I have been asked by no fewer than a dozen people what my thoughts are on Windham Mountain’s recent announcement. It’s a was a surprising change to a beloved brand that left a bunch of big questions in its wake.
As I sifted through what was known and imagined what wasn’t, four things came to mind.
First, these business decisions aren’t made lightly.
I am not the owners of Windham Mountain. I have never seen their books. I don’t live and breath their business and market and constraints and goals. But there are people who do and those people surely spent a ton of time making this decision.
Second, don’t judge marketing for the business strategy.
Even if you don’t agree with the business strategy, remember that marketing almost certainly didn’t make that call. This is a pivot that’s likely simply been handed to them that they’re doing their best to navigate.
Third, this is a new, unique message.
The more we learn, the more we realize how unique this pivot is. It’s essentially bundling many of the products/perks other resorts have been playing with into a single, membership-style offering while preserving traditional access for everyone else.
Fourth, like anything new, it’s tough to get it right the first time.
And that’s where I want to focus my thoughts. Since the initial launch Windham has done a great job of recognizing where their message may need some work, putting their heads down, and creating marketing that helps educate their market and clarify how this new idea works.
The perfect example of this is their new mountain access overview page.
It starts with a simple, plain English version of what this pivot means.
Windham Mountain Club is a semi-private, all-season mountain community with daily skiing and riding open to the public.
Joining the exclusive members’ club of Windham Mountain Club unlocks additional amenities, including an upgraded mountain golf course by Tom Fazio Design Group and access to world-class recreation.
Then it builds on that idea by visually breaking down the various ways their skiers can interact with the mountain going forward and the rough price required to engage with the resort on each level.
Finally, they drill into the specific perks each level receives in a grid that resembles a SaaS-style pricing page. This can be toggled through more specific uses like dining and golf.
But they’ve also recognize that much of their message has referred to things coming down the road, so they’ve also broken down how this access might look in a few years.
And they’re using a lot of tools to push folks to this page like this card on the homepage.
Yes, there are more questions to answer, especially in regards to the upcoming season…
Are you honoring the passes that were sold prior to your ownership at which point you changed the parameters of them, ie eliminating the ability to ski Sundays on certain passes?
— Reality Now (@JustdahFacts) October 12, 2023
…but Windham has shown they’re listening and ready to respond to both individual people and their audience as a whole.
I gotta be honest, I’m really intrigued by this idea.
When it comes to getting high-loyalty, year-round buy in from our audiences we have private resort memberships for the exclusive few and we have public resort season passes for the masses, so adding any sort of exclusivity (like early access or faster lift lines) to a public area has always felt a little out of place.
But is there a way to put both of these groups on the same mountain? And would a framework like this help resorts better address the needs and spending power of both groups going forward? Is semi-private sustainable?
I have no idea, but I’ll be watching this one closely.
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