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MTS Recap: What Does it Take for a Winter Resort to Create a Summer Magnet?

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A couple weeks ago I cruised over to Aspen for a quick, 36 hour Mountain Travel Symposium whirlwind. Now that the lessons have sunk in a bit more, here are my thoughts on what was shared.

It’s hard to avoid talk about summer resort marketing at conferences this year. While always a topic, the pace at which this point has entered the conversation is significant.

There were a few sessions that touched on capitalizing on warm-weather months, but one in particular did it justice. Aspen’s Christian Knapp, John McEwan of Vail Resorts, and John McMahon, President and CEO of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber were the panel, led by Tom Foley of MTRiP, who tackled this issue.

The Points
Let me share a three topics that seemed to be at the core of the discussion. I’ll highlight with some what-I-wrote-down-but-probably-not-word-for-word quotes:

“The reason for guests to visit mountain resorts in the summer isn’t clear and very hard to create.”

“Europe has a stronger summer brand than winter.”

“Summer [offerings are] a mile wide and an inch deep…zipline-like activities are fun, but people don’t go on ziplines vacations.”

So, in my words:

  • Resorts seem to do best with one core, lifestyle activity embraced by the community
  • Europe can be a bright stop to look for in terms of summer success inspiration
  • Lots of little activities don’t necessarily equal one big “magnet”

And beyond that, the point was made that Whistler has become a mountain bike mecca not jump because of the trails available on the mountain, but because it’s been a community effort with everyone embracing that culture.

So, what options do resorts have when it comes to summer “magnets”? While there are fringe cases, for most resorts the ones that keep coming to the front of these discussions are:

  • Mountain biking
  • Golf
  • Water parks

Other things like adventure parks, mud runs, concerts, etc. seem to draw random crowds, but not with the consistency of these larger magnets. Speaking of adventure parks, with a representative from Vail and Breckenridge on the panel, it’s little wonder why Epic Discovery, Vail Resorts proposed summer program, was discussed.

On another note, I wonder if a fourth, outside-the-box option could be added to that list. The idea is hardly developed, so I’ll just spit it out: what if a resort hired a former Olympic long distance runner and became the trail running / ultramarathon training capital of the world. Two-week long camps to prep for the growing number of mountain races. Or something similar for kids sports. Parents pay out their rear for their childrens’ success, so why not have 3-week long “high altitude” training camps for fall sports that get high schoolers in crazy good shape both mentally and physically?

The Epic Discovery Question
Where was I? Oh yes, Vail. Whenever I think about Epic Discovery, I inevitably wind up at the same place in my mental anlaysis where I ask myself, “will people travel for an adventure park that has replaced ‘adventure’ with ‘learn-about-nature’?”

On the one hand I hear that “many small activities just doesn’t product like one large magnet” and on the other hand the industry leader is placing their summer bets on a collection of small activities designed around instruction rather than excitement. Will it work? I hate to lean toward “not that well”, but that’s where my gut is at the moment.

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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