LUANN CRAIG IS A MOUNTAIN VACATION SPECIALIST with Ski.com, the largest privately held ski/snowboard tour operator in North America, which exclusively sells leisure travel and offers commissionable packages for agents. Craig is based in Ski.com's Aspen headquarters, which functions as more of a call center than a storefront. "Our business comes from phone calls, e-mails and online requests," Craig says.
Craig was raised in the Rocky Mountains, and she acquired a love of winter sports at an early age. "When I was growing up in western Colorado, we used to go as a family to the Grand Mesa. My fondest memories are of going up to the former Powderhorn ski area and watching my cousins ascend the mountain using an old tow rope before skiing down," she relates. "Because we were little at the time, we would sled and make snowmen while the older kids skied. My family would go up for the weekend, stay in some old cabins and ski this tiny little ski slope." Who knew that these early family vacations would prime her for a career in the travel industry?
Following a Friend
When she was ready to start a career, Craig followed the advice and example of a trusted friend. "It was 14 years ago and I had a friend who enjoyed their job very much working for what was then known as Aspen Ski Tours," she recalls. "Though I did not have very much experience, I went in, applied and ended up getting the job. Now here we are 14 years later and I'm working for that same company, though we are now known as Ski.com." She had found a fit, and she never looked back. "Kids Fly Free, Ski Free" Promotion
Craig has been selling customized mountain vacation packages since she started working for the company. She specializes in the western United States and Canada, as well as Europe and South America.
"Of the more than 80 resorts sold by Ski.com in the world, there are only a few that I have not skied," Craig says.
Even though Ski.com has other people whose job it is to contract with suppliers, Craig recognizes that those relationships are vital. "I obviously think it's very important for me to build strong relationships with the suppliers with whom I'm in contact," she says. "When I call for availability, the supplier has worked with me before and knows how great Ski.com is. So, if I'm calling on a price quote, the supplier knows that it is because I'm working with a qualified traveler."
Education Is Key
Craig knows better than to rest on her laurels, continually staying updated on the industry and the product she sells by experiencing it firsthand. "The best way I keep myself educated is by traveling to the destinations offered by Ski.com," she says. "My job depends on my ability to remember details about destinations and properties," something all agents can relate to.
"I also do a significant amount of training each season and keep up on travel-related news by reading travel trades such as Travel Agent magazine," she continues.
Like most people in the industry, Craig travels often. "I am able to leave Aspen to tour other resort destinations about once per month," she says.
When asked about her favorite mountain destinations, Craig has no shortage of resorts to recommend. "I love Banff/Lake Louise because of its sheer beauty. It's an incredibly gorgeous area, although every destination I sell has beautiful scenery," she says.
"I also love Snowmass, which is in my back yard, and the long runs and warm cookies of Beaver Creek," Craig continues. "I also had some absolutely perfect spring skiing at the Utah resorts last year. It's actually hard to decide which are my favorites because I've done some great skiing over the years and have never met a mountain I didn't love."
As for her top mountain property recommendations, four out of Craig's five are located in her home state of Colorado. "Some of my favorite properties are the Four Seasons Whistler, the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, The Lodge at Cordillera in Vail and The Little Nell in Aspen," she says. "For something more moderately priced, I really like the Zephyr Mountain Lodge in Winter Park."
Craig has accomplished an enviable feat: turning her passion for and knowledge about skiing into a successful career.