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Is “Free” Enough to Get Newbies Involved in, and Addicted to, Skiing?

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When it comes to growing skiing, the word “free” always comes to mind. It came to mind at MTS, and it came to mind 30 minutes ago. Since then, I’ve done a little math of a few free-skiing offers that came to mind or showed up in a Google search.

West Virginia Ski Free Day (Snowshoe)

Customer Appreciation Day (Mt Hood Ski Bowl)

Free Ski Day (Brian Head)

First, I used the “Most Popular City” from each resort’s Facebook fan page and found the distance from there to the resort as an average drive length for a skier, divided it by 30 mpg and multiplied that by $4.00/gallon to find the gas money required to snag the free skiing for some of the core market.

  • Mt Hood Skibowl: $16
  • Snowshoe: $40
  • Brian Head: $53

Then, I grabbed the cheapest full-day rental prices from their ski shops assuming that first-timers drawn by “free” probably don’t have their own gear.

  • Mt Hood Skibowl: $37
  • Snowshoe: $33
  • Brian Head: $30

Tacked on a full day of meals on the road ($15) and for a “free” day of skiing, the day could cost them:

  • Mt Hood Skibowl: $68
  • Snowshoe: $88
  • Brian Head: $98

A cost that doesn’t include a helmet ($8-$10), winter clothing they may not have ($30 rentals at Skibowl), and anywhere from 3-6 hours of driving “opportunity cost” that day.

So, Does Free Work?
The short answer is this: I have no clue. I’ve had a lot of “growing the sport” ideas lately that hinge on it so, in many ways, I want it to work. But when push comes to shove, I have my doubts for a few simple reasons:

  • The first lift ticket is a fairly small cost in the grand scheme of things
  • Free gets people to act, but leading with free (when round #2 costs $90) can make getting these people back pretty tough
  • If it takes free to get someone to start, what are the odds they’ll have the income to keep going?

So, I guess I’m opening it up and asking for your feedback. Do you think free can grow skiing? Is it enough to get people to spend the other cash necessary to get on the snow? Or is it just getting people on the hill once or twice who could never afford to be consistent skiers?

Or something else entirely?

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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