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Hidden Gems: Meet Alli Widman of Avant Ski

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alli Widman.

Hi Alli, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
By March of 2018, Colorado was experiencing its worst seasonal snowfall in 30 years. The lack of snow led me to pivot to travel to Whistler at the last minute, rather than take our annual trip to Vail. After looking at a Wall Street Analyst Report to see which resort on my Epic Pass had the most snow and then consulting 10 different sources to plan our trip, I knew there had to be a better way to discover a new ski resort.

A lifelong athlete, marathon runner, and avid skier, I took the leap from a career on Wall Street to marry my personal passions for athletics and travel into a new business model. I launched Avant Ski, LLC in November 2018 for the sole purpose of transforming how recreational skiers and snowboarders discover their winter sports experience. A play on “après ski”—the beloved post-snow pastime—the name Avant Ski is meant to encapsulate that same great experience, except before hitting the slopes.

I initially envisioned Avant Ski as a media business and launched with a comprehensive guide to multi-resort season passes and a couple of resort guides. Fast forward to today and we are able to curate the perfect ski experience. We have more than 80 resort guides and 20 contributors across all of the major ski markets in North America. We have Insider Guides to 10 resorts in Colorado, two contributors based in the Denver area and a founding team member with a home in Crested Butte. We’ve expanded our content library to include regional resort guides, our favorite shops to buy and rent equipment, gift guides, and lists of our top resorts and runs by category and more.

As site traffic started to increase, we increasingly found our users wanting more information on where to stay while visiting a resort. During the Winter of 2022, we were able to solve this piece. We partnered with VC-backed start-up Fora and now have access to book travel with killer perks at 4,000 properties around the globe.

Today, we are a one-stop shop for all of the ingredients of a successful outdoor adventure trip. Our core mission is unchanged, you can think of Avant Ski as your good friend who has all of the tips and tricks to share to help you plan and book your perfect ski trip.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
By early 2020, Avant Ski was starting to hit its stride, only for everything to shut down. It felt trivial to focus on skiing in the face of a global pandemic. We had to be relentless in staying relevant and building. We partnered with Goggles for Docs to help with ski goggles donations for PPE use. This provided momentum and we began to recognize that spending time outside was going to be one of the best things to do in the months ahead. We highlighted this to our audience and over time, it caught on and eventually proved correct. We were able to add great industry talent and ultimately come through the pandemic stronger. Our team grew and we more than doubled our collection of insider resort guides on our site.

Winter 2021-22 was our first full season of operations. We spent much of our efforts on marketing and business development. Increasing brand awareness was and continues to be a top priority. Yet even as traffic grew, we became increasingly aware of the challenges of being an ad-supported media business in a niche industry.

Our site visitors were also asking where to stay; adding booking capabilities seemed like the next natural step. We were introduced to the Founders of Fora in late 2021, shortly after they launched. We partnered with Fora in February 2022 and added an incredible booking engine to Avant Ski.

We’re optimistic on the upcoming ski season. Last season, skier visits hit record levels. Meanwhile, the borders have reopened, the U.S. Dollar is strong and there is pent-up demand for travel. We’re actively expanding our coverage to Canada, Europe and Japan. We now have the relationships to offer our clients incredible international experiences too.

We’ve been impressed with Avant Ski, LLC, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Before Avant Ski, the only way to find the best runs, hidden powder stashes, and après hotspots was to get lucky and ride the chairlift with locals willing to reveal their secrets. With multi-resort season passes transforming ski travel, a great trip shouldn’t turn on luck. Avant Ski is filling the void between extreme skiing websites and family travel blogs. Whether you’re a novice planning your first trip or a long-time skier visiting a new resort, you’ll find all the ingredients for a successful ski trip at Avant Ski.

We partnered with Fora in February of 2022 and now offer the best hotel deals with killer perks for our clients. We have relationships with nearly every 4- and 5-star hotel in the world and at almost 4,000 properties. Our team works hard to have close relationships with management everywhere, so we know our clients are well looked after when they’re traveling. We’re able to provide the best available rates along with amenities including room upgrades, spa and resort credits, and complimentary breakfast. Hotels pay us to do our job, just like the big booking sites, so our clients do not pay anything extra. Avant Ski reached Pro status at Fora in October – the company’s highest level of certification.

We have a comprehensive season pass guide, complete with a personalized recommendation tool. Visitors can receive a personalized recommendations and then purchase their passes through Avant Ski. Our season pass clients have access to our top deals.

In a nutshell, we’re here for the discerning ski traveler who wants to experience resorts as locals and insiders would. Reach out to us today, we’d love to help plan your next ski adventure.

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Be passionate, be patient, and be persistent. Start ups are like a marathon and a roller coaster all at once. The highs are very high, the lows very low. Believe in yourself and your mission, but build a great team and have supportive family and friends. Be nimble, open-minded and ready to pivot, rarely do things go exactly as planned. The challenges make it all the more rewarding.

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