skip to main content

Is There Room in Skiing for the Crowded Restaurant Principle?

divider image for this post

Skiers love short lift-lines. Right? But could the message long lines send (a popular resort) overpower the negatives of waiting for chairs? I’ve thought about this question often and finally a marketing example came up in the ski industry to start the conversation. The image at the top is from Chicopee’s new Facebook cover photo.

When I released my collection of 30 resort cover photos a couple weeks ago, I got two interesting responses:

  • You’ve got to wonder what Chicopee is trying to market with that pic of a crowded lift.
  • Strange move. Last thing I would show is a long line at a fixed grip chair.

It got me thinking about something I’ve read many times before: the crowded restaurant principle.

Herd Behavior
So, maybe my label isn’t the technical term for the actual concept, but the idea is this:

If you see two restaurants that sit right across the street from each other. All things equal, people tend to choose the one that has more cars in the front because the cars are a sign of social proof that the food is so good people flock to eat there.

Here’s the thing. To me, Chicopee has never painted a mental picture of a popular resort. That is, until two weeks ago when their cover photo showed huge crowds waiting in a lift line. Instead of being a no-name resort, Chicopee now has a new label net to it in my brain: “popular”.

It Already Exists
In fact, this principle is already in use at least once a year at a handful of resorts: opening day. Take a gander at Day 5 of Whistler/Blackcomb’s EMBEDDED series last year. What is the opening shot of day 5? A huge lift line:

The whole thing is about how many people were waiting in line and how stoked they were to ski.

Solitude vs. Brighton?
I’m guessing a good number of skiers haven’t yet bought a ticket to a specific resort when they board the bus that takes them up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. On a powder day, the bus is packed, but only a few people get off at Solitude while the majority (i’d say upwards of 80-85% at times) continue on to Brighton. It’s clear: less people at Solitude means more fresh tracks and when it comes to terrain, while I love Millicent a Brighton, Honeycomb Canyon at Solitude is no slouch.

It’s almost like it’s uncool to go to Solitude because no one else is skiing there and the herd is continuing on to Brighton. Next time you’re in Utah, jump on the bus and you’ll see what I mean.

Further Application?
is there a way to actually use lift lines to your advantage? I don’t know. Regular lift lines aren’t something I’d want to highlight, but the occasional crowd queuing up for chairs just might have some hidden marketing potential.

What do you think?

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.

Get the weekly digest.

New stories, ideas, and jobs delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.