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Nearly 200 strong, Mohawk is part of an overlooked group of resorts.

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The other day I found myself on Mohawk Mountain’s website. As a resort marketing blogger is want to do, I was wandering around and just observing some of their tactics.

Do they have SSL setup? Check.
How about an email sign up for? Two, in fact.
Hours and directions? Easy to find.

The usability and content of the site was actually really impressive once I dug in.

But the thing that got my wheels turning the most wasn’t visible to the typical visitor, it’s something weird folks like myself would notice: their CMS.

What to Do About WordPress
Mohawk Mountain is built on WordPress. As I began writing this post I decided to run the “Is_Wordress” script on my database of resorts to see how many are currently running on this CMS.

chart of resorts using wordress - 35%

As we speak, thousands upon thousands of pageviews are being served up on roughly 190 different ski area websites via WordPress. If you’re familiar with this CMS, you can assume there are a few key reasons they’ve done so:

  1. Cost: WordPress is free and the volume of developers focused on that platform bring costs down significantly when shopping for a designer, developer or theme.
  2. Experience: If you’ve worked in the digital space for a while, you’ve almost certainly spent a good amount of time in WP Admin area. So when a new website is on the table, why not use something you already know.
  3. Community: and because so many people live/work in WordPress, finding fixes to bugs or a plugin to solve that problem is fast and affordable.

With those perks, it’s also easy to see why so many of those resorts are on the smaller side.

The Problem (and Call)
Wordpress is not right for every resort. But with more than 1/3 of mountains using it, the issue here is how few resort-specific resources exist.

I think there’s an opportunity here for an agency or budding entrepreneur to become THE go-to source for resort WordPress information and work. To be the agency that doesn’t fight this trend, but embraces it. The agency that shows resorts how to use WordPress correctly and securely.

Mohawk Mountain and 190 other resorts could use some support based on their resort-specific needs. The question is, who will provide it for them?

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  • Quite interesting topic actually, thanks for bringing it up!

    As someone who’s making a living from custom WordPress theme design and plugin development, I also noticed that more and more resorts (especially smaller ones) tend to use WordPress instead of a (probably) more suitable but also costly custom solution.

    From what I experienced though it’s fairly difficult to get hold of those smaller resorts as new clients. It’s either the budget which really doesn’t permit a more sophisticated approach (custom vs. stock theme) or they rather prefer working with a local supplier they can meet in person every now and then.

    Creating and selling premade themes and plugins targeting this very specific market could be an option but then again it remains unclear wether it’s worth the effort considering that the niche itself and amount of customers who could possibly buy it remains tiny to say the least.

    In general, providing affordable yet highly functional and of course good looking solutions to those smaller resorts on a budget definitely seems to be an intriguing idea in my opinion as there’s definitely room for improvement.

    After all, WordPress isn’t too bad for small to medium sized websites if used correctly and not bloated using countless plugins and multi-purpose themes which promise to do everything but oftentimes don’t do anything right.

    Anyone up to join forces? ;-)

    • Great comment, Maximilian, and great points. A couple quick replies.

      “They rather prefer working with a local supplier they can meet in person every now and then.”
      In my experience the in-person meeting is certainly part of it, but the underlying idea is a trusting relationship. They can trust someone down the road, it’s harder if they’re in another state (or country). But becoming that source for help and knowledge is where that relationship can be built. Even from a thousand miles away, if you can become the go-to person for these resorts to turn to, I believe that trusting relationship can trump the not as talented folks down the road.

      “Creating and selling premade themes and plugins targeting this very specific market could be an option but then again it remains unclear wether it’s worth the effort considering that the niche itself and amount of customers who could possibly buy it remains tiny to say the least.”
      Agreed, I don’t think themes could do it alone unless ski areas are one of a few niches someone chased. I think it’d have to be some sort of an ecosystem where, yes, perhaps you have themes for some and custom designs for others, but also plugins to help with snow reporting, plugins that bring in ticket prices, plugins for calendars, snow forecasts, lodging partners, etc. Each of these could be upsold with a monthly fee as an add-on so even with a barebones theme you have the opportunity to make more, recurring revenue from other pieces in a way that’s productized (not custom work).

      Those thoughts aren’t to say “milk every dollar you can from smaller resorts”, but rather, if someone can figure out a way to make the economics work so they benefit, the resorts would benefit just as much form having someone who is focused just on them.

      • It might take some time to build that kind of ecosystem and trust but could be well worth it in the long run. If it helps smaller resorts to create and manage successful online presences, all the better.

        As far as I can tell, there don’t seem to be many (if any) suitable solutions for things like managing snow conditions, lift and slope status, etc. and so most resort websites I saw seem to build their own solutions, sometimes utilizing regularly updated PDFs, etc. which are probably not ideal at the end of the day.

        A more convenient, approachable and affordable ecosystem of plugins & themes which work well together plus reliable support could fill a gap here. Definitely food for thought I guess.

        • Yeah, not something that would happen overnight but if there’s one industry that rewards focus and loyalty, it’s ski. So certainly worth it if done right.

          Definitely food for thought.

          By the way, love the Indiku website. I’m a huge fan of that style of art.

          • I didn’t get the chance to work with people from the ski industry yet but as an avid snowboarder myself this target audience and market would be exciting. Maybe I’ll just give it a try and start it as a smaller side project during summer.

            Other than that, thanks for your feedback and glad you like the website — it is most appreciated!

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