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Eagle Point’s Bold Marketing Move: Free Skiing for an Entire State

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Eagle Point, in Southern Utah, is one of two resorts in the state I haven’t skied. Formerly Elk Meadows, the problem for the resort has always been a combination of awareness and location. When you ski Eagle Point, you only ski Eagle Point – the next closest mountain (Brian Head) is more than an hour and a half away. The Cottonwood resorts and Park City are more than 4 hours away.

So how do you get people to try it? How do you get folks that think of Utah skiing in terms of Alta and Snowbird to come try a mountain in the middle of nowhere? The marketing guys at Eagle Point are better that free skiing will do the trick.

Part 1: Free Thursdays
On Thursdays this winter, Eagle Point will not make a cent in lift ticket revenue. Any living, breathing human being can show up at the resort and ski for free. Why Thursday? I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s a hint that if you can get someone from out of town to come on Thursday, they might as well stay for Friday (and Saturday and Sunday) as well.

Friday would have been my first choice (seems a better day to start an early weekend), but they know their numbers and perhaps school/holiday schedules came into play as well as their Thursday-Friday operating schedule (the mountain will be available for private rental Monday-Wednesday).

Part 2: Free Anytime for California Residents
The second piece is for real out-of-towners. Any California resident can ski for free anytime during the 2011/2012 season. They are planning on these people coming, spending a good chunk of change on lodging, dining, etc. than would have been spent by California residents normally with standard prices. I think it’s a pretty good bet to make. Based on past numbers, they probably have little to lose. Their inspriation? A model employed by Las Vegas resorts. From the press release, CEO Shane Gadbaw said:

“By owning or controlling all of the restaurants, services and rental properties around the resort and maintaining low overhead, we have the same advantage as the Vegas resorts. We can give lift access away for free yet still achieve a sufficient yield from our guests on food & beverage sales, rentals, instruction, retail or condo stays. More importantly, the free admission spurs the firstā€time visit. That is all we need because the vast majority of new guests fall in love with the place and go home to tell their friends and family.”

Here’s the trick. To drive to Eagle Point from Sacramento takes 12 hours. Two hours in you pass the turnoff to Tahoe. Flying is also tricky. Flying to Vegas or SLC puts you a 4 hours from the resort. I have trouble seeing a lot of people fly into SLC and say no to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude, Park City, Canyons, etc. to drive 4-hours south to Beaver. If you have the money to fly and stay for a while, free skiing may not be enough.

Where it Should Work
Where I see their success coming is from the SoCal/Los Angeles area. While they are 8.5 hours from Eagle Point, they are 5.5 to Mammoth and an identical 8.5 to South Lake Tahoe. There are the closer destinations like Big Bear Lake, but free “Utah” skiing would probably draw more than a few people to the resort. Whether they get a bunch of cooler-toting/camping folks or whether skiers will be disappointed they can only ski four days will be interesting to watch.

It’s a pretty bold move, but then again, it’s not easy to run a resort when the only “cities” within an hour’s drive are Beaver and Parowan – combined population 5,200.

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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