Archive for August, 2010

Snowy Mountains

Ski Area “Sting” Down Under

Snowy MountainsThe “ski bum” culture has always had close ties to illicit substance, but a recent news report from Australia put this connection back to the forefront. There was a drug ring bust in Australia’s Snowy Mountains last week and of the ten people arrested, six of them worked seasonal in the “ski fields”. I don’t know if this is a huge score in terms of drug busts or not, but I do think that it only emphasizes the fact that there can still be a perception that skiing and snowboarding are linked to substance culture.

Resorts can only have some much influence what their guests do. The opposite is true of their employees and the resorts I have knowledge of are very conscious about HR policies in this regard and, at least in my opinion, have really done a fine job of separating the element of drug culture that there is in resort towns, from the resort workforce. I’m sure the Australian resorts where this bust happened have controls in place, but should and how could they react to show that they have taken measures to try to prevent people involved in theses sorts of things from gaining employment at their resorts?

Photo credit: Flickr user Aschaf (hmm, are those clouds, or….?)

Snowboarding in Utah powder

Are you ready?

It’s been a busy week at the office. Our team got a brand new eStore up and running with a brand new mix of season pass products, we’re in the midst of any number of other projects and oh yeah, my daughter is getting ready to start pre-school next week, whew! With all that’s going on it’s always good to take a big step back and look at the big picture, this is what we’re going to be doing in under three months:

Snowboarding in Utah powder

Makes the long hours of late summer seem not so bad…I can’t wait how about you?!

A Mountain Vacation Home

Second Home Market Rebounding?

A Mountain Vacation HomeWith on-going chatter about the possibility of a double-dip recession it was interesting to read an article in USA Today about the growth of the second home market in family-friendly resorts. The article puts ski resorts together with golf and private-club communities, but here’s what it notes about ski resorts:

Ski resorts. Some resorts focus more on family activities than others. Among the most popular amenities is a slope-side “village center” that offers skating, dining, rentals, ski school and kids’ club in one convenient location. Beaver Creek, Colo.; Whistler, British Columbia, Canada; Northstar, Calif.; Stowe, Vt.; and several other resorts have them. Beaver Creek’s elaborate system of escalators in its village is frequently cited by parents of ski-boot-wearing children as their favorite feature. Beaver Creek and Colorado’s Snowmass, with its huge “Kids’ Treehouse,” were ranked in the top five family-friendly resorts by Ski Magazine. Beaver Creek is one of the priciest areas. Snowmass offerings start at $500,000-plus and run into seven figures. More-affordable options: California’s Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort has a new village center with ice rink and “Mommy, Daddy and Me” ski school packages. Condos in the Village at Northstar start just under $300,000.

Are family-centric offerings key to a successful ski resort, or are they just one more pricey gimmick that may lure in a few people but isn’t truly a way to build a long term and sustainable business?

Photo credit: Flickr user dhgoodman

Interesting “Job” Postings

It seems like just yesterday that the social media world was all aflutter over Tourism Queenslands “Best Job in the World” campaign (including me, check out my post about it from January 2009). I’ve since seen campaigns offering dream jobs ranging from “working” for a vineyard to “tweeting” for MTV and even traveling to Colorado to see snow for the first time (interestingly the SwowAtFirstSite.com page has been completely removed already). In a fit of inspiration I thought I’d do a quick survey of how the winners are doing by using a few Twitter ratings (I’m using the accounts promoted by the companies including the Murphy Goode account in which the “job” is already over):

Name Company/Promotion Followers Tweetlevel Compensation
Ben Southall Tourism Queensland/Best Job in the World 4,033 55 $150k AUD/6 months

($133,800 US)

Gabi Gregg MTV/MTV TJ 13,760 74 $100k/yr
Hardy Wallace Murphy Goode/A Really Goode Job 2,563 44 $60k plus costs/6 months

I know that these people are doing a lot more that Tweeting, but I find it interesting to see, at least on one social network, a rudimentary gauge of reach (followers) and a self-described gauge of influence (Tweetlevel). Only in the case of MTV does it seem as though the person is really making inroads, at least on Twitter.

This fairly meager success hasn’t slowed companies from trying to leverage social mediaites by offering “jobs” or opportunities to be a “blogger”. Here’s a quick rundown of a few options:

Company Promotion Requirement Compensation
SkiUtah.com Be a Powderhound blogger 1-2 blog posts/wk over the 2010-11 winter season A SkiUtah! Silver Passport, $,2400 value
Vail Resorts Snow Squad Share the “Stoke” Epic Pass, smart phone and approx. $3k in gear
Canyons how do you mountain 3-4 blog posts/wk over 4 months $40k + lodging at Waldorf Astoria*, F&B allowance, spa treatments, pass and more
*I did a quick check on a suite at the WA and at $500/nt that’s over $60k just in lodging!

What does this mean? I’m not sure, perhaps these sorts of contests are really successful and more companies are following suit because of the success? Or are companies not completely sure of what direction they should take in the social space and these sorts of promotions are relatively easy to create and manage? Or, is it a something else? If you have an opinion please share it in the comments section below – I look forward to hearing your ideas!

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Urbanspoon

This is another post in a continuing series on Social Networks for Ski Resorts, check out the ever evolving list here.

I would bet that there are a lot of people that wouldn’t be thinking of Urbanspoon when they think about social networks – I would also bet that those people are not in the restaurant business. With their iPhone, Android and widget (see below):

Urbanspoon has set the bar for apps that allow users to choose where to eat based upon their location and some fun user selectable, or completely random options. BTW, the widget doesn’t allow for settings outside most major metropolitan areas, so you’ll need to select Park City and lock it in the first column to see the options for here.

If you haven’t used Urbanspoon, it is a fun way way to choose dining options, even where you live, but even better when you’re travelling. It’s ability to select a restaurant and then see reviews is unique and this is what, in my mind makes it appealing to ski resorts that wish to add another dimension to how they market their food and beverage options online. Particularly once a visitors is leaving the mountain, they are no longer captive to the food choices at the on-mountain restaurants, so why not ensure that your restaurant is listed in Urbanspoon?!

In terms of ski resorts, I’m not sure of any that have made a concerted effort to get their dining properties listed on Urbanspoon, if you know of any, please let us know in the comments!

AP Tweeting

What can Ski Resorts Learn from Professional Sports about Social Media?

AP TweetingA year ago I wrote a post talking about how my favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, was then using social media. A year later, I would argue that every major and most minor sports teams are fully immersed in social media and are enjoying the benefits (and hazards) of engaging their fan base directly online. While teams can manage the engagement on their own sites and social connections, they don’t have as much control over the athletes on their teams and are looking at ways to ensure that their players are also engaging in social media with appropriate care. As the football season starts to wind up, it seems that a few football players are already posting some, uh “questionable” things, and organizations are scrambling to react – there’s a very nice description of this in an article on ESPN.com titled, “Football tweeters in midseason form” which sets forth the following advice:

As Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis, whose grandmother is one of his Twitter followers, told the Sun-Sentinel: “I’m not going to put anything on there that my grandmother won’t want to see.”

This certainly is just another reason for ski resorts to ensure that they’re putting together appropriate guidelines and resources for their employees, because this winter will only see more people posting to social media from their workplace on the mountain, whether it’s playing in powder, people dangling from lifts, getting caught up on them or nearly getting blown off of them.

8/18/10 edit – Just wanted to note that I wrote this post last weekend, well before the recent Brett Favre “un-retirement”.
Photo credit: Flickr user xoque and modified via CC2.0 Attribution
Mobile updates

How to set up a “free” snow report text message service (using Twitter)

I’ve been kicking around the idea of using Twitter’s SMS option to push snow reports to consumers ever since I first got my “real” introduction to Twitter over two years ago. I haven’t had the chance to implement it myself, but I do recall seeing Aspen Ski Co with an option to do so on their site last year – I’m not sure how well it worked as it isn’t listed as an option on their site currently. However, a recent post on Alex Kaufman’s blog about Twitter’s new “fast follow” option really got me thinking about this concept again.

The key to this concept is that Twitter was built as a service that was to be updated as well as to send updates to users via text. Now the cool part about this is that Twitter doesn’t charge users to have their updates sent via text to those users who sign up for them. This has always been possible, all someone would have to do is to go to that particular Twitter users’ page and then click on the Mobile updatesicon to start receiving texts whenever that user updates – just remember that some people tweet a lot so beware of what accounts you follow in this manner. Speaking of text, there are a bunch of commands that you can send via text to Twitter including:

Turning Mobile Twitter Updates Off and On

  • ON: turns ALL your authorized Twitter updates and notifications on.
  • OFF: turns off all updates except direct messages. Send STOP again to turn off direct messages too.
  • STOP, QUIT, End, Cancel, Arret or Unsubscribe: turns ALL phone notifications off.
  • ON username: turns on notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: ON alissa
  • OFF username: turns off notifications for a specific person on your phone. Example: OFF blaine
  • FOLLOW username: this command allows you to start following a specific user, as well as receive SMS notifications. Example: FOLLOW jerry
  • LEAVE username: this command allows you to stop receiving SMS notifications for a specific user. Example: LEAVE benfu

Fun Stuff: friends, favorites, and stats!

Use the commands below to send private messages, favorite Tweets, and more.
  • @username + message
  • Reply: shows your Tweet as a reply directed at another person, and causes your twitter to save in their “replies” tab.
    Example: @meangrape I love that song too!

  • D username + message
  • Direct Message: sends a person a private message that goes to their device, and saves in their web archive.
    Example: d krissy want to pick a Jamba Juice for me while you’re there?

  • RT username
  • Retweet: sends another user’s latest Tweet to your followers. Example: RT Charles

  • SET LOCATION placename
  • Updates the location field in your profile. Example: set location San Francisco

  • WHOIS username
  • Retrieves the profile information for any public user on Twitter. Example: whois jack

  • GET username
  • Retrieves the latest Twitter update posted by the person. Example: get goldman

  • FAV username
  • Marks that user’s last Tweet as one of your favorites. (hint: reply to any update with FAV to mark it as a favorite if you’re receiving it in real time)

    Example: fav crystal

  • STATS

This command returns your number of followers, how many people you’re following, and your bio information.

The above information was found in Twitter’s Help Center.

Now, with Twitter’s new Fast Follow option, a user doesn’t even need a Twitter account to use many of these command, and all they have to do to receive, say a snow report from @snowreport (just as an example) is to text “Follow snowreport” to 40404. Then “Off” “Stop” or “Leave” to turn the updates off. Now, only some of the above noted commands will work without a setup account, but it’s certainly a great way for someone to test out Twitter. And the best part is that businesses can really easily take advantage of these features now that users don’t need accounts. All a business needs to do is say “Text ‘Follow’ [whatever account they have] to 40404” and away things go. The last really neat part of this is that there are plenty of services like Twitterfeed.com that will take existing RSS feeds and modify them and post to Twitter so you don’t even need to crack into Twitter’s API to have something like a snow report pushed to Twitter generated SMSs. I don’t see a lot of problems in going this route aside from the fact that Twitter hasn’t ever been 100% dependable in its service, and it seems like the “Fail Whale” still shows up on a regular basis, so I wouldn’t recommend using Twitter for anything that is absolutely mission critical. But other than that, who’s up for snow reports via text using Twitter?!

Blissful Dog in Snow

Skiing (or snowboarding) = Happiness

Blissful Dog in Snow

There’s a recent article in the NY Times called, “But Will it Make you Happy?” which describes people who’ve cut way back on their consumption and focused on paying down their debt and living for experiences and not for material possessions. In buying a possession we get only a momentary “buzz” when we first use the item, but then over time we become acclimated to it and need to buy something else to get our fix. For this reason, the article postulates that experiences provide us more happiness in that they,

provide a bigger pop than things is that they can’t be absorbed in one gulp — it takes more time to adapt to them and engage with them than it does to put on a new leather jacket or turn on that shiny flat-screen TV.

A few year ago I read a lovely book called, “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” (disclaimer – this is an Amazon Affiliate link) in which Eric Weiner travels around the world in search of the happiest place as well as looking into the growing field of the study of happiness itself. Probably one of the best insight’s provided is that one of the secrets of happiness is not thinking about it. Which in a lot of ways is exactly what the NY Times article is referring to – stop thinking about what might make you happy and get off the couch and go do it. Personally, I love to ski, preferably in several feet of fresh Utah powder, but in any case that is certainly a time and place where I most certainly am very happy.  I could worry about getting a new set of skis each year, or new boots or a new helmet but those are only tools to help me find the joy I have when I’m sliding down the slopes.

I wonder if ski resorts could do a better job of appealing to this side of our visitors in our marketing efforts? After all, a ski trip is definitely an experience that people will remember and yearn for well after they return home. There are many tools available to do such a thing ranging from social networks to more traditional CRM techniques. In the meantime, ask yourself this, what = happiness for you?

Photo credit: Flickr user Martina Rathgens
ESPN X-Games Ad

Online Ad Creative – Remember to Switch it Out

I was browsing ESPN.com looking at some Minnesota Twins updates when I noticed that the ad creative that ESPN was running for their X-Games coverage was a week out of date:

ESPN X-Games Ad

It’s a pretty bad call to action to have dates that are a week past in an online ad execution, particularly when it’s so simple and easy to set flight dates and switch out creative. For ski resorts this is particularly important when promoting flash sales, season opening/closing and special events – be sure your creative is timely and either pulled or updated when it’s out of date!

Golf Course Closed

Golf is Down – Outdoor Industry is Up – What Does this Mean for Snow Sports?

Golf Course ClosedA recent USA Today article notes that golf clubs are suffering from the economic slowdown with the number of golfers nationally falling 3% from 2007 to 2008, while the number of “core golfers” (players with more than eight rounds per year) dropped 4.5%, so far this year, the number of rounds played nationally has dropped 3% which shows that golf is still experiencing a contraction. The article touches on a number of possible reasons for the decline, but I found the most insightful part to be a quote from Chad Ritterbusch, executive director of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, “Golf has to think out of the box, it has to adapt to the times.”

On the other side of the coin, the outdoor industry is booming. This can be readily seen with the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Utah drawing huge crowds of both exhibitors and attendees. According to a Salt Lake Tribune article, the Outdoor Industry Association is “…seeing six percent growth across all sectors” with some businesses seeing double digit growth! Particularly when superimposed upon the US’s economic troubles, these are indeed impressive numbers.

What do these two opposite tales mean for winter resorts and snow sliding sports? I think it’s an optimistic message with a tint of caution. From golf, we can see that we should be careful of resting on our laurels and ensure that we continue to invest in the new and different like terrain parks and snowboarding. From the outdoor industry I think we can see that people are still willing to spend and to spend on the higher end of the spectrum if they feel that they’re getting something of value – so don’t feel compelled to discount to generate volume.

Are there any other industries that you think winter resorts should be taking some lessons from? Tell us in the comments below!

Photo credit: Flickr user MarkWallace
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