Julian Castelli, associates his company with "an iconic brand.
"For decades, skiers have known about the fantastic terrain and experience it offers and have done the legwork required to book vacations to Alta," he said. "Our goal is to make that experience easier and more accessible to a broader audience."
Most potential guests to Alta (or PCMR) won't know of VacationRoost's involvement. Transactions will take place on Alta's website or over an Alta telephone line. But VacationRoost technology and staffers will handle the details.
That is a relief to Alta Marketing Director Connie Marshall, who, last winter, often found herself answering phones when Alta Vacations' lone staff member was fielding other calls.
Since VacationRoost enters the deal with existing relationships with numerous hotels, Marshall said the resort expects to forge contractual ties to a dozen valley lodging properties.
Getting that legal work in place "took us about four months last summer," Marshall said. "And with this contract, we don't have to supply the manpower and software to fulfill vacation orders," adding that Alta will also gain exposure from its inclusion in e-mail blasts that VacationRoost sends to far-flung customers.
"People thinking about a mountain vacation will understand Alta is out there," she said. "That was big to us."
VacationRoost spokeswoman Maile Keone said the company's staff was excited to take on Alta. Many are Little Cottonwood Canyon "ski bums" who know the area well and can work shifts in the 24-hour operation that don't conflict with slope time.
"When we say they're experts, they really are," said Keone, who was once an Alta ski instructor. "They know how many steps it is from your hotel to the lift. Ski vacations can be cumbersome, in terms of getting ready, especially for people bringing a family. We ease some of that by being able to answer a lot of questions."
VacationRoost receives a commission from Alta for every lift-ticket sale it makes and will negotiate individual deals with partner hotels.
For a hotel such as Alta's Peruvian Lodge, a full-time reservations company should improve efficiency and boost exposure, said guest-services manager Patrick Pike.
Up to now, he said, Alta's reservation system couldn't secure airfare deals as part of room, rental-car and lift-ticket packages. But with VacationRoost's larger reach, one-stop vacation planning services are now available.
"VacationRoost knows how to sell this kind of product," Pike said. "That's very helpful in this economy."
Founded in 2001, it now has ties to 100,000 vacation rental units near ski and beach resorts in North and South America.
This year, the company took over running the central reservations systems for Park City Mountain Resort and Alta Ski Area.