You read that right, one Colorado ski resort actually has its snow trademarked! Any guesses for which one that could be?

In 2010, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation became the only resort in the world to trademark its snow when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved their use of Champagne Powder® snow. What exactly does that mean? Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation has the exclusive rights to use Champagne Powder® snow giving them the ability to sue in federal court for any other ski resort or entity using the phrase without proper trademark symbols.

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The phrase Champagne Powder® snow was coined back in the 1950’s when a local Steamboat Springs rancher, Joe McElroy, was out skiing with friends on terrain that what would soon become a part of Steamboat Resort. When Joe was sprayed with powder, he hollered out to his friends that the snow tickled his nose like champagne. This “champagne powder”, as Joe called it, stuck and the phrase spread all across the Yampa Valley and beyond.

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What’s the secret behind Steamboat’s light, dry Champagne Powder® and heavy snowfall? According to scientists studying the snow and climate at Steamboat’s Storm Peak Laboratory, Steamboat’s powder gets the lowest water content in the United States creating that fluffy snow the area is famous for. Combine that with Steamboat’s prime location in the target zone of storms coming in from the Pacific, and it’s easy to see why Steamboat has had numerous seasons with over 400 inches of powder.

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Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation has sent out several cease and desist orders over the last decade to newspapers and other ski resorts, including resorts near Salt Lake City, the Aspen Times, and Capitol Hill Blue for using “Champagne Powder” in their titles and within their articles without proper attribution to the resort. With thousands of publications using Steamboat’s phrase and neglecting to address Steamboat Ski and Resort or use the trademark, many are arguing that the court should not allow widespread terms like “Champagne Powder” to be subject to trademark. What do you think? When should the line be drawn with trademarking popular phrases? What if Arapahoe Basin put a trademark on “gaper” or Vail Resorts put a trademark on “après-ski”?

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