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Maybe Passionate Skiers Aren’t What Your Resort Marketing Team Needs After All

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Adam Hawes is smart.

How smart is he? Well, this is what happens to website traffic when I post his words instead of mine:


Dipping from his stream of wisdom, we see a few common threads, all surrounding the use of the word, “passion”.

“Generally speaking, the action sports industry has stayed well ahead of the game in terms of its early adoption towards audience-based content development and distribution. Enthusiasts living their passions, creating measures and outlets tailored for the next wave of enthusiasts…”

“Positions within the ski, snow and resort industries are, above all, desired. This can’t be understated, for it invites a never-ending stream of passionate applicants…”

“The challenge then, is how to keep these passionate folks at your resort, and within the industry…”

Passion is an interesting word. A word that is heavily used these days, typically preceded by “follow my/your…” to illustrate the best path to take in your career or personal pursuits. Though, not everyone agrees.

In a recent interview, author Daniel Pink had this to say about passion ( watch 8:30 – 11:00):

“People like to ask other people, ‘what’s your passion?’…but the word itself doesn’t quite capture why they do what they do…because passion is a hot emotion. We do experience hot emotions, but what sustains us are what aren’t super hot…you don’t want to have the heat turned up all the way all the time or you’ll burn out. So what you want is an emotion that’s sustaining…things like meaningfulness, a sense of intrinsic interest, flow, a feeling of contribution…”

I think about this word “passion” a lot. At times, when people say “follow my passion”, it feels synonymous with the juvenile version of “do whatever I want.” I often avoid using it in converation simply because I don’t have a youtube video and interview excerpts to introduce how I interpret it.

Now that I have, let me share a fear about marketing hires in the ski industry.

Adam pointed out a few worries including, among the “never-ending stream of passionate applicants”, “how to keep these passionate folks at your resort”. My question to myself, and you I suppose, is what if we’re hiring people with the wrong passion?

The Tweak & An Example
What if we need to look for skiers that are passionate about marketing rather than marketers who are passionate about skiing?

Let me use a well known example. Without a doubt, Digi Dave at Aspen/Snowmass is passionate about skiing. But, watch his social feeds and it becomes clear he’s also extremely passionate about marketing and the technology behind it. As hard as he shreds, I think that second love – marketing – is why Dave is one of the best interactive marketers in the industry.

I wonder if the biggest issue behind the marketer bounce rate in skiing isn’t always pay or cost of living in a resort town, it’s the fact that people are more passionate about going skiing than they are about skiing as a product and marketing skiing.

  • Amen, Gregg. One of the paradigm shifts of marketing ski areas that came with web 2.0 or the world of digital domination (or whatever you want to call this age) is resorts have to tell their own stories more than ever before. They can no longer just be the stories, but have to spin their tales across multiple platforms. And telling the stories requires both passion for the sport and storytelling acumen (with a pinch of marketing) . Listening to their guests and potential guests is also paramount. Of course, Aspen’s Digi Dave does a superlative job of brand journalism as does the internal and external teams at Whistler-Blackcomb.

    • So true, Steve, love the stories those crews can tell. Awesome stuff.

  • AK

    Interesting topic. Couple other angles…

    The “bounce rate” is also a function of the fact that as one ascends, the available positions decrease drastically (normal in any business). For every resort that employs 3-6 people in marketing, there is 1-2 possible steps up, that may or may not ever be in play. Thus why people move a lot, or choose to go into fields that allow them to skip quickly past the 50K ceilings that exists below the “senior teams”.

    Another function of the bounce rate is at resorts where “the marketing” and “the experience” are kept far apart from one another on the org chart. Marketers that care deeply about the actual on-mountain experience, operations and fulfilling the promises made in the marketing go one of two ways, either on to very successful careers at resorts that build long term mutually beneficial relationships with their guests, or they’re tasked with taking the message to the market to attract guests, and then spend the rest of their time explaining why the experience was sub-par. Usually the mountains learn that lesson eventually and start to focus on appropriate staffing and over-delivering, but there are professional casualties if it takes years to re-orient.

    • Great points, Alex. That’s a perspective I always enjoy learning more about. Definitely org challenges I simply don’t understand.

    • Alex,
      You are spot on. SPOT ON. I worked in marketing at ski resorts for 8 years and concur. I always think of marketing team, even “teams” of one, at resorts like rotating stock in a supermarket – but freshness (ideas) is not always the goal. Case in point why guys like Digi are a rare, and thus a valuable, breed. But, that’s a whole other blog topic for Gregg to tackle :)

  • erichoffman

    It’s a great combination if you’re passionate about your job and also passionate about your product. But, if you can’t convey an appropriate message to your target demographic, then I would suggest that you need to tone down your passion for your product and really examine your strategy and objectives to shape your message according to the wants and needs of your customers.

    Case in point – I really love terrain parks but my target audience is more interested and comfortable on groomers and mellower skiing and riding. Certainly some terrain park action is great, but if that’s all I post about, I would imagine that you’ll start to see a drop in your bread and butter customers. Passion helps, but if that’s all you have driving your messaging I wonder how many customers are in line with the passions of the marketer? It’s the classic case of looking through your personal lenses instead of seeing things as your customer/consumer does…

    That said, I’m all for the big powder morning photos and videos even if they don’t align absolutely together with my customer’s idea of the perfect morning on the mountain!

  • Pingback: 2014 Prediction #2: The Meteoric Rise of the Non-Core Marketer in Skiing | SlopeFillers()

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