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Season Passes (All)
Like it or not, Vail’s small-hill acquisitions may be one of the most successful campaigns ever.

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
   

When Vail acquired Mt Brighton and Afton Alps they were making a bet. A bet that if they tied small hills directly to the Epic Pass and then made those small hills awesome (pumping $10’s of millions into each), they’d make that back and much, much more in the form of EpicPass sales in those markets.

For us bystanders outside the wall of their Broomfield headquarters who wanted to know if this was successful, it was a waiting game.

If they acquired more, we could somewhat safely assume it had worked.
If they didn’t, we could assume that the idea may have been good but the numbers didn’t match their expectations.

I was weeks away from calling the whole things a failed attempt when this happened.

Somewhere a spreadsheet had been generated, the numbers tallied, and the concept of acquiring small ski areas had come out in the black. And not just the black, but black enough to do again.

So they did.

Big Goals, Now on Track
One of the greatest moments in marketing is when you discover a strategy that can not only be replicated (with idenical results), but replicated at scale.

One of the few times I’ve had such a moment was in the semi-early days of Google search. I found a group of keywords paired with a specific offer that cost less than $2.50 a click but converted at 5% on a product where any cost-per-acquisition below $200 would turn a profit. Every keyword I added saw the same results.

I vividly remember the somewhat mind-blowing realization that if I wanted to make 10x more money from this channel, all I had to do was repeat the process 10 more times.

In many ways, that may be what Vail Resorts has discovered.

They can study a market, find the right resort to acquire, make it happen, turn a semi-quick ROI, rinse, and repeat.

Their only limit being the number of markets with enough potential skiers (like Chicago) to make the acquisition worth it.

If the Mt Brighton and Afton Alps experiment worked, they could be sitting on a marketing strategy that could drive passholders, bookings, and revenue faster than anything our industry has ever seen. In effect, they may have discovered one of the first resort marketing strategies that truly scales.

I’m not sure if I should be scared or excited, but one thing is fairly certain: The next decade is gonna be one heckuva ride.


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