As I mentioned last week, I’ve been impressed with Cannonsburg’s design work. After digging around for a while, I finally found the man behind the mask: Marc Moline. Looking for his view on Cannonsburg’s success, I reached out and he was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Gregg: Marc, in a short paragraph, tell me a little bit about your history with design, video, etc. and the ski industry. In other words, how did you get to where you are today?
Marc: Yikes! It’s a long story, but I’ll try and keep it as brief as possible…
My passion for both design and snowsports began early on and by high school I had a solid idea that I would eventually combine the two into a career one day. I attended summer and fall semester classes at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI where I studied Visual Communication / Graphic Design. I took winter semester off to snowboard instruct at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont. A chairlift ride at Stowe eventually led to me getting a foot in the door with what at the time was a small local snowboard company, Rome SDS.
When I wasn’t packing boxes in a warehouse I did as much design work as I possibly could. One of the designs I submitted to Rome actually ended up becoming the theme of the brand’s ad campaign the following year. That pro-bono creative work I did along with one of the key relationships I had created with a guy by the name of Chris Harris at Stowe, got me a call the next year asking if I would be interested in helping to get a new freestyle focused area in Colorado called Echo Mountain off the ground. Since that point on I’ve been in it pretty deep!
I began at Echo Mountain overseeing their ski & ride school and creative and by the end of my five years with the company was involved at some level in their marketing, creative, photography, design, video, photography, terrain parks, events and sponsorships. Having expanded my skill set with Echo I began consulting for my home ski area Cannonsburg back in Michigan, which had just come under new ownership in 2010. After a season of flying back and forth and getting to know the owner, I decided to take a full-time position with them and that’s how I ended up where I am today.
Gregg: You’ve done some pretty innovative things, among them are your CAD drawings of terrain park features for contents and events. Talk a little bit about why you take the time to create, and more importantly, share those with Cannonsburg’s social followers?
Marc: The terrain park CAD drawings starting out as more of a way for me to visualize the things I wanted to create on the snow and communicate them with the rest of the staff as opposed to being a marketing tool. Based on the social media response to the first full course drawing I did, it was obvious that it was going to have to continue from that point forward. Now it has gotten to the point where weeks prior the events at Cannonsburg competitors are asking us to see the course design. It really works on a number of levels.
Gregg: You’ve done similar things with T-shirt design. All the designs are shared on social media and “voted” on. Talk a little about your goals with that initiative?
Marc: One of the most valuable things Cannonsburg has going for it now is that the new ownership and management truly values their guest’s input. People want to feel like they are part of something and they definitely are here. Being able to share images of our apparel and even our terrain park designs through social media, not only allows us to get our guests input on what they like, but be smarter in how we invest our time and resources.
Gregg: I haven’t seen many resorts of Cannonsburg’s size produce the level of design that you do. As a designer you may be biased, but do you feel that design can help give the ski area some sort of advantage over other hills?
Marc: That’s a huge compliment, so thanks! The Cannonsburg rebrand was an exciting project for me having so much history with the area and I’m really happy with the way it came out. Design is a lot of what creates a brand’s identity and having a solid identity can only be of benefit to any company, especially in snowsports industry where image seems to play such a huge role. By maintaining an identity that your guests can relate to, you’re only going to increase brand loyalty and a loyal customer is the best form of advertising there is.
Gregg: The move from Colorado to Michigan isn’t one you see every day. What marketing challenges does a Michigan ski area face that a Colorado mountain doesn’t? And visa-versa?
Marc: I’m not sure I ever saw myself coming back either, but I’m happy I did. Surprisingly in my situation working for smaller areas with the same types of goals in both states, the marketing challenges I’ve faced haven’t actually differed that much. Both experiences have sort of been that David and Goliath type scenario though, just trying to take a piece of the business from the mega-resorts. In Michigan, the biggest challenge I’ve found has been making the most of such a short season. You have to have a solid plan going in and pack as much as you can into those three or four months as possible to make it work. There really isn’t much time to adjust mid-season.
Gregg: Okay, Marc, time for some prognostication. What do you see the biggest change being in skiing during the next 5-10 years?
Marc: I think the biggest change we are going to see in skiing over the next 5-10 years is a generational one. More and more of our guest are growing up with the X-Games and internet. This has made them tech savvy, aware of industry trends and expecting a lot more of their resort experience when they arrive. In ten years this will most likely be the vast majority of snowsports participants. For small areas like Cannonsburg to survive in that environment, they are going to have to be extremely creative and do everything they can to stay on the edge of the curve.
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