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May 2021

SAM's Annual Best and Worst in Marketing

This collection of reviews explores a broad range of resort marketing efforts—some that hit the mark, some that missed it—from a most unusual winter.êD

Written by Dave Amirault, Gregg Blanchard, Christian Knapp, Rachel Maestri-Hailey, David Meeker, Sarah Wojcik, Mary Walsh | 0 comment

may21 bw authors

Congratulations, resort marketers. The high-wire balancing act of winter 2020-21 is over. You can come down now. Time to review who did what well—and not so well—in their marketing, in the eyes of our panel.
We all learned a lot this winter about the relationships we have with our audiences. Never have connection and trust been more important.

From the start of the pandemic, brands that already had established trust and connection with their audience were in a far better position to deliver messages about operational changes and guest behavior expectations—and repeat those messages ad nauseum. A trusting audience is much more receptive, supportive, and compliant than a skeptical one. These resorts were able to sell—not just products, but their plans and procedures—and people were buying.

Resorts that didn’t have this relationship before had an opportunity to build it. For those that were successful, the winter got easier as it went along. Those that weren’t successful had a more difficult season.

In this most unusual winter, resorts also contended with finding their position amid civil unrest, racial inequity, and a venomous political climate. Many navigated these challenges admirably.

Through it all, our panelists were watching. As always, their reviews are subjective and well-informed. The observations here come from folks who consume resort marketing. Their opinions are meant to inform, inspire, and entertain. We hope you find they’ve accomplished these aims.

There’s more, too. We’ve included about half of their reviews on these pages. Once you’re done reading here, head to for the rest.



Best New Marketing Medium
Endemic Podcast

may21 bw new marketing mediumWith the demise of many endemic media outlets, grassroots content creators have emerged to fill the void—in podcast form. While not entirely new, podcasts like The Powell Movement, The Snowboard Project, Beyond the Après, Low Pressure, PodSAM, The Storm Skiing Journal, Long Underwear, Out of Bounds, The Bomb Hole, and Wintry Mix have evolved into newsworthy media sources that boldly go deep on topics that impact the industry. The meaningful dialogue on them during the Covid crisis has helped resort operators navigate the challenges, and helped inform consumers. What you don’t hear on these podcasts, though, is resort advertisers, which have been slow to move their marketing dollars and adopt this new medium. Producing great content takes time, skill, and audience development. Support from resorts will be critical to long-term success while delivering a great return on investment. —CK


Best New Products
Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore.

may21 bw new products

Mt. Hood Meadows did an impressive job with its guest access products for this Covid winter. First, the team mined historical visitation data—by the day AND hour—to come up with a visitation management plan. It included pinpoint inventory of advance-purchase daily lift tickets, dynamically priced in four start times, to spread arrivals and maximize visitation while maintaining safety for guests and staff. The best part is, Meadows published a thorough explanation of how it developed this approach, using real numbers, graphs, and video. Want to learn how to earn the trust of your guests and staff? Study Meadows. Then, with data from this season showing there was room midweek, it introduced a midweek-only pass in mid-February, valid March 1 to closing day, replacing an incumbent daily-access Spring Pass. Another example of Meadows being ahead of the game. —DM


Most Flexible Ticket Product
Boreal, Calif.

may21 flexible ticket product

Matt Peterson and his marketing crew at Boreal are among the best. Their Go Time Ticket product is a good example of why. Go Time Tickets acknowledge that skiers’ leisure time does not match their desire to ski, and traditional ticketing products force skier behavior into rigid half-day or full-day buckets. This oftentimes means guests don’t get the full value out of their ticket, and mass arrival times lead to long lines and operational challenges. Go Time Tickets, though, allow guests to start skiing any time they want (in 15-minute intervals) and to buy a ticket priced on a sliding scale based on the hour they arrive. With each ticket valid until 8:00 p.m., guests get flexibility and value, and the resort has predictable arrival times with shorter lines. It’s a win for all. —GB


Biggest Community Initiative

may21 bw community initiativePowdr launched its Play It Forward initiative at the start of the pandemic to help the local communities around each of its 11 North American mountain resorts. The resorts stepped up huge, providing funding, food, and other resources to locals in need. Mount Bachelor and Boreal supplied eyewear to Goggles for Docs; Copper Mountain hosted a socially distanced, on-hill graduation for a local high school; Eldora, Snowbird, and Lee Canyon donated food; SilverStar partnered with the United Way to provide meals for seniors. Killington made a multitude of contributions to its Vermont community: multiple community grocery giveaways, supplying food for elementary students’ lunches during the shutdown, and much more. Powdr’s Play It Forward website showcases all the efforts, which highlights the tight-knit and supportive nature of mountain towns. —MW


Best Local Learn-to Program
Rotarun Ski Area, Idaho

may21 bw learntoski programSince 1948, Sun Valley neighbor Rotarun Ski Area in Hailey, Idaho—dubbed “the little mountain with a big heart”—has offered an affordable experience for all. In 2017, alpine head coach Barb Dunn collaborated with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation to launch an afterschool program called Rota-Rippers to introduce kids ages 5-11 to skiing and snowboarding. That first year, Rota-Ripper registration was $200, including a season pass. Now, it’s free for all participants, funded by donations both locally and from groups like Share Winter. It’s localized efforts like these, set in motion by Dunn and the rest of the crew at Rotarun, that have lasting effects on the industry, increasing participation and catalyzing a love of the mountains one skier at a time. —MW


Most Inclusive Leadership
Magic Mountain, Vt.

may21 bw inclusive leadershipMagic walks the talk when it comes to equity and inclusion. Not only do they have Bobby Johnson (Vermont’s first Black ski school director), but the mountain partnered with Indy Pass. As a Black woman I felt an immediate kinship with both Bobby and the mountain as a result of the hire. Kudos to Magic for not only hiring diverse staff, but diverse leadership. As a parent, it means a lot to me knowing that I can send my daughter somewhere she can learn the sport and also see someone who looks like her in leadership. Also, programs like Indy Pass create a more approachable ski industry. Cost remains one of the major blockers to diversity. Offering lower-cost options opens the door for folks who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the beauty and boldness of winter sports. —RMH


Most Inclusive Travel Packages
Winter Park, Colo.

may21 bw winter parkWe loved Winter Park’s trip offerings, from beautiful and slick inclusive imagery to its approach to winter sports as a whole, and not just about lifts and skis. As a new skier and snowboarder, I’m always looking for the “easy-in,” and Winter Park provides a bunch of options for that. “Venture out this winter” offered everything from tubing to snowcat tours. Taking on a new winter sport can be a risk, both financially and personally. I love that I can just go and play in the snow with my kid before I commit to new gear and season passes. Also, snow bike tours are a blast!   —RMH


Best 2020-21 Resort Sticker
Beaver Mountain, Utah

may21 bw Beaver mountain sticker DABeaver Mountain, a fiercely independent ski area in Utah with a hilarious name, gave skiers and riders something to smile about with this amazing sticker reminding customers to mask up. We all know that the 2021-22 season will resemble our more “normal” seasons, but at least we can look back at this sticker and have a laugh. —DA


Best Outreach to Freelancers

may21 bw slopefillersIn a season ravaged by layoffs, furloughs, position eliminations, and cost reductions, many longtime ski industry staffers found themselves on the outside looking in. Shifting to freelance work is a viable option for many people in mountain towns, and the general trend toward remote work accelerated adoption and entrepreneurship over the past year. Gregg Blanchard recognized this phenomenon and launched a freelancer network on his popular resort industry blog, At last check, 65 talented individuals had created profiles, making it a robust marketplace where under-staffed resort marketing departments can find experienced help. —CK


Best Pandemic Lodging Pivot
Jay Peak, Vt.

may21 bw JayPeakLodging GBAs the pandemic settled in, Jay Peak found itself in a unique situation: Canadians couldn’t cross the border, and Vermont had a 14-day quarantine requirement for anyone coming from states with high case rates (which, eventually, was all states), leaving Jay’s huge lodging inventory with limited potential occupants. Yet, city dwellers all over the country were fleeing their apartments and heading to the mountains. Jay Peak’s response? The Relocation Vacation: month-to-month condo rentals last summer starting at $1,799/month, including a golf membership, access to the outdoor swimming pool, and Wi-Fi fast enough for remote work or learning. And it worked. I should know, I was one of the many out-of-staters who booked it. The success led to a winter version that swapped golf passes for ski passes and started at $15,000 for the season. This was a clever product brilliantly adapted to the cards Jay was dealt. —GB


Worst-Timed PR Stunt
West Mountain, N.Y.

may21 bw tuberbowlWhat is Tuber Bowl? How do you sign up? What are the rules? Why is NFL running back Devin Singletary involved? Nobody knows! It might have some distant relationship to the NFL Super Bowl, but it's impossible to tell. What we do know is that West Mountain pulled out all the stops in this oddly timed (Feb. 11) PR stunt to announce a tubing event of unknown format that won’t occur until February 2022. This is a prime example of making a splash too far in advance. —DA


Best Steps to Reverse Social Wrongs
(tie) Squaw Valley, Calif., and Vail Resorts

may21 bw smileSocial unrest, political divisiveness, and racial injustice dominated the national summer narrative, and many resorts stepped out of their comfort zone to join the dialogue. Corporate social responsibility has value as both a recruitment tool and a demonstration of values-based leadership. It’s encouraging to see resorts address racial injustice and lack of diversity in the sport. Squaw Valley made the difficult decision to change its name, which has been deemed racially insensitive. Vail Resorts published a compelling statement and pledged to address the topic in a meaningful way alongside other resort leaders and industry partners. The industry is barely scratching the surface on this social issue, but it’s great to see a few first-movers address it head on. Hopefully others will follow. —CK


Best Use of Tradition
Wild Mountain, Minn.

may21 bw use of traditionSome mountains operate in local markets thirsty for all things bigger and better. But there are plenty of mountains with smaller ambitions and loyal fans who are OK with simpler skiing. How do you speak to that group? If you’re Wild Mountain, Minn.—famous for early openings and a simple vibe—you double down on what makes you you. First, Wild refurbished the carriers on its chairlifts with beautiful oak slats to give them a classy, vintage look. Second, it added quilt squares on the lift shacks, each with a unique design and the lift number—an aesthetic that celebrates the region’s Scandinavian heritage. Well-produced video content presents these simple and subtle efforts that embrace Wild’s brand and legacy. It won’t energize the crew looking for a new high-speed quad, but it gives the rest of us something to get excited about. —GB


Least Humanized Communications
Vail Resorts

may21 bw vail dmAuthenticity, transparency, and humanization are foundational to a successful resort brand. Relying on algorithms and automation in communications can undermine these pillars. For example, I live in Vermont, home to strict Covid travel restrictions and three Vail Resorts properties. On Dec. 23, an email from Northstar California—a VR resort in another state with strict travel restrictions—said, “We know you love Stowe, so come check out Northstar for skiing and riding.” I hope an algorithm, not a human, chose to encourage me to travel cross-country during the worst of the pandemic. And why Northstar? Another example: weather and snow reporting. Early in the season, the forecast on was remarkably out of whack—temps in the 60s with several inches of snow on tap daily. And auto-generated Colorado snow report emails would report no snow when a lot fell, or vice versa. All are examples that show there are still times when humans outperform algorithms.  —DM



Best Print Storytelling
Arapahoe Basin, Colo.

may21 bw print storytellingFor every example of print “dying,” there are other examples of its potential when done thoughtfully and sustainably. Mike Rogge’s successful relaunch of Mountain Gazette is one, and the fact you’re likely reading this on a printed page is another. So, when Arapahoe Basin wanted to tell its story in a way that carried a little more weight—literally—it turned to print and created a book. With more than 400 images across 160 pages, the book combines countless interviews and insights into how The Legend became what it is today, and into the people, like Larry Jump, who made it happen. A-Basin is not the first resort to create a book, but I tip my hat to them for recognizing that print remains a powerful marketing ally. —GB


Most Consistently Good Branding
Steamboat Resort, Colo.

may21 bw good brandingSteamboat seems to have a nice equation for its print ads, and it was consistent from last year to this: Fabulous photo + great tagline + important information, wrapped up in a crisp, clean design that’s true to the Steamboat brand. This season, the message was tuned to pandemic times: “The perfect time to feel like you’re a million miles away.” Whether that means away from other people or the house you’ve been stuck in for months, it was the right thought for the season. The rustic barn, empty snow-covered trails, and blue skies reinforce the statement. Finally, the URL linking folks to the resort’s 2020-21 season plans is—a nice little sentiment that adds to the ad. Overall, Steamboat’s print ad has its moments of calm perfection, and served incredibly well this season. —SW


Best Pandemic Signage
Red Mountain, B.C.

may21 bw pandemic signageI love Red Mountain’s brand. Specifically, its voice, which differentiates it from other resorts. Throughout its campaigns and messaging, Red has a delightful, playful voice all its own. So, what does Red do in a pandemic when it has to message things like one-way foot traffic and restricted entrances to buildings? Wrap each message in just enough voice to take the edge off without getting in the way of the meaning. For example, a large red sticker on some doors that read “Entry Only” also include the sub text, “No Outties Allowed.” And instead of the formal “This Way” on-floor arrows, Red’s say a much friendlier “Just Go with the Flow.” All of it is wrapped in its “Clear Conscience Contract” Covid safety campaign. It can be hard to preserve brand voice in any year, let alone during a pandemic, but Red Mountain did a fantastic job of including its voice in small and simple things. —GB


The Déja Vu Award
Snowmass, Colo.

may21 bw snowmassIt’s not often you come across out-of-the-ordinary creative and then think, “I’ve seen this before, haven’t I?” Snowmass’s “Outside Side” ad in the December 2020 issue of SKI sparked just that thought—because I saw it in the October 2019 SKI. The creative collage is an eye-catching departure from traditional ski ads, so I understand the urge to retain the concept. But running the same exact artwork feels a bit stale. Plus, “your outside side” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and the creative deserves a tag line as strong as the art. Print ads aren’t cheap, and they have a much longer shelf life than digital promotions, so don’t skimp on the design and messaging. Marketing campaigns should have some consistency from year to year, but serving up leftovers may not be the best approach. —SW


Most Severe Ad Drought
SKI Magazine Resort Guide

may21 bw ad droughtThe SKI Magazine Resort Guide has long been the most important ranking issue of the year across all endemic magazines. Resort operators set goals against it, marketing teams push out content to influence results, and mountain travelers use it as a guide to choose their next adventure. It’s celebrated in communications if you’re on the rise, and casually dismissed if the results don’t match your self-assessment. With the demise of so many endemic publications in the past few years, it’s even more concerning that only five resorts—Sun Valley, Steamboat, Deer Valley, Alta, A-Basin—placed print ads in this quintessential issue. Without more support, resorts will ultimately lose the inspiring narratives that get people stoked to visit in the first place. —CK


Most Exclusive Bro Imagery
Killington, Vt.

may21 bw bro imageryI get it. Killington is big and bad, and there are plenty of dudes that can relate to this ad. But aren’t we ready to move past the aggro white guy in our face? It feels passé. I’m a woman who also likes to rip it up from time to time, but I’m also a mom and an advocate for social progression—I yearn to see resorts embrace a different skier image. How are we supposed to grow the sport if we don’t change the culture to be more inclusive? To be fair, the resort’s brand is all about going big, and this ad aligns with that. But like many resorts, the Big K is still pushing the same old imagery. Print is powerful and lasting, and it offers an opportunity to stand out. Consider the many types of guests you want at your mountain, and let’s show the mountains are a place for everyone. —SW


Most Reassuring Presence
Arapahoe Basin, Colo.

may21 bw abasinThere were far fewer resort print ads in the pages of the enduring ski, snowboard, and outdoor magazines this year than perhaps ever before. That’s why opening the second issue of Freeskier to a front-and-center two-page spread of Arapahoe Basin’s sprawling terrain with the words “The Legend” atop the peak, well, was really—a relief. A little semblance of something familiarly aspirational during a very tumultuous time, the simple message of the A-Basin ad was reassuring, and demonstrated there’s still value in the tradition of the printed page in an ever-changing media environment. —MW


Worst Support of Endemic Media
Almost the Entire Industry

may21 bw blehWhen Powder Magazine said it was suspending operations, the entire industry was shocked. How can a storied publication like Powder go away? Easy: You didn’t support it. The rise of the spreadsheet marketer has led to the prioritization of impressions, clicks, and conversion. There’s no formula in Excel that can tell you the value of a well-crafted print campaign, and so the endemic publications whither. Not everyone is to blame, though. Deer Valley, Alta, Bridger Bowl, and Red Mountain still understand the power in print. But are they enough to keep publishers fed? Probably not. —DA




Best Overall Website
Camelback, Pa.

may21 bw best websiteWhy is a great ski area website so hard to find? With so much information to convey, their websites can be clunky and hard to navigate. What I love about Camelback’s website ( is the neat categorization in the navigation, using fun action words, such as “Stay & Play,” “Ski & Tube,” and “Zip & Zoom.” The sub-categories under these are neatly displayed with photos clearly representing each. Genius. Below navigation is an engaging video, followed by more nicely chunked offerings with fun graphics and clear information. As a visual person, I love the graphic treatment throughout the site, and I love the diverse representation of guests in the imagery. It’s welcoming. —SW


Most Welcoming Website
Echo Mountain, Colo.

may21 bw welcoming websiteI decided that 2021 would be the winter my 5-year-old daughter and I would finally take advantage of winter sports. As a woman of color with a biracial daughter, I went about the cultural knee-jerk reaction we as POC looking for outdoor adventures do—I started browsing websites for any sign that this industry is for me, despite the popular narrative. I found what I was looking for on Echo Mountain's website. From the inclusive imagery to the easy and approachable instructions on what to expect and what’s needed, I felt seen. Like, finally, an organization that gets me as someone new coming into an unfamiliar world. Also, huge props for the clarion call to “Overlooked Adventurers.” It feels like a personal invitation and an acknowledgement of the lack of diversity in outdoor recreation. Echo gives voice to the challenge and allowed a space for me (and my daughter) to step in. Well done! —RMH


Friendliest Email
Gore Mountain, N.Y.

may21 bw friendliest emailResorts didn’t have their typical email machines firing on all cylinders in May 2020, and for good reason—there wasn’t a lot to communicate or sell. Even if there was, pushing people to purchase anything early in the pandemic felt a little icky. Yet Gore Mountain sold me on its thoughtfulness with what we’ll call a “staying in touch” email on May 29. The primary message was a friendly reminder that the resort was still closed, but the rest of the content was engaging and useful for core and casual Gore fans alike: a fun survey asking fans to vote for their favorite trail, foods, etc.; tips for storing and organizing winter gear; tips to green-up your lifestyle; and “design your own 5k.” The only semblance of commerce was a link to see what Gore-region businesses had for curbside pickup or online shopping. —DM


Best Virtual Terrain Park Event
Mountain Creek, N.J.

may21 bw mountaincreekMid-Atlantic park oasis Mountain Creek has a long-standing heritage of unique and progressive terrain park events. In March, Creek pivoted to provide its freestyle-minded community with a new event for skiers, snowboarders, filmers, and photographers called Jersey Slide—done completely via Instagram. Social content contests are nothing new, but in a year of logistical challenges for in-person events, catalyzing digital participation was arguably more meaningful than ever, and Creek executed beautifully. In partnership with Red Bull, Jersey Slide introduced seven new park features based on iconic symbols from Jersey towns. Legendary Creek local Dave Spruille kicked it off with a video explaining the contest, providing instant credibility. Over the course of spring, the #MCJerseySlide hashtag has continued to populate, creating a virtual nucleus that bolsters the community and MCTP’s progressive reputation. —MW


Biggest Hit Despite Technology Fails
Trollhaugen, Wis.

may21 bw biggest hitIn February, Trollhaugen, Wis., held the fourth annual Lord of the Ropes, a head-to-head competition of the Midwest’s best rail riders. Knowing its followers wanted to be a part of the action, even if it was remotely and in lo-fi, the Troll team livestreamed the contest with a DIY setup of an iPhone and YouTube Live (to start). Livestreaming the outdoor, nighttime event in single digit temps came with technical difficulties, resulting in a few re-dos, redirected YouTube links, and ultimately an Instagram live that garnered almost 15,000 views. But the live chat on each link fired constantly despite the interruptions. The takeaway? Cultivating a following that’s excited about the happenings at your resort allows you some creative latitude. Sometimes it’s OK to keep it simple, and even with a few bumps in the feed, you won’t turn off an audience that cares more about what you’re sharing than how you’re sharing it. —MW


Best Parking Lot Status Reports
Big Sky Resort, Mont.

may21 bw big sky parkingParking has always been an issue for some resorts, but this year it became an issue almost everywhere. Hundreds of resorts tweeted about parking during the 2020-21 season, and most shared a common drawback: the "full" sign appeared without warning. One moment the resort was tweeting about amazing conditions. The next moment they were tweeting that parking was full. The only resort I saw who helped bridge that gap (there could have been others) was Big Sky. Its parking update tweets alerted skiers when lots were 50, 75, and 100 percent full. By watching how fast these alerts came in, travelers had a clearer idea of whether or not there would actually be parking when they arrived. Big Sky added a yellow light to its metaphorical parking lot traffic light. Instead of going immediately from green to red, Big Sky's alerts gave visitors a chance to tap the brakes and turn around (or not) and avoid a trek that ended in frustration and disappointment. —GB


Most Alarming Lack of Alerts
Lots of Resorts

may21 bw blehI’m starting to sound like a broken record, but some resorts still aren’t listening. Don’t use your primary social media channels to tell your customers that lifts are down, parking lots are full, or tickets are sold out—unless you’re like Deer Valley, and that’s part of your value proposition. Do create a (resort name)+alerts account on Twitter, turn the keys over to your mountain operations or dispatch team (after you train them on how to use Twitter) and let your customers know that operational updates can be found somewhere else. It allows guests to enable push notifications and get real-time alerts for issues that may impact them, rather than sift through the more polished content you should be publishing on your primary channels. —DA


Best On-Brand PR Effort
Indy Pass

may21 bw indy passThe Indy Pass is a timely, fascinating product that has gained momentum for both the resorts it represents and the model it’s built on. Its value proposition and the constant addition of new resorts makes for a tantalizing story, and news outlets have responded by giving it great press. But look closely at which outlets break Indy Pass news. It's not the bigger, traditional names in ski media. Why? Because the Indy Pass often gives first dibs on big indie-ski news to indie-ski publishers. For example, when Jay Peak was added to the pass, subscribers to The Storm Skiing Journal’s email list were the first to know. When Snow Ridge, N.Y., and Antelope Butte, Wyo., signed on, NYSkiBlog got the scoop (unfortunately, word on the street is SKI Magazine didn’t honor the embargo and rained on NYSkiBlog’s parade). It’s a simple, smart, on-brand strategy. —GB


Best Instagram Feed
Big Snow American Dream, N.J.

may21 bw smilePeople. People. People. What do you feature when you’re an indoor ski area? People. Big Snow American Dream does an impressive job at keeping its Instagram feed ( fresh with content, and that’s no small feat when you don’t have sweeping mountain views and powder-day vids to go viral. Yet, it’s one of my favorite Instagram channels. It showcases the diversity of its guests, from folks shredding the park to families getting their first turns together. Big Snow does diversity well on multiple fronts, from celebrating holidays across many cultures (often featuring Big Snow’s yeti mascot) to sharing images of people young, old, black, brown, male, female, and everything in between. —SW


Best Resort Blog Post
Jackson Hole, Wyo.

may21 bw blog postAs resort video production has increased in both quantity and quality, the written word has sometimes been left behind—even when it’s better suited to tell a great story. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort does impressive video marketing, but it chose wisely to share one particular story in words. Through the eyes of patroller Jeff Burke, Threading Needles tells the tale of a guest who had a heart attack while skiing and was miraculously saved through the efforts of nearby skiers and JHMR’s ski patrol. It’s not just a compelling story, but an incredible testimonial for Jackson Hole’s staff. Jeff’s clear, easy-to-read writing style—combined with crisp photos of the training that gave his team the ability to save this man’s life—made this the best resort blog post I’ve seen in years. —GB


Worst Comic Timing
Holimont, N.Y.

nay21 bw cosmic timingWell, this certainly backfired. Last March, Holimont tempted fate via social media, seemingly making light of the rapidly worsening Covid situation, just as pandemic panic was setting in and resorts across North America were suddenly shutting down. On March 15, the day Vail Resorts and Alterra led the rush to close for the season, Holimont tweeted an image of a young child at the resort’s Club Championship Race who “could care less about the [Covid] news.” Around the same time, another post promoted $30 midweek tickets for March 16-20, “Cheaper then (sic) 36 rolls of TP.” Oops: Almost immediately, on March 16, Holimont closed. Then, as fate would have it, three days later the resort issued a statement about possible Covid-19 exposures during a U14 race earlier in the month. Covid was no joke. —DA


Best Use of Puppies
Northstar California, Calif.

may21 bw puppiesLet’s be honest. We’ve all been spending a lot more time on our phones scrolling through social media over the past year. So, what would brighten our double taps? Photos and videos of puppies! Yes, puppies. Thankfully, Northstar California delivered by sharing updates of its Northstar Avalanche Rescue Dogs—Micah, Yuma, Griffin, and Tinker—on the @nar_dogs Instagram account. Just a bit more than 1,000 people followed it this winter, but this is a golden (retriever) opportunity for the resort to (bow) wow its fans with a whole lot of doggone adorable content that also educates about avalanche and rescue safety. If only there were more of all of it! —MW


Worst Timing for an Après Push
SKI Magazine

may21 bw worst timingAs the second wave of the Covid pandemic was crippling the nation in early December and resorts were struggling for appropriate messaging about fun amid pandemic restrictions, along came a series of SKI Magazine tweets with commentary about how the magazine's “nightlife rankings” would look different next season, and a photo of a raging ski-town club from years past. Another enlightening tweet asked the question, “Is it beer o’clock yet?” At the time, many ski town restaurants were shuttered, or at very limited capacity, and resorts were trying their best to set expectations with upcoming holiday patrons. A more subdued approach recognizing the toll Covid was taking on resort town restaurants and bars—and guests—would have been appreciated. —CK


Most Clickable Emails
Big Sky Resort, Mont.

may21 bw bigsky emailStanding out in the overwhelming sea of emails in customers’ inboxes is a challenge. So, when an email newsletter arrives with a subject line and content that persuade you to click on it, that’s huge. This season, Big Sky Resort’s email newsletters found the balance of sharing news, announcements, marketing stories, and uniquely interesting content that drew me in and got me to click through. A mother’s experience visiting Big Sky with her 5-year-old, a guide on how to hike the resort’s infamous Headwaters—blog posts like these linked from the newsletters gave authentic voice to the Big Sky experience, while educating readers about resort programs, terrain, and much more. Marketing storytelling success. —MW



Best Organic TV Coverage
Loveland Ski Area, Colo.

may21 bw smileWatch a Denver Broncos game on national TV, and chances are you’ll see footage from at least one ski resort. But it likely isn’t footage from big names like Vail or Breckenridge—it’s from Loveland Ski Area, and it comes directly from the outside-of-the-office hobbies of Loveland’s Dustin Schaefer and his dog Parker. Dustin’s hustle and skill with a camera has turned Parker into a local celebrity. He’s regularly featured on the local news, has a beer named after him at a local brewery, is Loveland’s unofficial mascot, and is even a Denver Broncos “Super Fan.” As a result, when Dustin sends TV crews a video of Parker in a Broncos jersey soaking up the sun slopeside or riding a snowmobile with ski patrol, the combination of connections/brands/love/hustle puts Loveland on the air. This is a testament to the value of a marketing team filled with locals who love their town and mountain. —GB


Most Creative Covid Message
Caberfae Peaks, Mich.

Most marketers: “You can’t create humorous, Covid-related content without being insensitive.”
Caberfae Peaks:
“Hold my beer.”

may21 bw smileEnter the rapping Covid-virus ball spitting a holiday song about how Caberfae Peaks is stopping him from “going viral.” Covid was far too serious to rap about—until it wasn't. Everything from the timing to the message to the visuals are spot on. This video succinctly describes the resort's pandemic safety measures and rules, while piggy-backing on the hope of vaccines coming down the pipeline as we said goodbye to 2020—all from the POV of the virus. As one woman commented on Caberfae Peaks’ Facebook post: “Brilliant. Safety aware marketing done right!” Five stars to the marketing team for pulling this together and giving their fans something fun, informative, and hilarious during such a scary and stressful time. And give Covid-man a raise for his flawless delivery. —SW


Most Effective Covid Video
Mt. Abram, Maine

may21 bw smileThe voiceover, the music, the footage, the rental skis, the VW—Mt. Abram covered all the ’60s-era bases in its “Covid Safety Tips” video, making it as entertaining as it was informative. In just one minute and 23 seconds, the video manages to cover all of the standard Covid precautions (crazy that “standard Covid precautions” is now a standard term), instructions for buying tickets and rentals online, a joke about being happier than a frog in a glass of milk, a Jell-O mold appearance, and a plug for getting takeout from the lodge for your parking lot eating pleasure. It’s a memorable, well produced video. Yes, there’s an argument for approaching Covid safety content straight up. By the time this hit in mid-December, though, society was already familiar with the standard precautions. This video presented them in a fresh way. — DM


Best Storytelling
Ikon Pass

may21 bw smileAlterra is killing it with video storytelling. The company has clearly invested time and money into producing stellar video, applying it to everything from sales to community branding. This season’s satirical “Do Winter” videos touch on the odd hobbies people took up during the pandemic, from puppeteering to building ships in a bottle. The characters drip with sarcasm as they share why they chose to stay home with their new craft instead of getting out on the mountain with an Ikon Pass. Frustration and regret are woven through each video in a way unique to each character. The equally memorable yet more significant “My Ikon: My Connection” features professional skier Connor Ryan, who is Húŋkpapȟa Lakȟóta, and snowboarder/climber Lonnie Kauk, who is Ahwahneechee, as they reflect on their Native American roots and connections to the mountain. It’s a beautiful video with a beautiful message about respecting the land and the people who know it best. —SW


Best Content Collaboration
Beech Mountain, N.C.

may21 bw smileIt’s easy to forget how magical some elements of the skiing experience are to people who don’t spend their careers slopeside. Seeing the sun filter through the plume from a snow gun can leave non-skiers wide-eyed. It’s exactly this ability to see the resort experience through new eyes that led to an awesome resort collaboration. When nearby Appalachian State wanted to reveal its new football uniforms in style, Beech Mountain saw a clever opportunity. The result was a dramatic unveiling video filmed at the mountain that featured one of the school’s football players dressed in the new bright-white kit trudging through an equally bright and white snowmaking plume. For local skiers, the video combined two things they never expect to see together. For non-skiers, the video presented a magical glimpse into our sport. —GB


Most Humanized Brand
Bolton Valley, Vt.

may21 bw smileResorts are learning the value of transparency in marketing and communications. Bolton Valley leaned in on this from the outset of the pandemic. The most notable exhibits are the handful of videos featuring resort president Lindsay DesLauriers. The “Letters from Lindsay” blog-turned-vlog are few, but each is impactful—and almost uncomfortably honest, which is refreshing. Her on-camera demeanor contrasts with that of most other leaders. DesLauriers isn’t a talking head reading a statement or a script, nor is she trying to entertain. Instead, she’s the person sitting with you, the viewer, in her office, candidly explaining important stuff, occasionally looking down to reference her notes. This approach and delivery unveils the “why” behind decisions. Bolton Valley will never suffer from trust issues with Lindsay at the helm. —DM


Most Inspiring Pass Sales Pitch
Snowbasin, Utah

may21 bw smileResorts typically do a fantastic job weaving emotion into the customer journey through incredible vistas, smiling faces, and heartwarming stories. When pushing season pass sales, though, we’re fed discounts, deals, deadlines, and fine print. Refreshingly, Snowbasin's season pass sale kickoff video highlighted two young girls who have had Snowbasin passes since the age of two, showing us the resort through their eyes and imaginations by asking, “What if?” As we watch stunning drone footage of Snowbasin’s craggy peaks, we hear, “What if there’s a place with a playground...on top of the world?” Beautiful footage of the Needles Gondola plays to, “What if we could be somewhere … we could float in the clouds?” This beautiful story—shared on social media and run as a pre-roll ad on channels like YouTube—perfectly set up the resort’s spring pass campaigns. —GB 

Best Retro Video
Arizona Snowbowl, Ariz.

may21 bw smileWith so much challenging news and bumps in the road this past season, most resorts were very restrained in their communications. Messaging about snow and safety protocols prevailed. Not so for Arizona Snowbowl. With levity and a retro-cool analog visual style, it bucked the trend and released a pitch-perfect ode to “The World’s Best Spring Break.” With a crystal-clear call-to-action for lift tickets starting at $29 and other super affordable add-ons, the video mixes vintage and current film footage with ’80s graphics that harken back to the glory days of VCRs and personal recording devices. It perfectly encapsulates the fun of spring break on the snow. We would all benefit if more resorts lightened up their marketing communications. Hats off to Arizona Snowbowl for taking a chance, breaking the mold, and hopefully enticing some new guests along the way. —CK


Best Short Film
"The Chairlift," Salomon TV

may21 bw smileWith so much challenging news and bumps in the road this past season, most resorts were very restrained in their communications. Messaging about snow and safety protocols prevailed. Not so for Arizona Snowbowl. With levity and a retro-cool analog visual style, it bucked the trend and released a pitch-perfect ode to “The World’s Best Spring Break.” With a crystal-clear call-to-action for lift tickets starting at $29 and other super affordable add-ons, the video mixes vintage and current film footage with ’80s graphics that harken back to the glory days of VCRs and personal recording devices. It perfectly encapsulates the fun of spring break on the snow. We would all benefit if more resorts lightened up their marketing communications. Hats off to Arizona Snowbowl for taking a chance, breaking the mold, and hopefully enticing some new guests along the way. —CK