As always, the show had its noteworthy moments. NSAA handed out two Lifetime Achievement Awards, and—rare for this honor—neither went to a resort operator. The honorees were retiring U.S. Ski Team head Bill Marolt, and longtime industry injury researcher Jasper Shealy. Camelback earned the coveted Conversion Cup; the area taught 44,000 beginner lessons last season, and its terrain-based learning system has raised conversion rates substantially.
Communication was a recurring theme. In one session, several resorts touted the use of surveys and Net Promoter Scores to establish benchmarks for performance across most departments, and to provide a more granular understanding of operations and how they are, or aren't, meeting guest expectations.
Other sessions focused on terrain park education, pricing strategies, summer operations, and bringing more newcomers into winter sports.
As with the seminars, the keynotes focused on communications as well. David Stillman, in his keynote on generational differences, reminded everyone that newer generations are looking for different experiences and have their own priorities. All of which makes it important to tailor messages specifically to each generation.
In a second keynote, marketing guru Scott Deming declared that “emotional branding” is what creates resort loyalists. People make decisions based on their emotions, he said; that is hardwired into our brains. We like to think we are rational creatures, he said, but we're actually ruled by our emotions. Not everyone in the audience agreed; cost and pragmatism were also popular alternatives.
Whatever. For most attendees, the convention is a chance to do a little business, broaden perspectives, and take a break from the mountains. And as usual, the convention delivered on all three fronts.