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What I'd Do
Slots & Netflix: Inspiration for the Ultimate Ski Vacation Planner?

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I sometimes feel I do too much critiquing and too little suggesting. Like, somehow, I’m the 400 pound, mullet-sporting guy on his 3rd beer at the baseball game yelling at the 3rd baseman to hustle. So, every once in a while on a Wednesday I’ll try to balance the scales a bit and put my own ideas up for display, analysis, and critique. (view all ‘WID’ posts).

A while back I interviewed a new, somewhat promising company that was gunning to become the go-to OTA for ski vacations. One of my biggest issues with their site was just that, their site. The design was old-school, heavy, and made the experience awful. Fast-forward a year and a couple months and that design has changed very little. I am speaking of SnowTrax and today instead of just saying I don’t care for their site, I’m going to suggest an alternative.

These third party sites can be powerful marketing platform for resorts, but I see no reason this idea (or a much improved version, this is still a pretty rough sketch) couldn’t be used at a resort as well.

What it Looks Like Now
Main landing page. Looks like two forms, is actually one…plus a huge wad of wasted space.

Vacation builder page. not sure who chose the colors…but it’s rather unpleasant. The layout? Unoriginal and uninspiring.

My Idea: Netflix Meets Vegas Slots
So, remember, I write a post every day, so this design is rough (i’ve already notice things i’ve missed, like the ability to change the group size). This is the result of about an hour and a half or so of work. Mistakes are in there, but the concept should be pretty clear. I’d start with a very simple, three input form based on two questions. I’ll worry about all the pesky details later because much of what I need can be gleaned from these two bits of information.

From there, I’d take all that info and stack pieces of their vacation on top of each other like a vertical slot machine. Instead of having the flight as one choice, I’d put the departure flight first, then the hotel they’d stay in, ski passes next, ending with the return flight, in the same order the vacation will happen.

From there I’d use a Netflix like scrolling system to sort through the options, highlighting the center one as their choice and updating the total vacation cost and daily cost in realtime at the top.

If they want more information they can click on (or just hover over) the option and get a popup with a more photos, a map, description, and links to that properties social sites, customer reviews, etc.

Other Features to Add
I may even want to make those rows expand/minimize-able and stick in a couple of pre-minmized rows like rentals, transportation, etc. Adding a save button that would require an email address to preserve their search would allow you to follow up and remind them of their vacation idea, alert them if prices drop for those days, or suggest alternatives to what they had chosen that might be more affordable.

The Bottom Line
This idea makes vacation planning visual, easy to try different combinations, keeps it all on one page, and might just be unique enough to get some attention for a site like SnowTrax. But, like I said, it’s just a quick sketch.

So, there you have it, a rough idea to make vacation planning a little bit easier/fun/more exciting. If I were SnowTrax this is what I’d do. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. Enjoy.

  • I like your proposed layout. It looks more appealing, fun and easy to use.

    One thing that stands out to me very quickly in the SnowTrax main page. It mentions the term "ski" seven times. As a snowboarder I would be turned off by this site. Like many other snowboarders, we are getting older and actually have money and jobs these days. We want to travel to to ride and would prefer to not see websites and marketing that is skier centric. It shouldn't be difficult to change the wording to use more universal terms like "ride" "snow" etc. Don't ignore a large part of your audience.

    • GreggBlanchard

      Thanks for the feedback, I like it as well and the the more I think about it, the more it grows on me.

      I remember you bringing up the importance of including snowboarding in a comment to a post about Telluride's ski-only ad last August (…. You do make a good point but my big question is how many snowboarders share your sentiment.

      For example, I also snowboard and don't think twice about things that don't call out snowboarding by name. When the people I ski and snowboard with decide to hit the mountain, we just say "skiing" and know we are referring to everything.

  • In the crowd that I spend most time with we are pretty passionate about NOT referring to snowboarding as skiing! I don't know if this sentiment is shared among snowboarders as a whole.

    • GreggBlanchard

      Good to know, it would be interesting to get some nationwide data on this.

  • On air-inclusive destination trips to mainstream resorts like you’re discussing in this article I wouldn't expect any significant negative effect from focusing on "ski" at the expense of "snowboard". Assuming our client base isn't atypical, those doing the actual booking of these sort of trips are primarily the baby-boomers and older, mostly skiers, and even the convert snowboarders among them likely still refer to the process as "planning their ski trip".

    Your idea is interesting though I’d say most will want a great deal more information on the lodging options. Unlike Vegas casinos or mega-Hawaii/Mexico/Caribbean resorts where a selection of 15 or 20 might suffice and there’s some existing consumer knowledge of a few of the hotels (or at least knowledge of the brands), these guests will be choosing from a massive selection of tiny to medium sized condo complexes and hotels more typical in the ski industry — and likely have never heard of any of them. Most will want more than a thumbnail, star rating, map location of brief blurb to reach a decision – the risk with this approach is they’ll move along to another site to do that research and then you have to hope they’ll return.

    I really like the concept in general though. I might try piecing together something along those lines and test it out.

    • GreggBlanchard

      Steve, great points. There are a lot of options and, while the focus on affordable would limit options, there would still be huge numbers. Same goes for your point about extra info, you'd know much better than I would would be good to include in there. If you do put something together and try it out, let me know. I'd love to see the result and hear how it goes!

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