The Death Of The Chalk Board. Wireless Message Boards Come Of Age

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SAM Magazine - Kingston, NY, October 24, 2006 -- The chalk boards at the base of ski lifts across North America have been an institution for decades, providing lift ops the opportunity to scrawl cryptic jokes, the ski patrol a forum for tracking down lost kids and the place to view-at least in Vail -updated NFL playoff scores if the skiing was too good to head to the bar for the game. But the venerable chalk board's days may be numbered.

This week Sitour introduced the ski resort industry's first wireless electronic message centers. These message centers replace chalk boards and deliver lift status, trail closures, weather alerts and other information. In a potentially lucrative development, they also allow resorts to sell space to advertisers, which can then reach the resort's skiers and snowboarders with personalized real-time messages. The systems will debut in 80 ski resorts across North America this winter.

The technology is compelling. The large-screen, full-color LED signs work with schedule-based software linked to the Internet to display text messages, logos and animated video, and are easily viewed in direct sunlight and at great distances.

The technology was successfully tested last year and Wintergreen Resort in Virginia is the first U.S. mountain to install a comprehensive system covering all lift lines, tubing and base areas.

The technology allows ski resort operators to update messages on impending snow storms, traffic updates for the trip home, trail closures, missing children reports, and even sports scores on busy ski days like Super Bowl Sunday so skiers don't have to leave the slopes to find out what's going on.

Furthermore, unlike chalk boards, they have the potential to impact the bottom line. Each message center can generate 1.5 million impressions per ad per season. The messages are repeated in cycles based on wait patterns on lift lines. The first advertisers for the centers include ConAgra Snack Foods' Slim Jim, Bel Group's Mini Babybel cheese and General Motors' Chevrolet division, with others in negotiations.
And individual signs in the system can be personalized with tailored messages to reach the desired demographic; for example, placing ads geared toward parents in the children's ski area or those for entertainment or dining close to the main lodge.

"These message centers create a highly visible and effective marketing tool for promoting current and future events and other activities at the mountain," said Anthony Lanza, superintendent at Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills region of New York. "The graphics really get the attention of our guests." \