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May 2023

SAM's Annual Best & Worst in Marketing 2022-23

From splashy to small, this year's marketing hits and misses covered it all.

Written by Constance Beverley, Gregg Blanchard, David Meeker, Luke Stafford, Mary Walsh, Sarah Wojcik | 0 comment


In each of the past few years, resort marketing seemed to follow a certain trend, such as leaning in on humor or establishing trust through transparency. For 2022-23, it was a decidedly mixed bag. Resorts from coast-to-coast took a variety of different approaches to their marketing—some knocked it out of the park, and others swung and missed.

Our “Best and Worst in Marketing” panelists adeptly point out several different examples that touch on this broad variety. That said, it was interesting to see that a handful of resorts caught the attention of more than one of our panelists, sometimes for the same thing, and others for different efforts from the same resort. This is an indication of how impactful some individual marketing efforts are, as well as how successful marketing teams are able to make noise via multiple channels, messages, and creative directions.

As it has been since the beginning, SAM’s annual “Best and Worst in Marketing” is a subjective, informed review of resort (and related brands) marketing efforts by a panel of people who pay attention to what resorts do year-round. Their opinions aim to be constructive, inspiring, useful, and entertaining.

may23 bw panelists



may23 bw general



may23 bw best rebrand

Whether you live on Shoshone land like I do or Abenaki land like my friends in Vermont, many of us wrestle with the uncomfortable reality that these lands were taken. In some cases, by force. I appreciate that many ski areas in Canada include Acknowledgements of Lands in their marketing collateral or resort websites. Suicide Six was long overdue for a rebrand, but instead of being cute and clever, the team turned to the past and wove these messages and acknowledgments directly into the new name: Saskadena Six. Saskadena is Abenaki for “standing mountain,” and, as it starts with an “S,” it keeps the familiar alliteration of the previous name, making for a clean handoff from old to new. Even more, its new color palette uses yellows, reds, and blues that are based on the tribe’s traditions and history. These efforts don’t change the past, but they own up to it rather than sweep it under the rug. —GB

I’ve lost two people close to me to suicide: an uncle and a friend. I was never offended by the name Suicide Six. But as we inch closer to the de-stigmatization of mental health in this country, this small Vermont mountain took a big step forward when it released a video in July 2022, announcing its new name: Saskadena Six. The name change not only eliminated a problematic moniker, but also shined a light on the fact that the resort sits on land previously lived on for millennia by Native Americans. “We exist on the occupied lands of the Abenaki Nation,” the video concedes, explaining that Saskadena translates to “Standing Mountain” in the native Abenaki language. The name was chosen with consultation from Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation, which added credence to the entire effort and strengthened community ties. The credibility and social equity gained through the process and name change provides value for Saskadena Six beyond it being the right thing to do. —LS



may23 bw best onsite promo

I’m terrible about waxing my board. On the other hand, I’m great at drinking beer. Mission Ridge found a way to capitalize on this dichotomy with its genius “Belt Wax and a Beer” promo. For $15, you get your board or skis waxed—that right there is a pretty good deal by itself—and a cold pint at the bar upstairs while you wait. If most people are like me, they enjoyed another pint while there—you know, to give the wax time to properly marinate. Boom. A great deal leads to more revenue for Mission Ridge. The only thing I don’t like about this is that it’s not a national trend that transcends industries. Participants could include, but are not limited to: Shoe Shine and a Shot, Tire Rotation and a Tall Boy, and Driver’s License Renewal and a Drambuie. —LS



May23 bw most fearless use of brand power

Heading into Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Burton used its global brand power to deliver a strong message: “Check Yourself.” The opening image is of Kimmy Fasani, a Burton team rider who is fighting breast cancer, with the words “check yourself” emblazoned across her scars from a double mastectomy. It’s an image that makes you stop scrolling. While some might shy away from such an intense image, Burton pushed it out there, grabbing attention and driving a strong message that was more than just an attempt to raise awareness of breast cancer—the email/campaign was also informative. It included an illustrated outline about how to perform a breast exam and a link to Kimmy’s video about her journey. I applaud Burton (and Kimmy) for being brave and delivering content that could literally help save lives. —SW



may23 bw best retro vibe

I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and a cute tagline. Offering both is the new Cali Pass that includes Mountain High, Dodge Ridge, and China Peak. The retro rad font, the blue and pink, and the so California “Cali Pass. It’s a vibe.” tagline all works for me. It’s eye catching, straight to the point, and, frankly, cool. This new entry to the Epic- and Ikon-heavy California season pass market already stands out from a branding perspective. Details of the pass aside, I know that “It’s a vibe,” and I’m here for it. Cali Pass marketing team, you’ve made my early ’90s dreams come true. Where can I buy the t-shirt? —CB



may23 bw best tagline

Wild Mountain in Minnesota went all in with a new tagline that embraces the continued, simple improvements the ski area has been making and the area’s classic vibe and focus on a pure, simple skiing experience. “Same Old, Brand New” encompasses everything from the traditional quilt blocks added to the lift shacks to wood-seat chairs that were replaced with new, beautifully stained slats. It speaks to the resort’s ability to keep the skiing experience people love while adding that extra bit of polish and presentation that reminds skiers the simplicity is intentional. Across the mountain, Wild is elevating the way skiers engage with the resort in small and simple ways that add up to something great. “Same Old, Brand New” is a beautiful way to tie all of these efforts together into a neat, tidy brand that drives home the mountain’s values to its skiers and community. —GB



may23 bw best utilitarian marketing

“Legendary for a reason.” On duct tape. Brilliant. A-Basin took the campaign around its new slogan to the next level with the introduction of its own branded duct tape. The ski area gave away rolls to the first 50 skiers and riders that lined up on opening day, giving them “legendary” status. The slogan alone is fantastic. If you don’t know why A-Basin is legendary, this message makes you want to find out. If you do know, you know. The originality of adding this fitting slogan to duct tape—the favorite rip-fixer of skiers and riders young and old—also nods to A-Basin’s culture. Love to patch up your gear and get after it? A-Basin’s legendary duct tape will do the trick. And it’ll tell others a little bit about the skier or rider that uses it, saying, “I’m here for the mountain, and don’t need glitz and glam.” That’s pretty damn cool for a piece of tape. —SW



may23 bw best mascot

Indoor ski area Big SNOW has achieved many firsts, but I’m not sure it’s gotten enough credit for its BIGGEST contribution to the ski world: Big the Yeti. Big is adorable, memorable, and downright loveable. They (I haven’t asked Big their pronouns, so I’m going to default to they) greet you as soon as you open the Big SNOW website, asking “How can I help?” Big visits with people on the mountain. Big has an impossibly cute TV show to inspire kids—I mean can we discuss the bio for that show: “An animated series to inspire confident kids with big dreams and even bigger hearts.” Go ahead and melt my cold dark heart you loveable fur angel. Do you follow Big the Yeti on Instagram? You should, they are a dose of adorable that even the most jaded local can’t deny. Admit it, you need some cute in your life, and their name is Big. — CB



may23 bw best directions

The traffic in Utah’s Big and Little Cottonwood canyons the last few years has been grabbing headlines, shifting the focus from the incredible skiing at the resorts located in the canyons to thousands of skiers’ shared frustrations about the traffic and parking. Many of these skiers, however, had something else in common: an Ikon Pass. Snowbasin, the only Utah resort on the Ikon Pass that doesn’t sit on the ridgeline that splits the Park City resorts from the Cottonwoods, saw opportunity. Its “Go North” campaign converted a billboard—in a location visible to people driving to the Cottonwoods—into a giant arrow and reminded Ikon Pass holders that they could have slept in another hour or two and still snagged first tracks at Snowbasin. This clever campaign (which also had digital elements) has helped broaden and strengthen Snowbasin’s market as it continues to become a stronger force in the Utah ski industry. —GB



may23 bw best fundraising

Every year, Beech Mountain works to, as they say, “kick colon cancer’s butt, pun intended,” through Runs for Buns, a day of skiing and snowboarding during which participants raise money for the Colon Cancer Coalition to help with early detection, research, and awareness. In 2023, Beech further enhanced the event by adding an opportunity for non-skiing members of the community to get involved: the Not So Gala Gala, an evening celebration for folks to gather at Beech, listen to bluegrass music, and continue to support the event’s mission. By adding to the on-snow portion of the event and opening up the opportunity for everyone to be involved for such a great cause, Beech not only increased fundraising, but strengthened the local community both on and off the snow. —MW



may23 bw best guidance

Alta Ski Area has some of the best snow in the world. But a lesser-known side of the resort are the stunning wildflowers that bloom across its slopes once that famous snow finally melts. What was once a nice perk for a random college student like myself on a quiet afternoon hike at the mountain now draws thousands and thousands of people who want to take pics of the flowers for their own social media. Trying to balance the value of social shares from this eager crowd with the damage to the landscape the crowd can inflict, Alta created designated “photo pullouts” along its main trails where hikers can safely be amongst the flowers for a photo op. The ski area chose locations where the best colors and angles (and photos) were possible. So, Alta helped everyone—not just the skilled photographers—have a better chance of taking a great photo to share with their world, reducing potential flower trampling and increasing the value of every photo of Alta’s flowers. —GB



 may23 bw best clap back

While this isn’t specifically ski-marketing, I have to give the genius behind the “Boring Ass City” billboards, Brandon Wright of Loud Marketing Co., some serious praise. During the NBA All-Star Game, which happened in Salt Lake City during peak ski season, for those of you who don’t care about basketball at all (it’s me, I’m one of those people), famed basketball dude Charles Barkley quipped that there’s “nothing to do in this boring-ass city.” Thus began the #boringsaltlake campaign, complete with billboards overlaying the pejorative statement on photos of awesome outdoor things to do in Salt Lake, including skiing. I love when someone takes a criticism and turns it into a celebration—just like nearby Snowbird did a few years back with its one-star campaign. Maybe Chuck should try skiing. —CB




may23 bw happy faceTrollhaugen kicked off winter with two progressive snowboard events centered on opportunity, inclusivity, and representation. At the end of November, the resort held the second annual Take the Rake, welcoming back a crew of women diggers and cat operators to build a park together, learn new skills, and network. Once TTR wrapped, the crew at Troll immediately went into collaborating with Snowboy Productions on DUH. The Event—a gathering of LGBTQIA2S+ snowboarders and allies. Troll and Snowboy worked with Pink Dollar Po$$y, a crew with roots in Minneapolis that celebrates queer snowboarding. Mainstream media came out to cover DUH., and the two events combined garnered lots of attention in an authentic, inclusive, and exciting way. —MW



may23 bw happy faceThe fireworks I watched as a kid are mostly the same as the fireworks I am now watching with my kids. That’s not to say there isn’t magic in these explosive displays of color—some resorts crank out a show every week. But technology has expanded the ways in which resorts can light up the sky and entertain their guests, which Steamboat did by bringing the 21st century to its 60th anniversary celebration with a drone show. A group of nearly 150 high-tech quadcopters strobed through bright colors and arranged themselves into shapes like a 60th anniversary design, the years 1963 and 2023, skiers, gondola cabins, the famous barn, and of course the Steamboat logo complete with flag blowing in the wind. The show told Steamboat’s story in a fun, new, engaging way and delighted the crowd with a type of display many were experiencing for the first time, and lit up social media with a recap of the event. —GB



may23 bw worst mechandise branding

Resort Marketing Manager: OK, it’s time to design our merch for next year. Anyone have any ideas?

Marketing Team: ...

Resort Marketing Manager: Anyone? Any ideas? Eh, [bleep] it, we’ll just do the sunset thing again.

I’m not a gambling man, but I’m willing to wager that if you’re reading this at a resort, you could walk into the retail shop right now and find no less than 37 pieces of merchandise that contain some variation of a retro-looking-sunset-with-mountain-peak. You know the one, with the block-gradient oranges and mustard yellows and browns that look custom-made to match a Cotopaxi puffy. Hoodies? Put a sunset on it. Hats? Put a sunset on it. It’s all good cuz it’s got your resort’s name on it, which makes it unique, just like everyone else. —LS



may23 bw best merchandise branding

I have to tip my hat to Hilltop Ski Area in Anchorage, Alaska, for, well, a hat. A hat that made me scream out “shut up and take my money!” As all marketers know, good merchandise can really get the word out, and does this hat do it with aplomb. Everywhere I go, I see ski areas selling merch with double black diamonds and some variation of “I’m difficult” as a way of humblebragging their way into the hearts and minds of visitors. But not Hilltop. This phenomenal piece of fashion sports a green circle to replace the O in Hilltop and a proud declaration of 294 feet of vertical glory. I loved it. I coveted it. I bought it, and wear it everywhere. For me, it’s more than a cheeky statement. It’s a reminder to own who you are and celebrate everything that makes you unique. Am I getting emotional over a hilarious piece of merchandise? Maybe. But isn’t that what good marketing does? —CB       



may23 bw blackout date promo

For most skiers, buying a season pass involves tradeoffs. Tradeoffs between perks and prices, favorite mountains and mountains included on any one pass, and what your bank account can handle. This means that many skiers end up with a pass that has blackout days when they wish they had a pass that didn’t. Sugarbush aimed to alleviate feelings of buyer's remorse by telling its Ikon Base Pass audience that if they booked lodging over the MLK holiday weekend, their pass, normally blacked out, would be valid every day of their stay. It was a brilliant move. Is it going to instantly fill every room? Probably not. But it’s a great example of offering value without discounting, giving a specific guest segment a way to overcome the tradeoffs they may regret having committed to for the season, and filling a few rooms along the way. I’d expect this concept to be replicated at more resorts next year. —GB


may23 bw print



may23 bw best use of large format

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Some are worth even more, I think. Take Alta’s ad in the large format magazine Mountain Gazette. You can pack a lot into a 22x17 spread. The only thing Alta packed into its spread, though, was eye candy. And it’s not your typical eye candy of a deep powder turn or pristine mountain peak. It’s better than that. It’s snow, and lots of it. Snow falling, snow blowing, snow on a lift shack. An artful shot, garnished by a confident and simple message: “Digging out for 85 years.” The combination of a great image and great message tells an excellent story that resonates with anyone who loves snow (even snowboarders). —SW



may23 bw most ignored opportunity

OK, I get it. Niche, outdoor print media isn’t as robust as it used to be. There are fewer magazines and the mags that still exist have fewer issues per year, which means less opportunity for ad placement. We can blame the current scarcity of options and the print-challenged landscape defined by larger trends in media consumption, economic shifts, etc.—but don’t we all have a say in this? Ads and feature stories in print are powerful. Full-page images and creative designs/messages that lure readers to far-away resorts are a part of the enjoyment of wintertime magazine reading, yet they are noticeably absent as of late (only three resort ads in the one issue of SKI, for example). This isn’t news, of course. And I don’t mean to stand on my soapbox. But print is still here, eking out its place in ski shops, mountain lodges, and resort town coffee tables—and resorts that capitalize on the opportunity to be in print will benefit. —MW



may23 bw best reminder

“Get outside” became more than just a common command to unruly kids during the pandemic. It became the chant of the times. The outdoors provided an escape from the confines of home and the general pressure of life. And that hasn’t gone away. Studies show people are itching for the outdoors more than ever. Kudos to Stratton for leveraging that sentiment. As a ski area in southern Vermont, Stratton is within driving distance of the Northeast’s metro markets, where millions of city dwellers are looking for outdoor escapes. This ad in Vermont Ski + Ride magazine pairs a fun and playful illustration with the headline “Outside All Day,” adding levity to what was initially a reaction to pandemic confinement. —SW



may23 bw best new cta

Not a resort ad, but an ad for an organization tasked with drawing visitors to a town at the base of a few resorts, so we’ll count it. The reason why this ad from Visit Park City in SKI magazine stood out to me is the message: Learn how to visit with care. I hope to see more of this in resort marketing. We’ve always marketed our activities and attributes to entice people to visit, and we talk a lot about meeting guest expectations—but rarely do we ever communicate expectations for how guests should behave while visiting (other than the Responsibility Code). No need to lecture or be threatening, or course. Communicate that you care about more than just taking guests’ money. Inform people about what it means to be a respectful visitor. Tell them about your resort’s culture. Encourage them to treat the people and the place with kindness. It will resonate with the right people. —DM



may23 bw best editorial coverage

The day-to-day operations of ski resorts are mostly a mystery to visiting skiers and snowboarders, though there have been more efforts in recent years to illuminate the folks that work long hours to keep the lifts turning (both literally and metaphorically). Stories, photos, and videos that celebrate resort teams most definitely have an audience. Case in point: “Snowmeliers: Crafting Winter in the Desert,” which appeared in issue 19.2 of Snowboard Magazine, broke down the process of snowmaking, from the individuals involved to the scientific details, courtesy of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in SoCal. While narratives about resort operations may seem banal when you’re engrossed in it every day, the behind-the-scenes of our favorite mountains contains a treasure trove of intriguing topics that visitors are excited to enjoy. —MW



may23 bw when more is less

As Britney said, Gimme More. No, really. I love Jackson Hole, but this ad doesn’t quite do the resort proper justice. This big, two-page spread certainly stands out and stops readers from page flipping, so that’s a win. But JHMR is one of the most famous resorts in the world and is seated in one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, so why not embrace that and show the “more” beyond the fine print? Speaking of that, I had to bust out my glasses to read the fine print, i.e., the “more,” which was more like, the obvious: the location, the skiing, the lifts, the shopping, etc. Maybe it’s on that quiet luxury/recession core train, but when it comes to “more” would it have been better to say less? Make us wish we could take on eight side gigs to experience something otherworldly. I know you can. —CB 



may23 bw less is more

OK, Sun Valley, now this is quiet luxury done right. To start, the eye is immediately drawn to the word "legacy." Without reading anything else, we get the point—we know what Sun Valley is, we know why it’s one of the best, and we're actively saving up our pennies to live our Sun Valley dream. Throw a few award icons in the mix and we have a nice humble brag. No need to be flashy; everyone already knows that it’s an iconic place. The classic powder shot (feeling that legacy vibe) pulls our ski obsessed heartstrings. The text is to the point, hits the highlights, and reminds us of what we already know: that if you haven't been to Sun Valley, you are absolutely missing out. In short, the lesson here (dear beautiful friends at Jackson Hole) is if you’re going to sum up your ad in a word, choose wisely. —CB



may23 bw out of focus ad

The Mountain Collective's strange, psychedelic moment in SKI magazine did more than catch my eye—it's a direct contrast to the bold/crisp (and often too similar) Epic and Ikon branding. It evokes a trippy, dreamy, counter-culture vibe. I dig that the focus is on the "dream" and the experience rather than the imperative to buy a pass right now. Rule the mountain, conquer the slopes, visit dream destinations. Props for evoking a utopian world view to grab a segment of the market that has no desire to align with just one brand. Did this ad have me questioning my blurred vision for a moment? Yes. But it also made me stop turning the pages and focus my eyes and mind long enough to remember that there are more than two pass options. Well done. —CB


may23 bw video



may23 bw best negative press rebuttal

Negative press is no joke. Or is it? Every resort PR person has had to deal with negative or exaggerated press at some point in their career, much of it centered on the weather. Rescuing the story isn’t always an easy task, but Mountain Creek killed it with its humorous rebuttal to the local news report about the resort’s lack of snow in January. “No snow, no snowboarding, no skiing,” said Eyewitness News on Jan. 4, 2023. That evening, Mountain Creek rose to the challenge by cranking out enough snow overnight to reopen on Jan. 5. The resort also shared the newsreel to push the narrative. They made a brilliantly dubbed edit of the report and overlayed it to a video of them ripping up the new snow at 9 a.m. the next morning.  —SW



may23 bw best use of local celebrity

I love when a ski area embraces humor and knows a good trend when they see it. All hail “Maine’s Finest Athlete” Donny Pelletier (aka Olympian and Sunday River local Troy Murphy), and Sunday River for recognizing his contributions to the ski world and featuring him in its social media. I’m a full-fledged member of the Donny fan club. I’m not sure that I’ve come across a better ambassador for the ski industry. In a world competing for everyone’s attention, Donny knows he’s your favorite, and Sunday River knows that there’s no better way to market itself than with Donny’s mix of humor and likeability. This season’s highlight: Donny’s review of Sunday River’s new chairlift, which he’s convinced will take you to space and requires “heavy mathematics” because “it’s an eight pack. It ain’t no regular four banger.” Good content is hard to find, but good thing Sunday River found all-around wicked amazing guy Donny Pelletier. —CB

Ed. Note: In a humorous case of wicked irony, independently-owned Saddleback, Maine, also tapped Donny for a video campaign. In one video, (with nearly 600k views on Instagram) Donny stands at a highway sign that points to both Saddleback and Sugarloaf (Sunday River’s sister resort), with the latter being seven miles closer. Donny says, “It’s not that much fatha to Saddleback. You’ll probably make up that seven miles in one or two lift lines.”




may23 bw happy faceAs parking lots overflow and lift lines grow at more and more mountains, these frustrating parts of the skiing experience are creating opportunities for other mountains to position themselves as the solution—like Schweitzer did with its striking and effective “Chairlift Therapy” videos. The spots feature regular skiers and riders laying down in a quad chair hanging from a crane overlooking the Seattle skyline, pouring out their frustrated skier souls to the camera, describing an era of skiing they long for—one without “hordes of people” or feeling “disappointed” after a day on the slopes. “Skiing is supposed to be fun!” one says. Without saying a word about Schweitzer, the resort elegantly established itself as the antidote to the wintry woes of tens of thousands of Washington residents. The videos ran as 30- and 60-second spots in the Seattle area to deliver this message to a critical segment of Schweitzer’s market in a powerfully simple but effective and targeted way. —GB



may23 bw best midweek

Midweek skiing is bliss. Snowshoe nicely summed up the midweek ski experience in a quick video in early January promoting its “Midweeker Package” offering discounts on lodging, tickets, etc. The couple in the video (the Midweekers!) take their time getting a coffee, their skis tuned, and are the only ones there carving sweet corduroy on a bluebird day. I sincerely feel bad for anyone who can only ski on weekends. There are thousands of people who think the weekend ski experience is just how skiing is, which is a shame—especially since most major resorts, especially in the Northeast, reach a dangerous density. Getting a few midweek days under their belts would change their entire perspective. Societal realities being what they are, though, midweek remains the fodder for the few. Snowshoe’s video made me want to close my computer and be a midweeker. Nicely done. —DM



may23 bw best instragam vid

This year, Beech Mountain uplifted women in a new way that stood out: a video series called Leading Ladies. Throughout the winter, Beech released videos featuring women who contribute to the community at the resort, celebrating their accomplishments and continued efforts to help others enjoy the mountains. Featured women include Kristen Gray, co-founder of local women’s group Girls Go Shred; Ashley Pardy, co-owner of Recess Ride Shop; and Dr. Katie Wall, a professor who has grown the Ski Industry Business and Instruction program at nearby Lees-McRae College—among others doing passion-fueled work in the area. The series was not only well-filmed, offering thoughtful portraits of every woman, but showcased the breadth of ways that individuals contribute to mountain communities. —MW



may23 bw most inspirational video

While I’m not always a fan of International Women’s Day posts and other “today only, we’ve decided to feature someone that isn’t a white dude hucking a cliff—go us” days on the marketing calendar, I have to give Alta Ski Area credit for a job well done. This little video from Alta, Sweetgrass Productions, and Iz La Mont about Alta-based ski photographer Re Wikstrom shows how women can band together and change the game. It inspired me, it made me tear up, and it reminded me that when we can, we need to not only “open the door” but “hold it open” for others. Re Wikstrom is a force. This video is a beautiful celebration of who she is and what she has accomplished. Thank you, Alta Ski Area, for sharing this on International Women’s Day, and thank you to all those realizing that to change the narrative, we need to hear the stories of people working in all aspects of the ski industry. —CB




may23 bw happy faceAspen is a leader in the snow industry when it comes to weaving its marketing and media efforts with causes that are important to the resort and its constituency—from sustainability and advocacy to efforts toward inclusivity and beyond. The work runs the gamut from large-scale to personal, but all of it shares an authenticity that bolsters the community, both local and far flung. One recent midwinter example featured lauded sit skier Trevor Kennison. In a video shared on social media, Trevor was reunited with Highlands Bowl, where he often rode with his family before breaking his back in 2014. A support crew of friends and resort staff came together to guide Trevor to the terrain and once they reached the top, celebration ensued. The video communicated happiness, perseverance, community support, and the importance of representation, all in one. —MW




may23 bw happy faceSun Valley kicked off the season with a fairytale glimpse into its guest experience, turning the famed resort into a snow globe highlight reel. I’ve never been to Sun Valley, but in this short video I feel like everything I’ve heard about its luxurious existence was not only evident but represented in a way that tempted me to empty my bank account to join the “famous and fanciful.” Dramatic narrator voice: check. Whimsical imagery: check. A cute little snow globe world that induces unparalleled FOMO: check. It’s visually stimulating and slightly haughty, but isn’t that the essence of the Sun Valley brand? “Let there be fondue,” says the video. Alright, you got me, I’m in. I’ll buy everything you’re selling. Well done, Sun Valley. Way to own your brand and make us all envy your offerings. —CB




may23 bw happy faceWhile big lines and massive tricks may speak to the aspirations of young skiers, most humans hit a point where their goals shift from landing a double backflip to doing some good in the world. Ski Utah, in collaboration with Hestra, spoke to these shifting aspirations beautifully with a video profiling Salt Lake City bakery owner—and 100-day-a-year Snowbird tele-skier—Gin Chao, a Chinese immigrant who arrived in the United States with $80 in his pocket. The video establishes just enough ski cred to set the stage while weaving in how Gin started a bakery that employs young adults in need of direction, whom he feeds and mentors, and how he’s balanced the desire for approval from his father with the life he’s built, and how skiing ties into all of it. It’s not a story about skiing that happens to feature a human, it’s a story about a genuinely good human who happens to be a skier—and it is one of the best stories I’ve seen in years. —GB




may23 bw happy faceI owe a huge amount of my growth and athletic ability to my older brother, who always seemed to be a little better than me no matter how hard I practiced, which pushed me to practice harder. It’s this notion that Whistler Blackcomb built on to tell the story of the relationship between its two mountains in a film called “Rivals.” Toggling between interviews with the people who built each mountain, you realize that the resorts truly became world class by chasing each other to the top. If one had better après, the other upped its game. If one had better lodging, the other would double down. It’s one thing to be able to tell this story for a single resort, but when you then explain how these two mountains drove each other to greatness and are now part of the same resort? That’s a pretty solid angle that Origin’s Tyson Newell nailed with the script he wrote to weave this story together. —GB


may23 bw digital



may23 bw best landing page

Too often the landing page is an afterthought in marketing campaign strategy. In reality, it should be the priority; it's where potential customers are converted into paying customers. RED Mountain Resort is clearly a student of the lost art of landing page design, evidenced by its "The Good Life” campaign. First, the page looks great, and functions flawlessly, on desktop AND mobile. 'Magine that. Even the interactive elements—like a slider to compare and contrast first tracks at RED (Us) vs. long lift lines at large competitors (Them)—work well on mobile. The hand-drawn illustrations are subtly animated, with just enough movement to catch your eye without causing early-onset astigmatism. The calls-to-action are strategically inserted throughout the naturally flowing stream of content, and high-quality videos break up the text throughout. In a world where so much attention is paid to the campaign take-off, it's nice to see RED stick the landing. —LS



may23 bw best email

Saddleback slayed with its email marketing this season. I get emails from resorts all across North America, and Saddleback’s clever subject lines and opening graphics grabbed my attention on multiple occasions. Take the email with the subject line “All Your Friends are Flakes.” I had to see what that was about, and it became quite apparent upon opening it. The graphic for the email has four people atop a mountain, one labeled “season pass holder,” and the others “buddy.” It’s quickly clear this is about the buddy add-on to a season pass. Another email is simply named “Kapow (blast emoji, snow emoji).” It was a snow alert about the three storms Saddleback received in one week. Simple, effective. For me, provocative subject lines draw me in, and if you can add a hint of what the email is about in them while still remaining intriguing and fun, it’s a big win. —SW



may23 bw easiest access to info

This winter has been a doozy in the eastern Sierra. With historic snowfall comes constant changes to operations, road status, and travel conditions, all of which need to be communicated with the public. With tons of weather and plenty of info to get out, Mammoth Mountain perfected the sharing of the latest news through easy-to-access Instagram and Facebook stories. All day, every day, Mammoth updated followers on lift status, storm totals, and road closures, streamlining what otherwise could have been an overwhelming amount of info considering the near constant storms. And all of the updates had a consistent aesthetic, making them easy to identify as Mammoth’s even if you were quickly scrolling through the feed. Through consistent, clear, and well-designed stories, Mammoth kept the information highway flowing, even when the real roads were closed. —MW



May23 bw worst reference

“Calling All Ski Virgins” to Laurel Mountain for “$5 rental nights.” It’s reasonable to chalk-up this paid Facebook post to a lapse in judgement and the need to use a word other than “beginners” or “never-evers” to speak to the inexperienced. But it was on the worldwide web, so it deserves some unpacking. Calling someone a virgin is to label them in a typically unflattering context. There are many other ways to politely refer to someone who has never done something before. And do inexperienced skiers know what “rentals” are? What are these virgins renting for $5 at night? If your target audience presumably knows nothing about what you’re offering, you gotta be more specific. And in a vacuum, there’s an element of creepiness to this whole thing. —DM    



may23 bw cold weather alert

Sharing information about harsh weather stinks, but if we have learned anything about communication these days, it’s that transparency is king, right alongside great content. When a polar vortex swung through New England this season, Ski New Hampshire carried some of the burden of sharing the news for its members all in one communication. It put out a cold weather warning email complete with operations updates from each of its member resorts, tips for dressing for the cold, and guidelines for driving in extreme weather. While its member resorts were probably also driving the message home, reinforcing cold weather best practices is a smart idea. Staying safe and keeping guests happy are important tenants of running a ski resort. Nice job supporting your members, Ski NH. —SW



may23 bw use of tiktok trend

Parking woes lead to internet fights and, sometimes, fights IRL (in real life, as the kids say). While visiting Big Sky, I noticed some unsavory parking behavior, and retaliation that left at least one unfortunate rental car with Florida plates pasted with “I park like an a**hole” stickers. Scraping those off won’t be fun, but neither is trying to find a parking spot on a powder day only to see someone park like a jerk and crowd you out. Thus, I had an amazing laugh at Big Sky’s use of the “Smash or Pass” TikTok trend to educate motorists on how to utilize the resort’s plentiful but not unlimited free parking. Using a popular “original audio” to critique cars that leave way too much space (but not enough for any type of required AWD or 4WD vehicle to park) and praise those who follow the rules, Big Sky delivered a hilarious reminder not to park like a jerk. It’s funny. It’s educational. It could save a visitor from heavy fees from their rental car provider. —CB



may23 bw best psa

I’ll be the first to admit it: I could be more patient with first-timers on the mountain. And not just patient, but actually accommodating. After all, if it wasn’t for newcomers foraying into the sport and culture I love, there would be no lift-served riding for me in my future. That’s why I have huge respect for SnoCountry’s PSA in its pre-holiday-week newsletter, reminding us that many future enthusiasts are getting onto the snow for the first time during this busy week, and they, along with the staff supporting them, deserve our gratitude, not our ire. It’s too easy for us regulars to get all George-Wilson-grumpy about a busy base lodge. So, thank you, SnoCountry, for the wake-up call to “set the intention for patience …” (Note: George Wilson is Dennis the Menace’s curmudgeonly old neighbor. He’s always exasperated with Dennis’s antics, but deep down you know he’s proud that Dennis considers him his best friend.) —LS



may23 bw scary promo

Fan of the “Exorcist”? If so, you might want to buy an Ikon pass. That makes total sense, right? Sometimes marketers go too far in pushing the envelope. Ikon’s “Nothing to Fear, Winter is Here” video series was a fun play on horror turned stoke, but the final installation—“The Possession”—felt a little too creepy and lacked the humorous turn the others in the series had. The possessed young girl overwhelms any humor the mom tries to add. The top comment called the ad “just awful,” a sentiment shared by several other commenters. I didn’t think it was awful, just that it missed the mark, and the timing was odd. Had Ikon slated this promotion over Halloween—when people are actually looking to be creeped out—instead of late November, that might have been a different story. —SW



may23 bw best resort podcast

I love ski resort podcasts because they talk about skiing. I love NPR podcasts because the storytelling is both engaging and inspiring. But it takes much more effort to produce an NPR-style podcast than just hitting record and publishing the conversation that unfolds. When Katherine Fuller decided to launch a podcast for Arapahoe Basin, she successfully combined the storytelling with less editing. Instead of cuts every 5-10 seconds like an NPR episode, she used cuts every couple of minutes. Instead of breaking up an interview into a dozen soundbites, she used longer blocks of audio. Instead of 20-30 interruptions from the narrator to bridge two blocks of audio, she used a half dozen. The result was a podcast that’s much more engaging than your typical “let’s sit down and chat for an hour” format, but one that worked within Katherine’s constraints. And she learned much of these skills as she created it mostly on her own, which is impressive. —GB



may23 bw best email comm

It can be hard for email marketing to stand out in today’s over-stuffed inboxes, but Sugarbush found a way this winter by sending out newsletters with vague, yet enticing subjects and slightly cheeky, yet informative news. A February email teased, “Math — Can be your friend.” Of course, I had to click through. The body copy began with “Math can be scary. (Especially for marketing folks.)” followed by a succinct message about recent storm totals, with links to deals on lodging and rentals. Other subject lines this winter included: “oof — It’s good to be sore,” with a message about skiing deep snow; and “Don’t think —We’ve done it for you,” with a to-do list for visiting Sugarbush. Misty subject lines may seem counterintuitive, but done well, they leave just the right amount of mystique to reel people in and read the info you want to convey. —MW



may23 bw charcutiski

When I’m doom-scrolling the internet with my fellow elder millennials, nothing stops me in my tracks like a serotonin-boosting crossover between food and skiing/riding. So, I loved Epic Pass’s guide to making the ultimate Charcuteski, that is, a ski or board off of which you eat charcuterie. The tutorial brought together Epic Pass, Instagram sensation @charcuteski, and local-to-the-epicenter-of-Epic-Pass @fighoney.denver, a bespoke charcuterie purveyor. The tutorial even had a Valentine’s Day tie-in, required given its February post date. It’s simple, it’s cute, it makes me hungry and almost desperate enough to… download a dating app and make a fancy cheese board. You thought I was going to say buy an Epic Pass, didn’t you? I can’t divulge my allegiances here, my friends. It’s the tutorial you didn’t need but watched and sent to someone with the comment, “omg, we have to do this!” anyway. It’s OK, it happens to the best of us. Well played, Epic Pass. Well played. —CB