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To Liftopia or Not to Liftopia, That is the Interview Question

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I have always wondered why more resorts don’t use Liftopia. And by “always” I mean the last two months. Their business model seems sound, traffic is high, why wouldn’t a resort use that exposure and system to drive sales? I wondered, so I asked.

First I contacted Liftopia directly and swapped emails with co-founder Evan Reece (his interview is coming tomorrow). Then, I contacted Wildcat Mountain’s Marketing Director Thomas Prindle who uses Liftopia extensively. He reported a few basic details about their use of Liftopia in a 2008 issue of SAM. Two years later, here’s what he had to say:

SlopeFillers: Why do you think more resorts aren’t using Liftopia?
Thomas: Honestly, I don’t know why more resorts aren’t using Liftopia. I know more and more have partnered with Liftopia, but I think there may be a concern from some resorts in regard to providing an unconventional vendor (outside of lodging or ski shop partners for example) with discount ticket inventory to sell. I might understand some hesitation if you’re a stand-alone ski resort located in an area where you have no competition, but for Wildcat Mountain, I compete against 7 other ski resorts within a relatively local, 45-minute drive radius, let alone the many more resorts in New England that our Boston market can go to on any given day. There may also be a mentality that since the resort already sells discount lift tickets via their own online storefront, why have Liftopia do the same?

For me, when I chose to have Wildcat Mountain on board with Liftopia, I was taking a look at similar industries that have a desire to fill seats or beds and understanding that most major airlines & hotel chains not only sell products through their own websites, similar to resorts, but that these other industries also allocate inventory to discount sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, etc. It was easy to see that Liftopia had built their site, including the user-end look, feel, and functionality, upon a proven business model that our customers are already familiar with and comfortable using and I have seen that Liftopia only continues to improve that.

SlopeFillers: What is the biggest thing these resorts are missing out on by NOT using it?
Thomas: The biggest thing resorts are missing out on is the additional ticket revenue and skier visits they might not otherwise capture. It’s that simple, but what differentiates Liftopia from many other historical “discount” incentive programs that may claim the same, is the ability for the resort to manage and adjust their ticket yield at all times…weekly, daily, or even hourly based on weather, conditions, and/or calendar periods. I also know that the business model Liftopia has established has given Wildcat Mountain an additional marketing presence that it would otherwise not have had previously. It doesn’t cost me anything to partner with them and I know Liftopia is savvy and will be marketing their business the best they can because their success is tied directly to the success and ticket sales of their partners and by doing so, they are helping to position the resorts for additional pre-purchased ticket sales.

SlopeFillers: How much are you letting people find your deals on Liftopia through Liftopia’s marketing and traffic generation efforts / dollars and how much are you actually sending folks to Liftopia? If at all?
Thomas: Liftopia has continued to increase their market presence and I have been pleased to see and benefit from that. It hasn’t been a real surprise to see that additional marketing effort increase year-to-year from Liftopia however because both co-founders Evan Reece & Ron Schneiderman have been very transparent since I’ve been working with them in regard to their model, growth, venture capital announcements, and plans to continually brand Liftopia as the one-stop online source for discount skiing and snowboarding and improve site traffic.

In turn, when partnering with Liftopia, I made an effort through different mediums to educate our value-conscious skiers & riders to be aware of the discount opportunity. For the fact that there is a commitment from those skiers and riders who do purchase a date-specific lift ticket in advance, I do not discourage persons to browse Liftopia when making travel plans in advance to seek the discount and gain value. Honestly, I’m aware in New England that the majority of our visitors, non-passholders and passholders alike, do not simply ski or ride at one single resort for the season. Persons in New England, or on a micro-level even simply staying in the Mount Washington Valley, are more likely to ski or ride more than one resort in a week let alone an entire season. If Liftopia can afford my potential visitors a single outlet to consider their discount options, yes…even to other ski areas, I’m okay with that.

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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