Push to The Latest: No

The 878 attendees at the NSAA National Convention and Tradeshow in Marco Island, Fla., May 2-5 enjoyed four days of stimulating and thought-provoking presentations, seminars, keynotes, and networking. Strong March visitation at resorts nationwide muted the impact of a trying winter for many, and combined with the energy brought by new NSAA president Kelly Pawlak to create an upbeat gathering. The throng included 442 ski area representatives from 115 resorts, and 436 supplier personnel from 168 companies.

The Convention hit upon some familiar themes: growth, technology, and embracing change. Of these, growth was on everyone’s mind, as revealed in a recent survey of resorts, the creation of a new growth committee within the NSAA committee structure, and on the agenda. The “Next Generation Leaders Reception” highlighted the organization’s focus on the future.

The Kottke End of Season Survey suggested a sense of urgency. Nationally, visits are estimated at 53.3 million, down 2.8 percent from last season’s 54.8 million and on par with the five-year average. But that’s down from the highs of 60-plus million just eight to 10 years ago.

Strategies for growth ranged from youth programs to using the well-regarded, recently revised, but seldom-employed NSAA Conversion Cookbook. RRC’s various research initiatives, the Kottke and demographic surveys, each revealed challenges resorts face, from increasing beginner lessons to tapping the Millennial generation.

One specific challenge: how to avoid turning off newcomers and others who don’t know they should have bought a season’s pass, rather than pay $100-plus each day they show up? This is especially important for Millennials, who are most likely to not plan ahead. If they get turned off by high prices, they may never come back. Several speakers suggested resorts must find ways to reduce the cost of a day visit.

Year-round operations are another strategy for the future, and the agenda addressed this growth area. With the Kottke report showing that summer activities now account for 15 percent of total revenues, it’s no surprise that the tradeshow hall was peppered with summer and year-round attractions suppliers, in addition to a wide range of snow and technology-related companies.

Tradeshow sessions were well attended and lively. In addition to the tradeshow, social gatherings and networking opportunities were frequent throughout the event, starting with the opening night reception on the beach during a picturesque southwest Florida evening.

On Friday evening, a small group of SAMMY Leadership Award Hall of Famers boarded the Calusa Spirit for a sunset cruise along the shores of Marco Island to honor this year’s SAMMY winners: Nadia Guerriero, Tish Lopez, Ryan Lavoie, and Aaron Maddox.

On the final afternoon, the NSAA marketing awards recognized different marketing categories as well as best overall campaigns in two different resort sizes. Winners were:

Best Use of Mobile Technology
Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows, Calif.

Best Social Media Campaign
Alyeska Resort, Alaska

Best Use of Video Marketing
Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.

Best Learn to Ski & Snowboard/Bring a Friend Campaign
Killington Resort, Vt.

Most Unique Campaign
Aspen Snowmass, Colo.

Best Overall Marketing Campaign
(Under 500,000 visits)
Mount Snow, Vt.

Best Overall Marketing Campaign
(500,000 or more visits)
Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, Utah

Next year’s NSAA National Convention will be held in San Diego, Calif., April 29–May 2.