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HELENA - Gov. Judy Martz, a former Olympic speed skater, is throwing her weight behind a new state-sponsored advertising campaign to encourage Montanans to play outside this winter.

Martz will help give a belated kickoff at the MacKenzie River Pizza Co. restaurant in Helena on Friday to a Travel Montana ad campaign that began in December. The campaign, which promotes skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, snowmobiling and just about everything else you can do outside in a Montana winter, will be topped off with a drawing for a lifetime ski pass good at 14 Montana ski areas. Only Montana residents can win.

The campaign marks the first time Travel Montana has ever pitched snow sports to state residents and the first time the branch of the Department of Commerce has ever paired with private companies, said Betsy Baumgart, head of Travel Montana.

MacKenzie River Pizza Co., Big Sky Airlines and the Montana Ski Areas Association are all partners in the campaign. Travel Montana will pay $155,000 - the lion's share - of the ad campaign. MacKenzie River Pizza is paying for the cost of printing applications to win a the lifetime pass and is providing space and staff in their restaurants to promote the campaign. Big Sky Airlines is giving away weekly trips for two to ski areas around the state. The ski areas are absorbing the cost of the lifetime pass and weekly giveaways.

Only Montana-owned businesses were approached about being partners in the campaign, Travel Montana information shows.

"I think it's going to be a really effective campaign," Baumgart said. "There's been just a tremendous amount of registrations."

Weekly drawings will be held for the prizes and the lifetime ski pass will be given away this spring, Baumgart said, when the campaign is over.

Travel Montana has been promoting Montana as a vacation spot for residents for the last two years, Baumgart said. The idea came from a study that showed Montanans spent $700 million vacationing out of state in 2002.

"We thought we should try to capture some of that," she said.

At first, the campaigns stressed only summer activities and involved advertising eastern Montana to those in the west and western Montana to those in the east. The winter campaign involves radio and newspaper ads along with billboards stressing the joys of winter recreation all over Montana.

Ronnie Morris, owner of Montana Snowbowl outside of Missoula, said that although she supports the campaign, she attributes Snowbowl's good season to the weather.

"I'm assuming they're coming because it's snowing," she said.

Kevin Taylor, owner of Great Divide outside of Helena, said that although his ski area is not among those giving away the lifetime ski pass, he supports the campaign and thinks it helps bring in business.

"It's catchy and it's cute and it has a good message," he said. "Basically, in a nice way, it's get your butt off the couch and enjoy the outdoors."

The lifetime ski pass will be good at the following ski areas: Bear Paw Ski Bowl, Big Mountain, Big Sky, Blacktail Mountain, Bridger Bowl, Lookout Pass, Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Maverick Mountain, Moonlight Basin, Red Lodge Mountain Resort, Showdown Montana, Teton Pass Ski Area and Turner Mountain.

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