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November 2008

A Site of Their Own

As terrain parks become entities unto themselves, it comes as no surprise that some resorts are creating separate websites for them, as well.

Written by Katie Bailey | 0 comment

Your resort, no doubt, has its own website, but what about your terrain park? Sure, websites can be labor intensive and expensive, but they are also a great way to engage a difficult-to-reach demographic (young people), communicate information about oft-changing park features, events and conditions, and nurture the subculture that so often surrounds terrain parks. In the following interviews, three resort representatives talk about their experiences building and maintaining separate online entities exclusively for their freestyle guests.



Speaking with: Nate Batts, interactive services manager

The deal: Carinthia is Mount Snow, Vermont’s new 95-acre terrain-park-only mountain face. It is launching this year with a brand-new standalone website.

Why did you decide to set up a separate, stand-alone site for Carinthia?

From the beginning, Carinthia was designed as an original concept. It is still definitely a part of Mount Snow, but it has its own culture, its own feeling, its own identity. Something this big needs its own website.

What were your objectives for the site, in terms of its content and functionality?

First, I wanted to keep the site clean, simple and easy to navigate. It’s a very visual site, heavily focused on images, video and what’s going on in the parks that day. Our number-one goal is to keep it fresh and interesting with daily updates. Basically, it has all the information you need with none of the fluff.

What is its main value meant to be to the audience? What is its value to the resort?

If you’re coming to Carinthia for a day in the parks, you can check the site in the morning and find everything you need to know: which parks are open, if they were groomed, how many features are set up, when the Superpipe was last cut, etc. You’ll find photos of the freshest rails, jumps and jibs. Plus, you can get insider information from park rangers and builders, who will be blogging about everything Carinthia.

Terrain parks often have a mini subculture around them, do you feel a site like this enhances that idea?

Absolutely. Most freestyle kids these days are armed with camcorders and digital cameras, and it’s easier than ever to edit videos and upload them to social sites. will be an outlet for visitors and locals alike, with a “punch in” page that allows users to submit their own videos and photos. The culture definitely exists; I’m just trying to document it.

Who manages the website and how often will there be fresh content on it?

We’re hiring a dedicated Carinthia park reporter, whose sole responsibility is to keep the website fresh. The reporter will be out on the first chair, talking to park rangers and groomers, testing the features, taking photos, producing videos and blogging.

Are there challenges in maintaining a website such as this?

Technically speaking, the updating process is easy. The difficult part is getting fresh content, and lots of it, every single day. The dedicated Carinthia park reporter arguably has the best job in the world, hanging out in the parks all day. But he or she also has a big responsibility to keep people updated. Producing quality, entertaining video and finding inspiring photo opportunities is vital.

Have you set a benchmark for success?

I’m a web stat geek. I love graphs that go up hill. So obviously I’ll be tracking page views for big numbers. But more importantly, the real mark of success is interaction, and the more people submitting content, the better. Grassroots, word-of-mouth marketing is the goal here, but the ultimate compliment is overhearing a shredder in the lift line, saying something to his friend like, ‘The park is sick today. We need to get some footage together for’

What do you think makes this site, and Carinthia, stand out in the Internet landscape?

Too many homepages overwhelm the visitor with text, photos and distracting animations. I decided to feature a single, powerful image on the homepage, with just a handful of tabs on top for easy navigation. The image [of a foundry worker pouring molten metal into a rail] represents Carinthia well—we’re creating something new and exciting, and is a reflection of that.



Speaking with: Bob Holme, terrain park and youth marketing manager

The deal: Winter Park has had its own standalone terrain park website for three years and is relaunching a new site for the start of this year’s season.

When did you set up your stand-alone terrain park website and why did you originally decide to create it?

The original site that we’ve had for three years now was designed to be more of an experience, for users to immerse themselves in the atmosphere. It was unique and showed what we felt was cool about the park. But if you’re going to have a snazzy site, it has to be snazzy every year. So this year, we decided that at this point, we’re more established and we wanted to delve more into the look and feel and the branding of our terrain parks and focus on something that was easily updated, not as snazzy, but simple, clean and can communicate what the kids need to know about the parks.

How will you achieve that?

We’re reaching out to one of our professional athletes, Pat Milbury. He’s a really a forward-thinking athlete, and he’s not only a trendsetter, but he has a really good outlook and spirit for the park and youth programs here. I feel I have a pretty good pulse on what’s going on, but Pat really does. He’s in the park, he’s in the bars, he’s on the street getting feedback. And he’s a very artful guy, he’s into art and culture and he brings in dimensions of life outside of skiing and snowboarding, which is awesome.

What is the value for the site visitor? What is the value to the resort?

I think for the visitor, it’s up to date information on park status, features, new additions to the parks, events and their impact on the parks. For instance, in the early season, kids want to know when the parks are going to be open. So being able to communicate that is going to be huge. And obviously, when there is value to the visitor to get that kind of information, there is huge value to the resort because the expectations of the kids are in line with what is actually in the park. There’s nothing worse than a kid coming up and saying, “I heard you had two jumps open and there is only one rail.”

Do you feel a site like this enhances the subculture around the terrain park?

It’s definitely part of the subculture. When kids come to this site, we don’t want them to feel like they are visiting their parents’ resort site. So they don’t care about the “Stay three nights, get the fourth free” sort of thing. What they want to know is what’s going on in their world. I’d like to think the subculture also extends into their other day-to-day life [outside of the resort]. We want the site to be an extension of what they see in the city, in what they see in their other favorite sites and what they see in the magazines.

Who will manage the website and how often will fresh content be posted on it?

We’ll be managing the website internally. Whenever there is pertinent information, or new video or new images, we’ll post. I think in the early season they can expect to see something new every few days and then once our parks are built out, as the site visitation drops off and the parks are 100 percent open, there’s less need to know. Then it’s more general information for people from around the country, or around the world.

What are the challenges right now in developing this new site?

Whenever you’re designing something new you want it to be right. Will we get it right? Of course. But how much time and effort will it take to get it right? That’s always the question. It’s how long the process will take.

How do you think this site will stand out in the Internet landscape?

The goal is to have it stand out because it will be a unique blend of terrain park and youth culture. The goal is not to have it look like a bunch of resort fuddy-duddies trying to look cool for the kids, but in fact having the right people design it and people be wowed by it. Our goal is to have Pat re-skin it every year, so that it ends up being fresh and we can capture the excitement and the new things that are going on. Our approach is going to be to keep it simple and keep the content as relevant and as timely as possible.



Speaking with: Kirstin Cattell, communications manager

The deal: Both terrain park websites are in their third year of operation.

When and why did you set up your stand-alone terrain park websites?

The Northstar-at-Tahoe and Sierra-at-Tahoe youth sites are not considered standalone sites. We have incorporated them into our main websites and refer to them as microsites. We created them in the fall of 2006 in order to speak more effectively to the youth demographic. Some characteristics of the microsites are that they are edgier, both in tone and graphics, and that they cultivate a more interactive experience that is directly targeted to the specific demographic. Many of the elements on the youth microsites would not normally be integrated into our main websites.

What are the objectives of the sites?

All of our sites are developed with the idea of being informative and entertaining. While community is important throughout the web, it takes on a particular importance with youth. That’s why we explore social media opportunities and more interactive experiences like our ad campaign driving youth to the website.

What is the value for the site visitor? What is the value to the resort?

The value to the site visitor is accurate, up-to-date info on parks and pipes, including new features in the parks, when the pipe was last cut, information on upcoming events and what our resort athletes are doing. The microsites also generate excitement about the parks and pipes as well as the overall sport and generate new visitation to the resort because of the parks and pipes. From a resort perspective, the microsites cultivate loyalty from existing customers through a sense of community and relevant information.

Who manages the website and how often is fresh content posted on it?

Both microsites are updated daily through the teamwork of marketing and the terrain park staff. We include all the features in the various parks, information on the status of the pipes, upcoming events and results, and team updates.
Are there challenges in maintaining these sites? What would they be?

The main challenge is having consistent communication between the park crew and the marketing team. Over the past few seasons, we have created a system that works well when everyone does their part. The park crew needs to deliver fresh information on a daily basis about the changes they make on the hill, and the marketing team needs to get that information posted quickly and accurately.

How do these websites perform, benchmarked against your main resort sites? How do people mainly find them?

Traffic to the microsites is not as substantial as traffic on the main sites (about five percent of total page views). Most site visitors get to the microsite by going through the snow conditions page to find out information on which parks are open/closed for rebuilding, what new features have been added and when the pipes were last cut.

In your opinion, how do these sites make Northstar and Sierra stand out in the Internet landscape?

The microsites mirror our commitment to providing the youth demographic with a customized experience on the hill by providing a customized experience on the web.