On October 25, 2018

Foster T. Chandler, marketing pioneer, guru

Foster Chandler
Foster Chandler

Foster T. Chandler Jr., a ski industry legend and marketing icon who helped catapult Killington into one of the nation’s largest and most successful ski areas, will be among honorees inducted into the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 27. 

One of the consummate marketing directors in the ski business according to the late I. William Berry, publisher of the Ski Industry Letter, Chandler was intense, innovative, dedicated to and driven by the desire to access the millions who could become skiers. He marketed skiing to the masses, believing skiing is a sport that appeals to a personality type – “an outdoors person who is involved in multiple activities, has other interests, and a zest for life” –  rather than to a lifestyle or particular socioeconomic group.

His approach stemmed from his own appreciation of the outdoors as well as the intrinsic value in skiing.

Born and raised in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Chandler grew up skiing and hiking with his father. A college ski racer, he graduated from Northeastern in 1961 with a major in journalism. Having served as a part-time volunteer Killington Ambassador coordinating races and working on brochures, Chandler reported to work at Killington on Aug. 1, 1964, the day after he finished a three-year army hitch.

As head of information services, his duties included writing and producing various Killington publications. He soon became manager of public relations and communications, rising to vice president and director of marketing in 1972. In this position, Chandler managed the Killington Marketing Department, which grew to a staff of 80 in 1988, including a traveling sales staff of more than 30 people. In 1989 he became vice president and director of marketing for S-K-I Ltd. (Killington’s parent company).

Chandler pioneered many advertising and promotional innovations from developing the concept of ski-vacation packages (where lodging, lifts and lessons were bundled together) to the insertion of trail maps in ski publications. These and other marketing efforts contributed to his department’s success in attracting a large number of skiers.One of the keys to his approach was to be involved with and have input to what the area built and how it was operated. By contributing suggestions for the creation of the ski product – such as lifts and trails – he was able to market Killington “from a point of difference.”

As a result, what Killington offered – greatest diversity of terrain, six mountain areas, longest trail, steepest mogul slope in the East, more miles of snowmaking than others had miles of trails – provided reasons for skiers to choose the ski area and advertising promoted those features.

“We never marketed to steal business from another area, we always marketed to points of difference, value, and ski experience,” Chandler explained in a 1988 interview.

“Killington has a reason for everything,” he had added, noting that the Mogul Challenge wasn’t just another competition but rather a showcase for the East’s steepest mogul slope.

Another key to Killington’s successful marketing under Chandler was the breadth of programs. In addition to conventional marketing like advertising, brochures, and promotions, there were more extensive efforts including field sales, accessing international markets, news bureau, lodging bureau, public relations, group and vacation sales – efforts that led the way for the ski industry and in the process made Chandler something of a folk hero among industry marketing professionals.

One of Chandler’s and Killington’s major contributions to the sport of skiing in general was to market the “spirit of Alpine skiing.” Working in concert with Preston Smith, Killington’s founder, Chandler developed The Alpine Skier’s Guide, which featured helpful information for all skiers and included the courtesy code, how to dress, the importance of skiing in control and keeping equipment tuned, and an explanation of the intrinsic value of the sport and its inherent risks, which are part of the challenge.

Chandler also developed the magazine There is a World Only Alpine Skiers Know to educate skiers to the joys of utilizing the mountain in all types of weather and Killington’s ability to control its snow surfaces through making and grooming snow. The magazine brought out the appeal of the Alpine challenge – the fun and the rewards of meeting the challenges of mountain and climate on their own terms and of descending the mountains under one’s own control

In 1987 Chandler adapted the World magazine for the National Ski Areas Association, which produced a generic version – without Killington’s name and with photos from a variety of ski areas. The new publication was an effort to introduce more people to the sport.

The “Let’s Get Vermont Skiing” and “Let’s Go Skiing, America” campaigns instituted in 1985 and 1987 respectively are some of the results of Chandler’s and Killington’s leadership in this regard.

Chandler retired from Killington in 1996 and continued to work as a ski industry consultant for many years.

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