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Yet Another Reason EpicMix is a Really, Really Brilliant Marketing Tool

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I sometimes ask myself if EpicMix came at the perfect time. Tracking your runs and vert is nothing new. I remember being offered the same with with my RFID pass at Solitude more than 15 years ago.

But today’s skier seems to be in a perfect storm of situations that set up this resort tech to be a powerful solution to a growing list of opportunities.

What We Know
I’ve written about EpicMix fairly often. I began with a broad overview but have revisited the topic on more than one occasion as I start to piece together more pieces of the puzzle. This is one of those posts.

Here’s what we know:

  1. EpicMix is a content factory that takes raw material (skiing) and turns it into shiny pieces of experience that are extremely easy to share and compare.
  2. EpicMix is a game that is played by skiing.
  3. EpicMix automatically increases the chance people will renew their season pass by motivating incremental visits to resorts.
  4. EpicMix is generating an insane amount of data on skier behavior.

Today, I’m going to add one more thing to the list: it’s helping skiing compete.

The Marathon Movement
In 1976, an estimated 25,000 people ran a marathon in the United States. By 1980, that number was 143,000. In 2011, more than 500,000 successfully finished.

Somewhere between 1976 and 1980, running a marathon stopped being a race and became an achievement. People began training in droves so they could do the American thing by attempting “the impossible” that “everyone said they couldn’t do”. Evidence of the type of people who started running marathons is found in the average finishing times of racers. From 3:32 for men in 1980 to 4:17 in 2012.

Marathons went from niche races to an industry. If entry costs an average of $100, race fees alone generate $50,000,000 each year which doesn’t count the clothing, training gear, race weekend lodging, food, and a long list of other ancillary spend that comes along for the ride.

Marathon’s Cousin
Marathons aren’t alone. The chart below is the year-by-year summary of Mt Everest ascents. Notice when that chart starts heading upward?

You see the same trend of many-hundred percent growth for a lot of things like triathlon participation or all-day bike races, but not skiers visits. At a time when skiing is competing against more alternatives than ever, resort skiing has one major strike against it vis-a-vis the marathon movement: we have very, very little to achieve.

Back in the Mix
It’s tough. Skiing at Copper Mountain all weekend is an amazing experience, but if a friend in the cubicle nextdoor mentions they ran a marathon on Sunday, no matter how great your week of skiing was, it’s tough to one-up her. You don’t train all summer to go skiing with a 40% chance you won’t make it down the hill, you just go skiing.

Things like marathons are as much about other people knowing you did it as it is about doing it yourself. It’s a brand, a label, an achievement you can wear once it’s crossed off the bucket list. For the most part, however, skiing hasn’t had anything like that which is why, once again, I applaud EpicMix with a hat tip to their timing.

EpicMix gives you a number to share with your marathoner friend, “you ran a marathon? Nice, I skied 100,000 vertical feet”, “oh, you hiked another 14er? I skied every lift at Vail”, “another triathlon? I did the Talons Challenge”. EpicMix is giving skiers a chance to satisfy their desire/need/social pressure to achieve.

Next Steps
Speaking of the Talons Challenge (skiing all the big bump runs at Beaver Creek), I think we need more of that in skiing. Ever wonder why mud runs are so insanely good at drawing summer crowds at your resort? Because not everybody finishes. They’re an achievement. They’re hard. Kid’s sports trophies mean virtually nothing because everybody gets one. Gold medals are inspiring because only one exists for each race. That’s why we revere them.

And that, in my book, is what we need more of in skiing: branded, awesome things that skiers can achieve.

  • Stephen Krcmar

    Great post, Gregg. Love that you brought in marathoning. One thing a lot of foot races and recreational bike rides also include with entry is an event t-shirt. A smart marketing move because many participants often wear these shirts with pride. Do you think EpicMix can learn anything from this? Currently, they offer digital badges for accomplishments. Do you think they would benefit by offering tough-to-get real world items like pins for accomplishments? Something Harry-from-accounting may see as well as others who aren’t on your Facebook.

    • i think this is a very good idea

    • the challange would be that epicmix achievements are not known the way marathon is.. u’d need to make sure the t-shirt very clearly communicates how whatever it symbolizes is a big deal

      • Agreed, part of the challenge with any brand is to build the brand. A resort couldn’t just name an all-day ski event and call it good, there would need to be some effort to make it something to be proud of.

        Though, if it’s brag-worthy enough, those water cooler talks could easy help in that regard as skiers build the brand on their own after achieving it.

    • Aspen played with real-life pins this last year:

      And I agree, there is a lot of value to real life stuff. I’d love to see tiers set for achievements where your pass turns into a discount pass for parking, food, a freebie, etc.

      Of course, they have the numbers and maybe they are seeing that virtual goods are motivating just as much as physical. It’s an interesting balance of cost vs benefit.

      • Stephen Krcmar

        Thanks for the info about Aspen. Cool stuff. As far as real life items go, it’s all about the execution. This should be obvious. But, some freebie t-shirts go straight to the rag bin because they’re so lame. A few seasons ago at Mammoth, we made beanies for passholders. They had to pick them up at on certain days – usually midweek — and they were a hit because they were a unique looking, a cool product, and required some work to get. Some lifites received them as well and more than a few of these employees sold them for big bucks because demand was so high for the hats. So there’s something to be said about scarcity in conjunction with a cool piece of schwag.

        • Great points and I totally agree. Love the idea of the beanies at Mammoth. Smart.

          I wrote about this a little bit a few weeks ago ( but so many shirts, as you say, end up in the rag bin because they look lame and/or don’t fit. The guys buying the shirts see the price is $2/shirt for a regular style and $3 for the fitted and feel it’s a no brainer. I feel it’s a no brainer as well, but the choice should be the $3 shirt.

          • Stephen Krcmar

            Amen to a $3 shirt. Especially if you have “$3 design” as opposed to a $2 design” to screen onto it!

  • denverdrew

    EpicMix is WHY I joined Facebook. I was a holdout, but my skiing friends wanted me to participate in the social media aspect. These days, I really only post the “important” pins: Keystone Conqueror, skiing all the California lifts at Heavenly, etc. But yes, they are fun to share similar to running a PR in a 5k or completing a marathon or a 14er. Good post.

    • Very interesting. Never heard of someone joining FB for EpicMix but makes a ton of sense.

      And I agree, it is fun to have achievement type pins to chase. I tried for the every-lift-at-Beaver-Creek pin (can’t remember the name) last year and was foiled by a missed scan, but I would never have stayed that long and explored the mountain like that had the pin not existed.

  • jj

    Do the epicmix resort photogs do action photos rather than posed static shots? Even if it’s not a hairball 15′ huck I could see the marketing value in pro-quality action photo “trophies” among guests.

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