People who have never seen snow or built a snowman are getting a chance to do it in Colorado, in a big way.
The Colorado Tourism Office launched a contest Monday to give three "snow virgins" an expenses-paid, three-month trip to Colorado, January through March. With help from local instructors and guides, contest winners will sample winter activities like snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing, dogsledding, the all-important apres ski cocktail hour, maybe even ice climbing — and then they'll describe their experiences on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Winners also will visit Colorado restaurants, hot springs and spas.
Applicants are asked to submit videos to snowatfirstsight.com explaining why they should win. People can visit the Web site to vote, and 10 finalists will get trips to Colorado to audition.
The Colorado Tourism Office is spending about $150,000 on the contest. That's less than the $250,000 it spent on a promotion last year to erect a virtual ski hill and "bring Colorado" to New York City.
The office's budget was cut from $20 million last year to $15 million this year as the state tried to close a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. Tourism officials hope the new contest builds buzz for Colorado on social media networks, with contest winners posting daily updates.
The idea is to show Colorado through the contest winners' fresh eyes, whether they're from the U.S. or not, tourism office director Kim McNulty said.
Contest organizers figure entrants might be students, job seekers, retirees or those who can arrange for time off work — basically the crowd that might go on a reality TV show.
The winners will stay at spots around the state. Exact locations were still being confirmed.