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The SMB of Skiing: Giving People a Reason to Ski Those Classic, Small Resorts

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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 2nd 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).

Much of my marketing experience is in small business. I loved the personal connection with the customer and scale and simplicity of the marketing. In fact, on the phone recently with a resort marketer, I said:

“One of the biggest things I struggle with when larger resorts ask me for advice is simply scaling my SMB thinking to connect all the dots of a large resort.”

My mind, experience, and style gravitates toward smaller resorts. Perhaps it is for this reason that, when my mind is free to roam the idea files, it frequently lands on this concept of helping small ski resorts not just survive, but compete. This is one of those random, mostly undeveloped, ideas.

Ski Smaller…
What I’d do is setup a small organization called something similar to “Ski Smaller”. The idea would involved a few steps:

  • Find sponsors whose dues are divided between marketing and discounts passed onto skiers
  • Setup a system that rewards skiers for buying day passes to smaller ski areas without requiring ski areas to discount passes
  • Establish a simple way to use lift tickets as a form a token to redeem for benefits

For example, I might base the reward system on a formula that allots points on a scaled combination of lifts, trails, and vert. So, if someone gets 10 points for skiing Revelstoke (5600′ vert) they’d get 100 points for skiing Powder Ridge (150′ vert). For trails, 10 points at Whistler (200+ trails) and 100 points for Cannonsburg (< 10 trails). Rank resorts by these factors (+ lifts) and assign a point value to skiing at each resort (ex: 35 pts at Vail, 235 pts at Ski Cooper). Because you get points for skiing at every resort, larger resorts aren't left out, but it just gets the brains of skiers to start thinking smaller. The Marketing
I’m not well versed in sponsorships or organizing redemption processes, so let me talk a bit more about marketing the movement. I’d focus on three parts:

  1. PR through print media
  2. Partnerships with athletes who got their starts at small mountains and aren’t sponsored by large resorts
  3. Word of mouth by making membership visible

On that third point, I’d be tempted to require a small $5 “buy in” to the program. I’d want to do this for two reasons. First, to know who was participating and track which marketing and PR channels are doing the most good. Second, I’d put those fees right back into the movement by using them to print and mail every participant a t-shirt.

That t-shirt would be like a membership card and would come in a variety of well designed styles with slimmer fits (so people actually wear them unlike the XL boxy styles usually used for freebies that turn into bike chain rags), plus the now obligatory tall-t for the park rats, that could be used for small discounts at those same sponsors or other promotions like:

  • “[sponsored athlete] will give away a free private shred session with him at Trollhaugen to the first person he sees wearing a Ski Smaller t-shirt in the terrain park on Saturday”
  • “Wear your Ski Smaller t-shirt to the Boston Ski Show and get $2 off admission”
  • “Wear your Ski Smaller t-shirt to Bob’s Ski Shop for $5 off a tune-up”

I’d also make sure the word gets out about a #skismaller hashtag to track mentions and use on social media and aggregate photos of skiers wearing their shirts, showing off their “smaller” lift tickets, etc.

So Far…
That’s about as far as the idea has made it but I think you get the idea. Give skiers a reason to ski at smaller resorts without lowering pass yield at those areas. Maybe equal points for any lift ticket would work great because of the difference in ticket price. Maybe whole industry needs some game mechanics. Who knows. Wednesday is for putting my random ideas on the line, so there you go.

But, for now, if I had 17 more hours in the day (there are a few projects I’d probably tackle before this one), that’s what I’d do…

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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