New state ski reports site, new avalanche info app

Screenshot from skimt.com, the state tourism office's new aggregator of Montana ski reports.

Screenshot from skimt.com, the state tourism office’s new aggregator of Montana ski reports.

The state’s tourism office has launched a website that aggregates snow reports at all the major ski resorts in the state.

The website, which is also optimized for smartphones, provides snowfall numbers, summit depth and the number of lifts in operation, according to a press release from the Montana Office of Tourism. There are also email and RSS subscription options.

Of course, individual resorts post this information to their own websites, and local radio stations provide this information each morning – several of them play on the stations in Bozeman each morning.

While locals may already have their own methods for finding conditions at the spots they love, non-regular skiers or tourist from out of state will probably find a lot of value in the site, rather than having to look up all the resorts by name on Google.

Avalanche app screenshot

Screenshot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center’s new Android app.

In other snow-tech news, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center recently launched a Android app to let people get their daily advisories and warnings more conveniently.

The app is currently available on the Google Play store. The developer says an iOS version will be available after it gets some more testing.

Doug Chabot, director of the avalanche center, told the Chronicle’s Jason Bacaj that his organization has been trying hard for years to provide information to people on whatever platform they want it, starting with online updates in the mid–1990s.

Read Bacaj’s full story here.

State commerce department awards $150,000 in grants for e-marketing efforts

Montana’s Department of Commerce announced Feb. 11 that nine communities around the state are going to split $150,000 intended to help their online marketing.

The money comes from the Office of Tourism’s E-Marketing Technology Grant Program, and it will go to Big Sky, Deer Lodge, Gardiner, Helena, Kalispell, Missoula, Terry and Whitefish.

Among the larger awards is Deer Lodge’s $30,000 grant for a smartphone app that lets users take a self-guided tour of the city.

Whitefish also received $30,000 for a responsive website and trip planner, and Helena got $31,450 for an “e-tourism” project.

More locally, Big Sky received $25,000 for the “e-launch” of the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. The money will be used to develop branding and create HD video promotions.

“Mobile usage is growing at 14 times the rate of online usage and online usage is still a growing market,” said Jeri Duran, administrator of the Office of Tourism. ” Our tourism partners recognize this reality and we are excited to see these projects come to fruition through the assistance of our e-marketing grants.”

More than 32 groups made $750,000 worth of requests for the E-Marketing grants, the Lone Peak Lookout reported.

The full list of grant awards is available with the commerce department press release online.

Montana tourism facebook posting

UPDATED: Social media manager seems to quit job very publicly on Montana state tourism Facebook page

Sometime early this morning, a post appearing to be from a disgruntled social media marketer went public on the state of Montana’s tourism page on Facebook.

Around 2:30 or 3:30 this morning, the following message went out to the page’s roughly 150,000 followers:

F this job. I just want to live in Whitefish with my future husband. Leaving Bozeman for good tomorrow […] Thanks for the good times MercuryCSC!

MercuryCSC is an advertising agency based in Bozeman and San Francisco. Outside magazine this year named the company one of the 30 best places to work.

The company lists its work with the state’s tourism office as one of its case studies. “Mercury’s work for the Montana Office of Tourism has been widely recognized as some of the most effective and innovative tourism marketing in the nation,” the Web page says. There’s a video touting the success of the campaign on Vimeo.

The posting has since been deleted, to the chagrin of entertained followers, if the “posts by others” on the Facebook page are to be believed.

The posting does live on in screenshots and on Reddit.

Sarah Lawlor, spokeswoman for the tourism office, said the state office works closely with Mercury in its social media strategy, so Mercury employees do have administrative rights to the Facebook page.

“They usually run everything they will post through us first,” Lawlor said.

“It was a personal error by this person, and once they realized this error, we removed the post,” she said. “Obviously, it wasn’t content intended for our Facebook audience.”

The Office of Tourism will post an explantory statement to its page today.

Lawlor said it was too soon to tell whether the incident would affect the office’s relationship with Mercury.

“We’re going to have to have that discussion internally,” she said. “We haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but there will certainly be some review.”

MacLaren Latta at MercuryCSC said she could not discuss the matter since was a personnel issue. She also could not say whether the person in question was still with the company.

Update: MercuryCSC has released a statement about the incident, noting that it is no longer doing social media work for the state’s tourism office.

At approximately 2:15 a.m. on Friday, December 7, 2012, an employee of MercuryCSC made a mistake and posted unprofessional personal comments as ”Montana” to the Montana Facebook page.

As soon as the post was discovered, it was removed. However, images of the post were distributed throughout social media and news channels causing confusion and speculation about the source and the nature of the post.

MercuryCSC no longer has administrative rights to the Montana Facebook page, and MercuryCSC is no longer performing social media work for the Montana Office of Tourism.

MercuryCSC accepts responsibility for and is actively working with the Montana Office of Tourism to address the situation.

MercuryCSC regrets this chain of events. We apologize to our client and the state of Montana for this issue.

As it is a personnel matter, we are not able to make additional comments.