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Voting Deadline May 1, 2020
THE BOB GILLEN MEMORIAL AWARD
JOHN WAGNON-Vail Resorts
For 46 years, John was a force for innovation and change in the way ski resorts deal with media relations and how these resorts and regions market themselves to the local and world-wide snowsports communities. In 1970, John started his mountain career at Bear Valley Ski Area in the central Sierra Nevada as an assistant and then director of the ski school. Moving to Kirkwood’s ski school as director, he met and married his wife Debbie and thoughtfully learned the ropes of the nuances of a ski resort. In 1982, he got his big break at Kirkwood, elevating to the heady title of VP- Marketing/Communications/Sales/Guest Services. He started the Kirkwood Media Cup and hosted the press to the mountain for some skiing, fun racing with “bragging rights” and a chance to discover their mountain offerings in a relaxed, “no agenda, no pressure” setting. The Cup morphed into the Winter Wake-Up Call where journalists would come up for 2 days very early in the season, hopefully creating excitement for the coming year and to witness the transformative power of snowmaking. Around this time, John embarked on an ambitious and expensive program to furnish same-day B-Roll video to TV stations in their critical markets of the Bay Area, Reno and LA. They would shoot early light ski action, edit, then dupe copies and drive or fly clear-message, current-ski-conditions videos to their target stations by 5pm, no small feat in the pre-internet, cumbersome equipment era.
In 1991, John moved to Heavenly in the same position he had at Kirkwood, relocated and implemented his Winter Wake-Up Call in South Lake Tahoe and set in motion Operation Sierra Storm, a conference attracting national and regional meteorologists to discuss weather, climate change and to broadcast live via satellite to their news outlets, enhancing the profile of California skiing. He also started a unique local winter TV show, “Another Heavenly Morning”, buying a one-hour 7am time slot to inform viewers of real-time ski conditions, tips and inside info. Looking for a way to increase skiing exposure in major markets, John spearheaded a drive along with the California Ski Industries Assoc. to team-up with a 4-wheel drive car manufacturer, trading promotion and exposure of their vehicles at ski areas with a widespread TV and display ad campaign highlighting the state’s ski areas. The very successful Ski the California’s in a Jeep program became the template for these types of cooperative ad programs. Very early-on, he embraced social media to get the word out and was very successful in attracting foreign visitors to Heavenly, especially from the UK. John not only lived skiing, but he gave back by being involved in local entities to promote it such as being president of the board: Ski Lake Tahoe, a commissioner in CA and Nevada Tourism, board member of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and others. When Vail Resorts purchased Heavenly in 2011, John became Senior Director of Regional Marketing of their 3 Tahoe resorts and helped shape iconic brands and strategies still in use today. He retired in 2016, lives in Glenbrook NV with Debbie, and enjoys snow and water-skiing, golf and rowing.
JOHN BRICE- snowsportsPR.com
John Brice, owner of snowsportsPR.com, prides himself in discovering and unveiling positive press and PR for his bevy of ski and snowboard-related clients, among them being California ski areas; Mountain High and Snow Valley, Utah’s Brian Head and Eagle Point, Arizona Snowbowl and Ruby Mountains Heli. If that wasn’t enough, he also handled Ski Butlers, Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month and ski accessories companies Seirus and Transpack. He strives to understand what snowsports journalists want, when they want it and how quickly he needs to get back to them. He began to “cut his teeth” in communications 40 years ago at UC-San Diego as a print reporter and then worked at, or contributed to, NBC-TV, Tribune and the Business Journal, (all in San Diego) and the LA Times before entering the PR world. His quest for positive coverage led to stories about adaptive and kids ski programs, skier safety and search and rescue dogs, climate and snowsports career opportunities and many others. When crises hit his clients, he strived to be transparent but to also mitigate rumors and other negative coverage. He has produced thousands of newsworthy TV, radio, web and print pieces and knows when to pitch them to make sure deadlines are met. He is well-aware that the media-utilized, factual, positive coverage is worth millions of dollars for his clients. Last season alone, Arizona Snowbowl received 63 million Earned Media Impressions from 1200+ news stories, teases etc. in the Arizona metro areas, worth $4million. While working with Brian Head, he received the Utah Office of Tourism’s 2011 award for best PR campaign for entities utilizing less than a $250,000 annual budget. He was also named Best in Tourism PR/Southern California by Visit California. John takes his position in snowsports seriously and is a member or contributor to SIA, NSAA, US Ski-Snowboard Hall of Fame, ISHA and our own NASJA.
John, one half of one set of 3 twins, is a graduate of UC-San Diego, lives in La Jolla, CA with his wife Ellen. The family, including daughter Blair, enjoy ski trips. John likes the beach, tennis, kayak fishing, searing red meat and brewing and drinking “really, really cold beer.”