The 2017-18 season is upon us, and like most mountains, you recognize that freestyle terrain is a necessity. You’ve invested time, money, and resources into your park—now, how do you get a return out of it? More importantly, how do you maximize your guests’ experience in the park and on your mountain?
Ideally, your freestyle terrain program is completely integrated into your resort business model. After all, parks contribute to skier visits and generate buzz through visually exciting content used in both traditional marketing and social media. But to really maximize your parks’ potential as a boon to the overall business, consider holding events that target guests who aren’t your typical “core” terrain park riders.
If you have a park, it’s likely you hold some sort of rail jam, at minimum, to satisfy the competitive urge of your freestyle faithful. Showcase events are nice, too, especially if they attract pros and camera crews.
But the sensations of pushing yourself, landing a trick, and competing should not be limited to the best skiers and riders on the mountain. Traditional rail jams aren’t the answer to getting more people in the park. However, events that develop and encourage participation, accessibility, aid progression of proficiency, and raise awareness of your park program can introduce more guests to the joys of freestyle terrain. Don’t just check the box, though. Do it right.
Encouraging progression is especially important for three groups: women, younger children, and intermediate-level skiers and riders. Events can be designed and executed as opportunities for these guests to learn and improve park skills. You can incorporate clinics into participatory events that immerse them in the vibe of the resort’s park subculture. By doing so, you’ll ultimately cultivate a bigger community rider base, realize endless marketing benefits (organic, rider-created content, anyone?), and instill a sense of ownership and purpose with locals.
Plus, folks who frequent the park are motivated by other factors beyond snow conditions and weather. They’re hitting features, practicing tricks, and are part of a culture that still comes to your mountain to lap the park on days when most everyone else stays home.
EVENTS FOR WOMEN
There are many examples of events catering specifically to women. Clinics and park events like Park Affair, The Progression Sessions, Nikita’s newly created Girls Who Ride, and of course any B4BC board-a-thon event are all great ways to encourage more women and help elevate their skill level in the park. These programs feature all-women coaches and participants, which creates a relaxed and welcoming environment for all participants—skiers and riders, young and old. While these specific events may not have calendar availability to visit your mountain, they’re excellent models to net inspiration from and build your own grassroots initiative.
The key to starting such a program at your resort is finding the right champion. This can be an instructor, a member of the park crew, or even an iconic local girl who just rips—or a combination of any of the above, depending on what you need to execute a successful event.
Once you find the right person to lead the program, it’s time to create the venue. This includes feature selection and finding a great location on your mountain. This is also where you’ll find out if freestyle terrain is truly integrated into the aforementioned business model, as it demands multi-departmental planning and processes.
The best location is highly visible, lift-served terrain, that doesn’t interfere significantly with other guests. Consider day of the week and time of year, to avoid negative customer service feedback from displaced passholders. Choose the type, size, and scope of features with regard to the intended users, not the ego and ability of the builders.
EVENTS FOR KIDS
Events and competitions aimed toward kids are important for developing the next generation of freestyle skiers and riders. Consider adding younger age divisions to existing events, or creating “groms only” clinics and competitions. These events are a great way to educate the youngest park riders about safety and etiquette, and to build a supportive peer group.
Whether it’s a rowdy, prize-per-trick-driven jam session on a mellow park setup, or a multi-faceted instructional event culminating in a competition, these events are built and executed to make your young park participants happy. Rest assured if you do it correctly, they’ll become lifelong advocates and attendees of future events. Happy groms lead to happy passholder parents—most of the time, anyway.
EVENTS FOR INTERMEDIATES
Designing events for the intermediate park skier and rider is also important. These guests are the next generation of your high-end users. Creating events that are laid back and non-competitive allow for progression and fun in a supportive atmosphere. Riders feed off the collective energy and push themselves and their friends to improve. These events can be simple “best trick” format or “best line”—the key is to push people a little outside their comfort zone, but not too far. Keep these events low key; more than ever, podiums are passé.
Lastly, any kind of extra participation bonus is always helpful. This could involve branded swag or goodies from the marketing closet or, even better, something from the company you brought on to sponsor the event—which takes more work, but it’s worth it. The point is to provide a tangible item that each participant will associate with their great experience at your mountain’s event.
GO ALL IN
From a resort perspective, it is important for the leaders of the freestyle terrain program to integrate and involve other departments on the mountain to ensure the largest positive return from these events. For instance, progression events should add demand for freestyle lessons through the ski and ride school. Make sure to get the school involved in event planning and promotion, to ensure its freestyle offerings are represented. Ultimately, it’s a win-win: ski and ride school benefits from teaching more intro-to-park lessons, and you will see more people in the park—and in your events—as a result.
Marketing department involvement is also key to putting together a great progression event. From pre-event promotion to photographing the action and posting event recaps, make sure marketing is on board and supportive. If ever you feel marketing needs some help onboarding, or understanding what you’re trying to sell, remember: each department has its own language and culture. This can be an excellent opportunity to sell freestyle terrain to the rest of the resort staff as a vital piece of your operation’s pie.
By successfully designing and executing events that welcome park newbies and those looking to progress their park skills, ski areas can add value to the guest experience while developing lifelong customers.