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Interviews
Is a Kid Friendly Ski Resort Worth the Effort?

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
       



Last week, Tori Ossola, the Managing Director of Snow Monsters asked me if I had any data on kids and ski resorts. Coming up empty and being extremely intrigued as to what goes into a kid friendly ski resort, I turned the tables on her and asked her for a little bit of info.

Our conversation was simple. Three questions. Three answers to convince me of the need and benefit of a resort implementing a kid friendly program. I was going to edit down her answers but I felt the content was all good and relevant. A little bit of a longer read today, but worth the time to at least consider what they have to offer:

SlopeFillers: Tell me about SnowMonsters. What is it? Where did the idea come from? What are your goals?
Tori: Snow Monsters was originally a kids song that former U.S. Ski Team member, Jack Turner, wrote in 1996 for his children. The story about Powder Pigs, Snow Snakes, and the other Snow Monsters characters didn’t take long to develop into a movie for kids. Turner’s idea was that a children’s film should feature lots of kids – not adults reciting safety messages. The theme of the original Snow Monsters movie was onslope safety and courtesy, but it was told in a story rather than a lecture.

The successful formula led to the development of coloring books, plush toys, and other products that played off the original film. Two more kids movies followed.

“The Snow Monsters Meet Mother Nature,” co-sponsored with the U.S. Forest Service promoted environment respect to skiers and snowboarders. It featured Aretha Franklin as Mother Nature and she sang her trademark song, “Respect.”

The third film, “The Kid With One Ski,” was themed on acceptance and respect for all persons who ski and snowboard regardless of their physical abilities. The film featured kids with various disabilities who adapted to the slopes with mono-skis, outriggers, sit skis, and guides for the blind.

The development of the Snow Monsters websites for ski resorts (customized for each user) was a logical extension of a nationwide effort to reach kids without every ski resort having to develop a program from scratch.

About six years into the program it was understood that kids age 9-13 had outgrown the Snow Monsters characters and NextSnow was developed as a next step program for the older age group with graphics, images, and games that were more age appropriate.

The National Ski Areas Association was instrumental in all phases in the development the Snow Monsters and NextSnow program. The idea was that all resorts, both large and small, could use the movies and other products / services to promote skiing and snowboarding to kids and their families.

SlopeFillers: What are some of the reasons some resorts have said ‘no’ to trying the snow monsters program?
Tori: They don’t understand how Snow Monsters can fit within their ski area culture. Snow Monsters main goal is to provide colorful, fresh, useful web content for ski areas to promote safety and fun on the slopes. However, many ski area websites are not geared to the kids. They may have “kids” sections but they should really be titled “parents section” or “activities for kids”. They are not intended to engage kids because kids don’t make the actual purchases. Coloring books and DVDs are given to each ski area to help support their online program and Snowball and other mascot costumes are available and our characters get along with existing mountain mascots.

They don’t have the staff to maintain the program. Our program has always included our pledge to maintain each ski area Snow Monsters and NextSnow websites in an effort to provide up-to-date content. They are essentially getting an extra staff person for their investment into our program. We update websites once a week, twice a month or as often as our agreement states. All they need to do is tell people about the program – we take care of the rest.

Often our program is implemented through the ski school. There seems to be a disconnect between marketing which maintains the website for the ski area, and the ski school who administers the program.

If it is not their idea they don’t wish to promote it – I actually had a marketing director tell me that this year. At least she was honest.

SlopeFillers: What are your clients’ favorite aspects and benefits of the snow monsters program?
Tori: There are many testimonials on the website Grow The Sport – http://growthesport.com/index.cfm/testimonials/. In summary though:

Our Snow Monsters and NextSnow sites send important safety messages to kids in such an entertaining way that they don’t even know they’re learning about safety!

Snow Creek area went from a small revenue of around $7,000 from our Snow Monsters program in 2006-07 to 4 and 5 times that amount when we built a Snow Monsters lodge and stocked it with rental equipment geared for the young cliental that the program is designed to attract. Snow Monsters is a part of the young “first timer” scene at Peak Resorts.

We feel the Snow Monsters Program is the quintessential way to engage children in snow sport safety while having fun!!!



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