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Without Social, State Ski Associations Walk a Fine, Marketing Line

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A couple weeks ago, when I launched the new site, I said the door was officially open for the occasional guest blog post. Let this first example from Alex Kaufman be proof. If you have an idea for a post, let me know.

State ski associations walk a fine line.

They get a large chunk of their budgets from their member ski areas and are tasked to deliver value to the ski areas with that funding. To do this, most deliver a mix of government lobbying and pooled marketing efforts. Put broadly, the general goal is to further the agenda of the ski industry within their state and communicate to the potential audience of skiers worldwide.

In certain states, a select few large resorts pay in a lion’s share of the revenue. Sometimes the ski areas within the associations get a little perturbed when their dollars go towards activities they don’t agree with. IE – a few years back in Colorado (Vail Resorts) and recently in New Hampshire (Peak Resorts). To be clear, I’m not privy to those reasons, nor is it what I aim to discuss.

Since the arrival of social media on the scene there’s been a clear shift in marketing focus for the resorts and the associations. Both elements are pouring time, effort, employees, and to varying degrees, their hard dollars into these mediums. Videos, updates, webisodes, contests, photos, metrics, shares, likes, etc in order to reach their potential customers.


The value stretches as far as your audience is large (or bigger if/when something gets lucky and goes viral).

The state associations are at a double disadvantage here. They are not the source. They are the editors. The ski areas are the source. As such most state ski associations do not see the level of success enjoyed by their mountains in these mediums. Their content is not as fresh nor do they have as large an audience to share with. They still pour in money and time though often in an overlapping effort that reaches the same but usually smaller audience. I could see why some resorts do not see much value in this.

My advice to state associations committed to using social media? Advertise. Start now. Think of the dollars per year (in salary) you’re investing to manage these efforts, while allocating even larger amounts into your overall marketing spend. Invest a mere 5-10K to become a relevant voice in targeted areas for your state. If you have 5K fans on facebook right now, you can have 25K before next season with that kind of spend. Want 100,000 skiers/snowboarders in your region that can get your message when the snow flies? That’s an option too. You decide where these people come from and what they are into.

Would resort X pull out of your association if they knew it would result in your (now massive) facebook audience never hearing about their mountain? They’d think twice. Social media (for better or worse) is the marketing activity that decision makers can see directly and immediately (rather than a radio ad 300 miles away). The pain associated with viewing competitors being promoted by the largest mouthpiece in the state would be in front of them daily. That matters. It’s emotional.

If you are a state association committed to social media, the time for “organic only” is over. At least if you want the time/effort you’re pouring in already to have the greatest impact and not be an overlapping effort with your member ski areas. I know the size of your budgets (ball parks) and I know the amount of time you’re investing into social (a lot). Make it worth it.

Stop pouring all your good content into a little tiny cup; it doesn’t deliver value to your customers (the resorts). If you had the biggest cup in the state everyone would want to be part of your content and member defections would be less likely.

Or…. Don’t. You do not have to commit to being an “also ran” on social. The resorts are doing it great. State associations should do social big so that resorts see the value from the investment of their dollars, or keep a heavy focus on other tactics that the resorts don’t already have covered. That’s what I would 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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