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May 2022

SAM's Annual Best and Worst in Marketing 2021-22

Panelists share hits and misses from a season where honesty and humor reigned.

Written by Dave Amirault, Constance Beverley, Gregg Blanchard, David Meeker, Alex Moser, Sarah Wojcik, and Mary Walsh | 0 comment

If 2020-21 was all about brands establishing trust with their guests, 2021-22 was about keeping it through authentic (and sometimes funny) communications. Based on the reviews from our “Best and Worst in Marketing” panelists, honest, genuine messaging in all marketing channels was the best way for resort brands to win the day this winter. This trend toward transparency made the less honest marketing efforts stand out like an orange on an apple tree.

One thing the trend goes to show is—for the most part—resort marketers pay attention to what their audiences want and to how their audiences respond. In a season with a dizzying number of ups and downs, marketers had to be nimble and creative. They showed resiliency as the season progressed.

This winter, we saw more women, diversity, and savvy word choices in marketing efforts from coast-to-coast. There was better storytelling, too. And through it all, our panelists were paying attention.

As always, their reviews are subjective and well-informed. This group keeps an eye on resort marketing year-round. Their opinions here are meant to be constructive, useful, inspiring, and entertaining. We hope you find the following to be all of those things and more.

may22 best worst panel

 

GENERAL

 

may22 bw best use of goats

When you think of the GOATs of the New Jersey mountain scene, Danny Kass and the Grenade crew likely come to mind. But last year, in preparation for winter, Mountain Creek bucked this accepted definition when it shepherded in actual goats—like the kind with hooves and horns and little beards—to manage overgrowth under its mountain coaster and on its trails. Creek added 25 Nigerian Dwarf goats and three sheep to its mountain ops flock to “goatscape,” a centuries-old technique for natural landscaping that is organic, environmentally friendly, and a safe alternative to weed-killing chemicals. The new-hires earned a lot of media attention for the resort. As seasonal workers, the ruminants were only on staff during the summer months, but their efforts could be felt year-round: skiers and snowboarders were seen billygoatting around on Creek’s snow-covered trails all winter. —MW

 

 may22 best worst public perception

It’s no secret that Vail Resorts had its butt kicked during the 2021-22 season. Lift lines you could see from space, lifts, terrain, and facilities shuttered due to a lack of staff, food and beverage offerings reminiscent of the Fyre Festival, parking shortages, and biblical amounts of traffic. Cryptic, opaque—and sometimes incorrect—communication exacerbated a lot of these issues, often reporting, for example, that lifts were “closed for maintenance” after they had in fact failed. The issues made national headlines, giving the entire industry a bad look in the public eye. Wall Street took notice, too, with VR’s stock plummeting nearly 40 percent from early November to early March. On its Q2 earnings call, an analyst from Trust Securities asked if VR had considered hiring a public relations firm to help. Ouch. —DA

 

may22 best worst best discounting strategy

The idea of committing early—and bearing the risk of uncertain weather—in exchange for a discount was relatively new in the ski industry not too long ago. Consumers had been trained to book flights, car rentals, and hotel rooms in advance, so as Evan Reece and Liftopia hustled to educate our industry, it slowly became a prevalent concept in resort pricing strategies. This season, Mission Ridge cleverly implemented a version of this strategy to help alleviate its parking issues. It offered a $20 lift ticket discount to guests who commit to parking offsite and riding a shuttle to the resort. Sure, guests gave up a bit of convenience and flexibility by parking offsite, and even though the main lot continued to fill up, this strategy ensured that the resort’s capacity wasn’t limited by parking spaces and gave price-conscious skiers a way to save a few bucks. —GB

 

may22 best worst best midweek apres

Diamond Peak in Lake Tahoe was here to get us through the workweek this winter with its Last Tracks wine and beer tasting events. On Wednesdays, mountain-goers could purchase a half-day lift ticket plus entrance to a wine/beer tasting event at the Snowflake Lodge (appetizers included) for $94. Ride from 12:30-4 and then take the lift to the top to take in the view, wind down, and enjoy some sips from a different winery or brewery. The weekly event began the first week in February. By mid-March, every tasting was selling out. That’s a hugely successful deal that tells us that Wednesday is definitely the new Friday. —MW

 

 

may22 best worst go to market strategy

Pissing off your most loyal customers is never a good idea, but that’s exactly what POWDR did when it rolled out Fast Tracks, which the company positioned as “an upgradeable express lift access experience to maximize guests’ time on-mountain.” The only thing that it maximized was people’s anger. Timing of the product’s release (October 2021) was extremely poor and occurred after season pass sales had concluded for the season. Customers saw it as the company moving the goalposts for the ski experience and further exacerbating the already apparent equity issues found in skiing and riding. POWDR stuck to its guns, even after a change.org petition gained more than 10,000 signatures and a letter from Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden decried the program. Will Fast Tracks live on for the 2022-23 season? Guess we’ll find out. —DA

 

 

may22 best worst best sponsor athlete relationship

Sponsored athletes can give resorts a marketing boost. Supporting an Olympian during an Olympic year—when media coverage of the Games is rabid—gives that marketing boost a boost, especially if there’s a strong connection between athlete and resort. The success of 40-year-old boardercross gold medalist and Ski Brule, Mich., native (and sponsored athlete) Nick Baumgartner was good press for his hometown hill. Even better, though, to celebrate his homecoming, Ski Brule held an event to raise money for HIM to continue on the World Cup tour in 2022-23 and attend the 2023 World Championships, raising $23,000. Sponsoring an athlete should be a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. Ski Brule and Nick Baumgartner epitomize that. —DM

 

 

may22 best worst best timing to reuse camp

Sometimes the best marketing materializes by recognizing the moment you’re in, and resurfacing a successful idea that worked well during similar moments in the past. Season pass sales and crowding at other resorts have been among the reasons that some areas have offered lift ticket discounts to passholders from other mountains. This season’s massive lines and general crowding at many resorts across the country created another opportunity for uncrowded areas to offer it again. And while some resorts developed creative new ways to capitalize on the frustrations of the mega masses, Jay Peak simply dusted off these perks and sweetened the deal during the traditionally crowded MLK weekend. With its “Otherly Devoted” deal, folks who felt more like cattle than skiers where they use their pass could go to Jay and, for $55, get more value out of their pass than they would at the resorts it was designed for. —GB

 

may22 best worst least inspiring radio spot

 

Don’t dismiss the impact a good radio ad can have. Getting the attention of radio listeners in key markets with strong on-air messaging can strengthen brand awareness. A ho-hum radio ad, though, can have the opposite effect. When I first heard Holiday Valley’s spot, I felt like I had fallen back into the 1960s. The read is a bit vanilla and makes what is an awesome resort and town sound, well, a bit vanilla. They could’ve built upon the “make fun of winter” tagline more, to start. In addition, Holiday Valley gets a boatload of snow and should brag about it. Of course, 15 second (which this one was) or even 30-second spots are a short amount of time to tell your story, especially with all Holiday Valley and Ellicottville have to offer—but it can still work with the right read. —AM

 

 

may22 best worst pres day promo

One of the cherished traditions on many resorts’ marketing calendars is the day, usually sometime in December, when skiers and riders who dress as Santa Claus get free lift tickets, and the hills are alive with swarms of red-clad riders carving down the mountain. As fun as this is, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve never considered other applications for this sort of tradition on other holidays. Mountain Creek, however, was not so absent minded. For Presidents’ Day this season, anyone who could recite the Gettysburg Address from memory got a free lift ticket. It was that simple. At 272 words long, it’s not impossible to memorize—but it’s also not as simple as, say, borrowing a Santa suit from your neighbor. No, this required guests’ time and effort. It was not only a great marketing campaign, it was also a very meaningful reminder of what Presidents’ Day is all about—to remember the roots, ideals, and principles upon which our nation was founded. —GB

 

 

may22 best worst best badass women

In December, Trollhaugen marketing director Marsha Hovey collaborated with three experienced park builders, Laura Rogoski (Brighton, Utah), Jess Goucher (Jackson Hole, Wyo.), and Chloe Butel (Sierra-at-Tahoe, Calif.), to create the first-ever terrain park built entirely by women for all humans to enjoy. A crew of female diggers and cat operators gathered at Troll to put their spin on the area’s Valhalla park. Not only did the park turn out fantastic, but the week-long event offered mentorship, education, and collaboration between women from different resorts all over North America. Both endemic and non-endemic media showed up to document everything from ideation to park opening, and spin-offs are in the works at other mountains, offering opportunities for more women to join mountain ops via park crew. —MW

 

 

may22 best worst guest list

Beware the company you keep, especially if you own one of the most respected ski resorts in the country. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort owner Jay Kemmerer found this out the hard way when he co-hosted a fundraiser at the resort attended by members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus. Employees and locals were up in arms due to many of the politicians in attendance having opposing views from the resort on topics like climate change, sustainability, and human rights. Local protests and social media outrage went so far to draw the attention of Patagonia, which very publicly pulled out of all JHMR retail outlets. The resort eventually reacted by saying that it didn’t have any direct political affiliation or position, but the damage had already been done by its ownership. —DA

 

 

may22 best worst beneficial use of terrain parks

While holding events that benefit a good cause has long been a seasonal staple at resorts, this past winter saw a proliferation of community-benefiting snowboard events aimed at an inclusive, freestyle audience. Killington, Vt., Seven Springs, Pa., Trollhaugen, Wis., Bear, Calif., and more signed on for stops of events like Pat Moore’s Methodology and Erik Leon’s CORE Nation, which strengthened the bonds of the local riding population while raising funds for regional non-profits. At Brighton Resort in Utah, the first Bomb Hole Cup donated proceeds to Save A Brain, an SLC-based organization that provides education about and encourages prevention of traumatic brain injuries. Terrain parks have become a hub for giving back. The more events that foster and support community, especially on a local level, the better. —MW

 

 

PRINT

may22 best worst best rebrand

There are some resort marketing projects I would love to participate in. The Squaw Valley rebrand would absolutely NOT be one of them. Rebrands will always piss a bunch of people off, but when your resort name includes an offensive word that is considered “totally fine” within a subset of politically angry folks in a year like 2021? No thanks. The team pushed forward, though. The result was a beautiful blend of a familiar resort feature layered with an effective reminder to its less-connected audience about where the resort is located. The logo is simple, a little retro, and paid homage to a character in the resort’s story who is gone but not forgotten. The ad spread in SKI magazine introduced the rebrand beautifully, stating “Everything has changed. Nothing has changed.” The image shows what hasn’t changed—the area’s legendary terrain—and the name change reflects how much the world has changed in recent years. Great work. —GB

 

 

may22 best worst most pleasing

Snowshoe has always done a really great job with its “Mountain Rules” branding and this print ad is no exception. This will sound novice, but blue is a great color for winter print ads; the resort’s use of the blue, distressed font is pleasing to the eye. I also like the simple, centered layout of this ad—from the headline to the copy to the skier to the logo—it flows well. It is also a reminder of how difficult print advertising is, as advertisers want to tell their story all in one fell swoop. Readers want to know the full experience, and hopefully this ad is compelling enough for people to seek more info on Snowshoe. I think it is. —AM

 

 

may22 best worst wheres beef

Oh, there’s the beef. With this ad in SKI magazine, Deer Valley makes one thing clear: it’s got good steak. The two-page spread threw me for a loop because my eye skipped the skiing and went straight to the giant image of a juicy steak. I didn’t even realize the left-hand page was part of the ad until I stepped back and took it in. The connection isn’t clear right away. Print ads are important, and need to stop page-flippers by drawing people in long enough to learn more. I’m not sure I’d stop for a giant photo of a steak unless I was really hungry when reading SKI. In a magazine about skiing, the ski experience ought to be the centerpiece of the ads. If the goal was to step out steak first, mission accomplished. But it seems the steak should be a supporting image of Deer Valley’s great skiing, not the other way around. —SW

 

 

may22 best worst most imotive ad

Speak to me, Tamarack. This ad includes a few things I like to see from resorts, not the least of which is a kickass shot of a powder turn on what looks like manageable, unintimidating terrain. As a mediocre skier who enjoys skiing powder, that shot makes me want to be that guy. Aspirational images of big mountain steeps are sexy, but they do nothing to inspire the vast majority of SKI mag readers. In fact, those shots may actually intimidate. And I do enjoy it when words are used well in advertising. Who isn’t searching for something more in their skiing and riding life? There’s always more. “For the free spirits that hear the call of the undiscovered …” is another way of saying, “There ain’t no lift lines here, folks.” Sign me up. — DM

 

 

may22 best use photos worst use logos

What does it take to make a great print ad these days? A solid photo that makes you dream. A headline (or sub-headline) that catches your attention and means something to YOU. A clean design and a good, strong font. Smugglers’ Notch checks a few of these off. I love the inset photos of the kids having fun. That’s what it’s all about, and makes me want to bring my kids there. The images are the ad’s saving grace because, holy heck, it looks like they tried to put 10 pounds of stuff into a five-, no, two-pound bag, especially with all of the logos on here. I love accolades as much as anyone, but one style="background-color: inherit; color: inherit; font-family: inherit; font-size: 1rem; caret-color: auto;">SKI logo with mention of all of the top rankings would suffice. And amid the scrum of all the other logos and graphics, the small Smuggs’ logo gets a bit lost. A simplified ad could have still gotten the message across. —AM

 

 

may22 best worst most improved presence

Last year, Christian Knapp commented on the ad drought in the SKI Magazine annual Resort Guide, and the demise of so many endemic publications over the years. Only five resorts placed ads in the ever-important Resort Guide last year, making him ponder the future of resort storytelling. So, as I started to page through the 2021 Resort Guide, I was nervous for what would, or wouldn’t, find. I was pleasantly surprised with ad after ad for resorts across the country. This season, the SKI magazine resort guide saw a 100 percent uptick in resort participation. Ten resorts—Palisades Tahoe, Big Sky, Smugglers’ Notch, Snowmass, Sun Valley, Snowshoe, Sun Peaks, Taos, and Tamarack—committed to leveraging and supporting the last remaining mainstream ski publication available. Kudos to them. Let’s see if the marketing arm of our industry can get “most improved” again next year. —SW

 

 

may22 best worst most inspiring

I love this ad on so many levels. It is a super clean design. Square pics with rules between. Some may say boxy, but I say foxy (or something like that). I like the limited but succinct copy telling people that Big Sky is a place of joy for generations of my family. The photos are very good, too. One shows the mountain, which is impressive to look at, and that’s a good thing, because we are going there to ski or ride and the word “big” is in the name. The other images tell a good story, showing precious moments with a parent (or grandparent) and child. This is so relatable to families, and you begin to picture yourself with your kid at the resort. Could the village and other amenities have played a part? Maybe. But I don’t miss them here. Great job Big Sky. You get it. —AM

 

 

DIGITAL

may22 best worst best history lesson

Aspen Snowmass graced Instagram with a 75-post countdown celebrating its 75th anniversary, and the result was a visually inspiring history lesson that made me stop doom scrolling for five minutes and learn a little something about the fabled locale. By posting two photos daily for 75 days—one numbered with an interesting Aspen fact, followed by another bright, beautiful image, helping to keep the overall grid layout downright gorgeous—Aspen created a digital trip down memory lane while also inspiring hope for the future. From alerting its audience to the awesome 17-year collaboration with Artup to bring contemporary art to the mountains, to celebrating the release of the famed “Aspen Extreme” 28 years ago and the 45th anniversary of Gay Ski Week, Aspen reminded us why it’s still and likely always will be, an aspirational and inspirational destination.  —CB

 

 

may22 best worst best parking comms

Parking has become one of the most sought-after resources at ski resorts thanks to the proliferation of mega passes. One resort that understands this better than anyone is Eldora. Due to its proximity to Colorado’s Front Range, Eldora will often park out early on peak days, leaving frustrated and angry skiers and riders. The solution? To over-communicate via social platforms and lay out clear steps for guests to take on the conditions page of its website, which informs and sets expectations for guests. It takes balls to get on social media and tell your customers they shouldn’t go skiing due to a lack of parking, but Eldora would rather you be informed and know what to expect than be turned around when you reach the mountain. —DA

 

 

may22 best worst warmest email

Jan. 10, 2022, was a coooold day here in Vermont with wind chills of 35 below zero, lifts on hold, and not a lot of snow on the ground. It was the kind of day that made winter lovers yearn for summer. Amid the messages from resorts urging guests to cover all exposed skin, Sugarbush stepped up and committed what is normally a mid-winter sin—it sent an email promoting golf memberships. “Make 2022 the Year of Golf” it said. “On chilly days like today we can’t help but picture ourselves out on the links in the middle of summer, and if you’re there too, we get it!” I was so there that day. I’m sure others were, too. Using a valuable email send to drop some green grass and warm thoughts in my inbox as winter is just hitting its stride was an unusual move, but a savvy one in this case. —DM

 

 

may22 best worst best abandoned cart camp
In the world of online retail, people may abandon their online shopping cart simply because they got distracted by their spouse’s Wordle score. But that doesn’t really happen when booking a ski vacation. Instead, folks may not book because they’re confused, unsure about policies, or think the price will go down if they wait. In other words, questions rather than forgetfulness. Too often, however, resorts apply retail-based abandoned cart tactics to resort-style products, “reminding” folks they left something in their cart in hopes they come back. Sugar Bowl did something much more effective: instead of “Did you forget to buy?” as the headline, Sugar Bowl asked, “Is there something we can help you with?” The result was a big increase in people replying and saying, “Well, yeah, I’m wondering if …” These simple conversations took time, yes, but they also led to a lot of transactions. It’s a reminder that the human element tends to be more useful the more complex a transaction becomes. With a very simple campaign, Sugar Bowl capitalized beautifully on this idea. —GB

 

may22 best worst knowledge of pro football

Ski resorts do their best work, in my opinion, staying in their lane and promoting and celebrating what they do best, what they love, and what they understand. Hidden Valley Resort is a cool, small resort near Pittsburgh that offers incredible experiences for families on the snow. What it does not offer is much knowledge of professional football. Ahead of the Super Bowl, the resort posted a poll on its Instagram story asking followers which team will win—the Rams or the Tigers. Hey, Bengals are technically tigers! It’s just semantics! Do I sound defensive? After all, I was the one overseeing the marketing for Hidden Valley when this cat mascot confusion occurred. I may be the first to submit a “worst” for his own resort. I will be better next year. —AM

 

 

may22 best worst best teaser

That’s right y’all, skiing in Texas. That’ll stop you in your ski boots. Alpine-X dropped hints at its future indoor facilities in the snow deprived but ski enthusiast state of Texas with a road sign reminding you to Ski Friendly (advice we should all take this year, don’t you think?). Nothing like a double take in your feed. Simple. Effective. The plot thickens. Will skiing be bigger in Texas? I guess we’ll find out. —CB

 

may22 best worst transparency award

Most resort operators keep their cards close to the chest—but that’s not the case at Arapahoe Basin. Al’s Blog contains musings directly from COO Alan Henceroth’s keyboard. Want to know what the resort’s visitation numbers were from its transition from Epic to Ikon? Or how A-Basin did in a DEI audit and what action it’s taking to move in the right direction? It’s all on display in an honest and informative way that in turn develops deep trust and loyalty for A-Basin’s core audience. Other resorts should pay attention—being this transparent is the best way to put the rumor mill out of business, among other benefits. If there’s one knock against Al’s Blog, it’s that it’s on an ancient blogging platform (Blogger) and should be wrapped into the resorts main site. —DA

 

 

may22 best worst most fabulous comp commentary

What do you do when two worlds collide? If you’re Aspen Snowmass, you team them up for a fresh perspective. When Aspen Snowmass’s 45th annual Gay Ski Week overlapped with the 21st X Games Aspen, the resort invited drag royalty Bob the Drag Queen and Monét X Change to run commentary on the competition. The sheer presence of the two Black drag queens in the popular Aspen Snowmass Instagram reel feed was as refreshing as their commentary. Aside from being fun and fabulously-dressed, their observations gave us insight into how people see our sport from the “outside.” If only they were as welcomed by Aspen’s followers—while Aspen’s Instagram reels typically get 20,000-200,000 views, the majority of the X Games Commentary Reels only tallied around 5,000. —SW

 

 

may22 best worst best no bs emails

As one who has a BA in English, I thought I had read all of the classics: Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Defoe, Swift, Austen. I had no idea when I entered the ski world that I’d add one more to my library—the emails from Mad River Glen. Every time I get one, I feel like I’m reading a diary from someone deeply embedded at a very unique skiing institution. I love the transparency, there’s no marketing BS, and the writer weaves in point-blank operational information to help plan your trip. As a result, I trust MRG, which is huge these days; I understand how to navigate the ski area even though I’ve never been there; and it is enjoyable reading. That’s a trifecta that will get me to the mountain. —AM

 

 

may22 best worst tmi award

While we appreciate transparency and clarity from resorts on social media whenever possible, sometimes things can go awry when the tone and content of a resort’s post result in misunderstandings, backlash, and arguments that divide instead of bring together. In February, Eagle Point, Utah, a place known for “Powder Fridays” (the resort is closed Tuesday-Thursday, allowing storms to build up before opening at the end of the week), made a post across its social media about pressing charges on a group of poachers who had tracked out the snow when the mountain was closed. The resort is privately owned, private property, and has jurisdiction to proceed as it wishes. Of course, running a resort’s social media is difficult and laden with traps. While well written and straightforward, the announcement’s tone polarized followers, prompting anger and division in the 1,000-plus comments. Perhaps it was better left unsaid. —MW

 

 

may22 best worst best pre arrival education

There’s a lot of flash and glamor in marketing, drawing newbies in with breathtaking photography, smiling faces, top athletes cruising through powder—but when you’re coming into the sport for the first time, how do you know if your ski boots actually fit? When you’re new, YOU HAVE NO IDEA. The team at Mountain Creek knows that marketing is also about education. The “must knows” that are part of the “Beginner’s Guide” on the resort’s website are welcome bits of advice and info that lots of new skiers and riders are too afraid—or don’t even know—to ask about. The info is easy to find for folks perusing the learn to ski and snowboard lesson overview, which is helpful because anyone coming to this page probably needs a little guidance. I’d love to see more mountains creating these guides and turning them into fun social media or print content. Why not celebrate learning the basics, and welcoming people in with some easy-to-follow pro tips? Appreciate you Mountain Creek (and anyone else with similar info), you’re doing the work. —CB

 

 

may22 best worst best use of ops data

It was not a very snowy winter for much of the Northeast, and the beginning of March brought hot rain, which didn’t help the snowpack. While Massachusetts residents stared at bare yards, Wachusett Mountain used its snow-depth measurement technology to show people that there was still plenty of winter left to enjoy. On March 7, the resort posted the overlay of all its trails with the color-coded snow-depth data showing how much snow it had—an average of more than 3.5 feet. Not only were followers overjoyed, they were fascinated by the technology, asking questions—and getting answers from the resort. It’s an excellent example of how mountain ops tools can serve as marketing tools too. —DM

 

 

may22 best worst best writing
Are you more likely to open an email that you know is informative, entertaining, and extremely well written, or an email that just wants to sell you stuff? Silly question, of course, but Jay Peak answered it this winter every time it sent “The 242” email newsletter. Jay has always had a way with words in its marketing, but “The 242” kicked it up a notch. I don’t know if resort president Steve Wright is the one wrighting these (see what I did there?) or if it’s one of the other wordsmiths on staff, but the writing is soooooo good. It is conversational and a little silly, with a touch of highbrow. It has an air of coolness without being jerky or condescending. It’s mostly devoid of hard sells, and the use of creative headers is terrific. In short, the emails make me love Jay and want to go there and give them my money. —AM

 

 

may22 best worst best podcast

Podcasts are having a day. While the platform began gaining traction more than 15 years ago, it finally broke through to the mainstream in the last 4-5 years. A few resorts and associations have put some budget into creating their own podcasts, including Vail Resorts and Ski Utah, but I have to say that the Killington Download podcast (launched October 2021) might be the best yet. The challenge with podcasts is balancing the content so that it speaks to both the audience that listens shortly after an episode is released and the audience that listens later. Killington strikes this balance well by building each episode around a more evergreen topic, but also including a short and insightful segment with up-to-date info on what’s happening at the mountain when the episode is released. With the captive, engaged audience that podcasting delivers, this was a fantastic move. —GB

 

 

may22 best worst best deadline email

I’m a sucker for two types of marketing, at opposite sides of the spectrum: I love the feel-good, set-a-tone, tug-at-my-heart-strings, make-me-dream-of-being-there types of ads and communications, but I also really love straight talk. Give it to me succinctly and clearly. I want as much good info as you can fit in as few words as possible. Pair it with a strong brand identity and you’re a winner in my mind. Beech does all that in this simple but effective email. “Last Chance to Save Sarah!” was the subject line. Aside from the missing comma (crap, do I need to be saved?), it clearly tells me rates are going up for something, and I need to find out what. Inside, the Beech blue, the lovely and simple logo, strong photo, and FOMO-inducing headline make a strong package. Once you’ve enticed me with your strong advertising and messaging, give it to me straight, like Beech, and I might just “Buy now!” —SW

 

 

VIDEO

 

may22 best worst most anxiety inducing

You saw it. It made you anxious. You made at least three Vail jokes about it. Thanks for the nightmare disguised as “inspiration.” I wish Visa had sat down with someone, ANYONE, that is doing the actual work to make snowsports more inclusive and welcoming (shameless plug for Share Winter and everyone we work with to do exactly that) to understand the psychology behind associating crowds with diversity, inclusion, and expanding ski/snowboard participation.  Expanding mountain access starts by overcoming the barrier of “the mountains are too crowded already.” Visa exacerbated that concern, which is damaging. Ad execs and marketers could learn a lot from community leaders (hint hint). Pro tip: If you want to ensure your ad doesn’t fall flat, engage the communities you’re trying to reach and professionals that have actual insight on what’s going on in the field (or mountains). Check it out. You’re welcome.  —CB

 

 

may22 berst worst best drone footage

Virtually every resort does three things on a regular basis: 1) Include compelling birds-eye view photographs to their asset library; 2) Put extra effort into a conditions update video when the trails are in especially good shape; and 3) Shoot footage at sunrise—snowmaking especially—to take advantage of beautiful golden-hour light. This winter, Bryce Resort put all of these strategies into a single piece of content when the resort fired up its snowmaking equipment after the holidays. Instead of simply snapping a few shots from the base area, Bryce pulled out the drone at sunrise and captured stunning footage of its snowmaking machines blasting cold smoke to show its audience how good conditions were going to be that week. Did it take extra work? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. In a feed full of static images, this video (and, later, others like it) stood out. Check it out. —GB

 

 

may22 best worst best viral moment

Seven Springs broke the internet, and probably their social analytics platform with the most viral video this season. Chances are you’ve already seen it, but if not, I’ll give you the gist. The resort decided to spice up one of is video conditions updates by planting one of its employees in the background pretending to struggle with an icy flight of stairs. Hilarity ensues as the host goes on with her normal script, extolling the great conditions as carnage unfolds behind her. The video immediately went viral on Twitter and quickly spread to countless news stations, popular social profiles, and ultimately the Today Show, gaining millions of views and countless dollars in earned media. Check it out. —DA

 

 

may22 best worst best i see what you did there

Yes, Santa sleighs, and what can I say, it’s the caption for me: “Ho, ho, holy $#!%... Santa rips! We knew Santa’s skills were on another level when it came to delivering presents, we had no idea he was this skilled when it came to sprinkling hammers throughout Main Park.” Best use of an implied expletive to get my attention. The caption made me laugh and then I found myself following a dude in a red suit through one of my favorite parks in the United States. There was something about the edit that felt more welcoming because, hello, Santa Claus. And the red suit on a bluebird day is just a stunning visual. If I were a marketer, which I am not, reviewing this, I’d say something prolific, like, “There’s something about the known and the unknown meeting in the Unbound.” But frankly, it just looked cool. Check it out. —CB

 

 

may22 best worst best coverage of big project

One of the biggest missteps resorts make when investing millions into a new hotel, lift, or expansion is failing to also invest in additional marketing to tell a story worthy of that investment. Loon, however, did not make this mistake when it installed its new eight-passenger chairlift last summer. The lift is the first of its kind in the East, a technological wonder, and has a base terminal that rivals the architecture of the best lodges in the ski industry. To ensure its marketing matched the quality of the project, Loon produced a multi-part video series with some of the highest production quality of any resort content this year. The series combined a thoughtfully organized narrative, high-quality footage, clean audio, and beautiful graphics to tell a compelling story that did the new chairlift justice. —GB

 

may22 best worst best ambassador campaign

When we think of “influencers” in the ski industry, we usually default to pro athletes. Yes, the pros are amazing—but let’s be honest, it’s nice to see resort content featuring people who are making an impact without dropping cliffs or standing on podiums. Kudos to Crystal Mountain for selecting ambassadors that influence their communities in other ways—individuals that really speak to the soul of our industry. This spotlight on Layla Anane and the Service Board—an organization that empowers and provides programming for youth from marginalized communities—is impactful storytelling and inspiration at its finest. I hope to see more community leaders given the spotlight—by brands, mountains, marketing departments, and industry publications (just saying, it’s a good look). —CB

 

 

may22 best worst best mountain ops showcase

Purgatory illuminated a crucial part of day-to-day resort operations with a behind-the-scenes video about its lift ops crew. While so much of guest happiness and safety rests in the hands of these dedicated individuals, their work is done mainly out of sight. Purgatory changed that by putting mountain ops director (lift maintenance manager at the time of the video) Jim Brantley in front of the camera, and introducing viewers to a side of the resort they don’t usually see. Strong footage accompanies Brantley’s honest and genuine narration. In a world of digital access, the inner workings of an individual’s favorite mountain can be captivating, and Purgatory’s creation doubles down: The well-spoken Brantley is not only driven professionally, but he’s also a devoted snowboarder, underlining the dual passion of many of the people in the industry. —MW

 

 

may22 best worst most relatable

Anyone that has ever skied with young children can relate. And laugh. Posted in early January, this video from Killington features a cute little girl playing the “parent” trying to get her dad, playing the kid, through a ski day. It’s all too relatable to any adult that has spent any time with kids on the slopes, from the classic “do you wanna go skiing or what?” line and the request for a bathroom break at the worst possible time to the kid reminding the parent that he won’t get hurt because he isn’t “old like you.” I love relatable content because it allows communities and groups of people to engage on the same level and savor a pretty regular shared experience. Thanks, Killington, you created the perfect post for me to DM my mom (yes, she’s on Instagram) with a simple #facts #sorry #loveyou. The only miss—I would’ve used this to remind adults to tip instructors that have given their kids lessons. They are saints. Check it out. —CB

 

 

may22 best worst most honest on mountain reporting


I like an on-mountain report with heart and humor, and regardless of what Mother Nature is serving, I’d like Mt. Ashland GM Hiram Towle to narrate the menu. Skiing is fun, why not make every aspect of it joyful and unique (and honest). Sometimes the weather isn’t awesome, sometimes grooming isn’t going to happen, and you know what, it’s going to be OK. I love that Hiram just admits that some days the weather isn’t great, but hey, rain does mean soft snow and no lines! Where’s the lie? It’s a welcome departure from seeing hopeful marketing reports about tons of new snow and arriving on mountain feeling like you’ve been gaslit by the social media team. Thanks, Hiram, for keeping it real, which is just so on-brand for Mt. Ashland. —CB

 

 

may22 best worst best guest starring video series

“What did the ocean say to the other ocean? Nothing, it just waved.” What does a kid telling a silly joke have to do with skiing and riding? Everything. Time spent on a chairlift with friends, family, or strangers is one of my favorite things about skiing, other than actually skiing. It’s one of the only times in life where you just sit, wait, and converse with your people without distraction. Magic’s “Confessions from the Red Chair” capture these moments and give us beautiful, awkward, strange, and silly insights into skiers and riders, neighbors, visitors, and humanity itself. I somehow missed this insightful video series last season, but it’s delivered another year of brilliantly human content that gives me all the feels. Bonus points for editing that follows the chair from loading to unload, cutting content into snippets of conversations, musing, singing, and of course, joking. —SW

 

 

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My social media feed blew up with content featuring women in the ski industry on March 8, 2022, International Women’s Day. Of everything, Alta’s “Sisterhood of Skiing” video took the cake. In episode 10 of the “Steeped in Tradition” series, Alta former marketing and PR legend Connie Marshall, pro skier Rachel Burke, and a diverse cast of female employees and community members ruminate on what it is to be a woman on the mountain, in the mountains, and part of the Alta community. They celebrate the bonds of sisterhood and support for each other while also acknowledging barriers old and new. It’s packed with conversations that any woman in the industry can relate to with a backdrop of epic shots of the speakers skiing at Alta (and beyond). Wonderfully produced, the video goes beyond just a simple International Women’s Day post and celebrated the unique camaraderie women can find on the mountain. —SW