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It’s incredible enough to win an all-expense-paid long weekend to a vacation spot, but how about experiencing three months of free activities, meals and lodging at the best Colorado destinations?
The Colorado Tourism Office is sponsoring the campaign, named “Snow at First Sight.” Last October, representatives launched a global search for three people who had never experienced snow. Contestants worldwide submitted a required short video describing why the tourism office should choose them to frolic around Colorado. The public voted for the best videos, and finalists flew out to Denver for interviews.
The three lucky winners started their three-month winter adventure Monday. Tuesday, they headed to Breckenridge, where they’re staying at the Grand Lodge on Peak 7.
Now, the three will learn how to ski, snowboard, snowmobile, snowshoe, cross country ski, dogsled and generally enjoy the high life – complete with spa treatments, fine dining, apres ski, hot springs and more. Their journey will take them from Denver, Breckenridge, Georgetown, Blackhawk, Central City, Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Keystone to Vail, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, Steamboat, Ouray, Grand Junction, Crested Butte, Durango, Colorado Springs, Canon City, Salida, Buena Vista, Estes Park, Fort Collins and Boulder.
And, the only price they’ll have to pay involves keeping the public informed about their excursions through posts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.
The campaign costs the Colorado Tourism Office a small percentage of its approximately $2.5 million winter advertising budget; the office has allocated up to $200,000 for the social media program. The organization spends about 65 percent of the $2.5 million budget on traditional advertising outlets, such as magazine, radio and television and 35 percent on online advertising.
“We’ve seen a great return on our investment so far,” said Caitlin Sullivan, account supervisor of the Colorado Tourism Office. The media coverage the campaign has drawn is worth $2.9 million in advertising dollars, and Snow at First Sight has generated 300 million media impressions, she said.
The lucky ones
Deena Bright is the oldest participant, at age 30. She grew up on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and describes herself as an exercise nut who has always been interested in Colorado and its outdoor lifestyle. She spent about four hours shooting her video, which depicted her siting on the beach eating a snow cone and had her friends trying to pull her on an ice block, since that’s the closest she ever got to snow. Then, she made a mock snow angel in the sand with wings made from palm tree branches.
Though she has traveled internationally in the hotel industry, she had never seen snow. So, she resigned from her job at a Hawaiian resort, where she had created spa treatments and protocols, and she hasn’t looked back. In fact, while some of us who have lived in the High Country for decades might love to trade places with a Hawaiian, she says it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
“I feel like I’m stuck on the rock at times,” Bright said. “A lot of Hawaiians would be excited to be here (in Colorado).”
After her three-month stint, she would love to be a hostess on a travel show or make Colorado home. In fact, she’s already received an offer from the Colorado Rapids to work as a media specialist.
“I want to explore Colorado as a lifestyle, not just its tourism,” she said, adding she’s intrigued with Colorado’s low obesity rate and focus on fitness, health and organic food.
Trevor Allison is the youngest participant: age 21, from Atlanta. He has dreamed of living in Colorado since he can remember. His video took about a minute to produce, he said, and showcased him freeboarding down a street – which is the closest he gets to snowboarding.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I had a chance at all,” he said. “This might motivate me a little more to get out here.”
He took a leave of absence from his job working with computers and has a girlfriend who had to stay in Georgia and who’s “pretty jealous” of his opportunity, he said.
Ruchu Adhikary, age 25, trekked the longest distance to get here; she’s from Melbourne, Australia. Like Bright, she quit her job as an accountant to come to Colorado.
“I didn’t think I needed any other excuse,” Adhikary said about leaving her job. “When I get back, I’ll have a different view on life, and I’ve got more opportunities in life waiting for me.”
All of the participants are excited about the international exposure they’re receiving, and the possibilities that might bring.
Everyone has some idea about the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, so the three participants had a few surprises when they arrived in Breckenridge.
Bright wasn’t aware of all the “amenities” Breckenridge provides.
“I was thinking there were just a few cabins here and there – no picturesque Main Street and restaurants and spas,” she said.
Allison was a little disappointed about the snow characteristics.
“I was surprised it wasn’t easier to make snowballs,” he said. “It was the opposite of what I was expecting.”
To live life vicariously through the three winners, follow them at @SnowAt1stSight on Twitter.com; on Facebook at http://www.face book.com/snowatfirstsight; on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/visitcolorado; or on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/visitcolorado.
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Both the Grand County/Granby airport and the Kremmling airport are upgrading facilities this summer.