Resort marketers carefully watch how other resorts market themselves. There are strategic reasons for this, of course, but in many cases they admire what they see. They might acknowledge that admiration by liking a social media post or via a quick discussion with coworkers.
We wanted to give resort marketers a chance to offer more than a nod of respect. So, we asked a handful to review another resort’s marketing effort that stood out to them (in a good way). Thank you to those who weighed in, and congrats to the resorts they recognize here. There are few, if any, more flattering compliments than props from a competitor.
While Alta has been producing its “Steeped in Tradition” video campaign for years, it really resonated this winter with its eighth installment, “The Farmer.” At a time when everyone needed a reminder of why getting outside is good for your mental and physical health, “The Farmer” checked all the boxes. This video of local legend Dave Van Dame and his meticulously carved, farm-like powder tracks shows that combining the right story and the right visuals can sell a strong resort message.
As video becomes the primary creative source for our marketing efforts industry-wide, Alta has taken creating content to an entirely new level. “Steeped in Tradition” combines promotional messaging and storytelling that captures the spirit of the mountain. It is a great marriage of social media content, website content, and email content.
While other mountains may lack the backdrop of Alta or a professional film company to generate such high-quality content, the concept is universal. Every mountain has its cast of characters to showcase, whether it’s via iPhone video or a full-scale production. At Wachusett, we began a grassroots video series of our own, highlighting the faces and stories of our mountain family. We introduced our series with the story of “Everyday Ed”—a local senior who drives an hour each way to the mountain and has skied an average of 100 days every season for the past 12 years.
When I moved to Wisconsin in August 2020, I quickly started to follow and watch resorts around the Midwest on social media. Content is key, and solid imagery is something I’ve always preached to my teams.
The Midwest can’t compare to the vistas or magnificent mountain ranges of the West or the East, but resorts here can totally focus on the fantastic skiing, amenities, and programming. All season long, the team at Buck Hill did an excellent job of promoting Covid-safe skiing while also showcasing all the resort has to offer. It posted stellar photography of everything from great conditions and food to fireworks and parks. All the images were really sharp and a step above many others. Clever captions related well to the photos and promoted something at the resort without being too “selly.” I applaud the Buck Hill team for their efforts.
This season, ski areas had to share more information with guests than ever before. Discovery Ski Area did an excellent job of communicating Covid-related changes and regulations on its social media and website. The ski area’s posts and stories have been consistent and on-brand all season, even with the pivot from traditional marketing messages.
“We were as busy as we could be, so we switched our marketing efforts from trying to encourage people to come skiing to trying to inform people who were coming skiing about what to expect,” said Discovery president Ciche Pitcher.
Discovery moved to reservations-only for rentals and cafeteria seating; its website experience for booking a table is seamless. It also has an easy-to-use online portal for ordering takeout food. Social media director and bar manager (gotta love small ski areas!) Eric Bunting said it was important to get information out quickly and to as many people as possible; he and the team at Discovery did an awesome job!
Most every Vermont resort struggled with messaging the State Travel Guidance (14-day quarantine for most non-Vermonters). Layer in the need at some resorts to limit capacity, and suddenly we’re mired in decidedly un-sexy/un-compelling/un-fun marketing. It would have been easy to get lost in very tactical, detail orientated messaging, but the thoughtful “Cancel for Karma” headline humanized the message. The supporting copy reminds guests, without being preachy or heavy-handed, that we’re working through all this together as friends and neighbors.
In normal times, building these touches into big brand campaigns is relatively easy, because we have time to obsess over color palettes, move a design treatment slightly, and play with wording and punctuation. Messaging in Covid times required far quicker turnarounds. Pausing a beat to make the mundane a little more memorable is a win for Killington.
Honorable Mention: Inntopia
In the early days of the pandemic, when many of us felt a little lost and were looking for guidance, the Inntopia team stepped in with their community-building roundtables, moderating topics with leaders from various mountains and resorts. No one had all the answers, and each had a unique set of challenges. But the group-think and in-this-together atmosphere of these virtual chats helped make folks feel connected and supported. At a time when forced distancing (bordering on isolation) was de rigueur, connection with others in our ski community meant a lot.
With 17 episodes ranging in length from 2 to 11 minutes, the Mission Ridge crew invested a great amount of time and effort to produce “On the Way Up,” a video series documenting construction of the Wenatchee Express—the resort’s new high-speed quad bubble chair. The series was interesting, even intriguing. It engaged the audience and made viewers feel a part of the project.
Starting with the removal of the old lift all the way through to the grand opening, the enormity of the project was showcased in a very practical and methodical way, providing relatable detail throughout, helping to connect with the audience.
Host Delcie kept each episode fresh and lively, avoiding the normal talking-heads approach. The videographer got down and dirty, extracting close-up video during each stage of construction. Members of the team were introduced to add a very human quality to the series, the project, and Mission Ridge.
Resorts tend to hide the down-in-the-dirt construction part of these projects, fearing the reaction to ground disturbance in “pristine” settings. But “On the Way Up” showcased the heavy equipment, excavators, and loaders operating in very beautiful and natural settings. Wide shots, set to an acoustic ambient soundtrack, choreographed the equipment operating in harmony with the natural background. Well done!
During my years in the industry, I have grown to love resort web cam pages. So do consumers—at Snowbasin, the webcam page is one of our most-viewed.
Not all resorts have money to spend on webcams, though. This past winter, Sunlight Mountain in Colorado found a smart way to fund its two new webcams—both were sponsored by big local companies. Not all ski resort brands allow such sponsorships, but these partnerships can be mutually beneficial—the resort gets the webcams paid for, and the sponsor gets a lot of exposure. Plus, the partnerships highlight the comradery found in the ski towns. I hope other resorts will adopt this model. It could result in a big improvement in web cams throughout the industry. Props to Troy Hawks and his team at Sunlight.