Posts tagged ski resorts

Winter that never was?

Winter winds down

Winter that never was?The winter of 2011-12 will not go down in the record books (at least not in a good way) as it was one of low snow totals and warm temperatures for most almost all areas in the US. It certainly goes to show that the winter mountain resort business is one which can never be absolutely accurately predicted as it truly seemed like, with the business climate picking up, leisure travel in a rebound and after a solid 2010-11 winter season that this might be a winter to remember. Well, Mother Nature showed that she still plays a major role in the winter mountain resort business cycle and by waiting until well after the December Holiday season to bring snow to most mountain locales, the weather did have an impact on those vital holiday bookings along with business throughout most of the remainder of the season due to in part to a perceived lack of snow and perhaps the want to simply stay home?

What are lessons we can learn from this? Here are a few quick hits:

  • It’s impossible to accurately predict exactly what the business levels for a season will be like – sometimes things are close to estimates, but other times…
  • Be flexible (have a plan B/C/D, because once things start to change from where you thought they would be, you need to be able to shift your priorities and efforts.
  • People will still come and will still have a wonderful time. I spoke with many people on the mountains here in Utah who were having a wonderful time skiing and riding on manmade snow only. Perhaps they didn’t ride the closed runs at other times but they were excited and happy to be on the slopes, in the mountains and didn’t have a care that off-piste runs weren’t open.
  • These are the times to shine for a ski resort’s customer service, both on and off the hill, because a blip in customer service can really get magnified in these sorts of situations. I heard a waiter at a local restaurant commenting during a snowstorm recently that he was “over winter” to a table of visiting skiers/riders. What a way to bring them down about the new snow!
Feel free to leave any other thoughts or ideas about lessons learned from the winter (or non-winter) of 2011-12 in the comments below.
Photo credit: Flickr user Perfect Zero
Empty basketball net

NBA Lockout Boon?

Empty basketball netJust a quick thought: “Will the NBA lockout be a benefit to ski resorts?”

I’d say “yes”.

Sure a lot of NBA basketball fans might not be skiers or snowboarders, but if the lockout does extend out over the busy Christmas – New Years time frame, I’m hopeful that more people will be hitting the slopes as opposed to checking out the traditional Christmas triple header basketball game. And that’s just people who live within an easy drive of a ski resort. What about those folks that do buy season tickets? They certainly have discretionary income and will have some of that coming back into their pockets, why not invest it in getting to the slopes and having some fun? I wonder what a package name for these folks would be…

  • Trade the Court for the Slopes
  • NBA – Nothing But Altitude
  • Slamma Jamma in the Mountains
  • 3-pt Shots < Face Shots
  • Backboards for Snowboards

Ok, these might not be quite the grabber they could be, but you get the point, get basketball fans to take some of their hard-earned cash and put it into buying lift tickets as opposed to NBA basketball tickets – why not?

Photo credit: Flickr user j9sk9s

Flight news and more flight news

Is it me, or does it seem like there’s suddenly a flurry of interesting news in regards to airlines and flying. Now, for many ski resorts, this probably isn’t that big of a deal, but for destination resorts, I think it’s news to keep an eye on.

First off, is the fact that Google has finally unveiled their first integration of their purchase of ITA Software in their new Flight Search. I do like the speed and user interface (super clean, but with some real guts as you click down), but am pretty disappointed in the quality of results – as an example, it’s adamant that I can’t fly from SLC to RST (where my parents live) even though I get 1400 results when searching the same route on Kayak? In any case, the features are slick and are better presented than anything I could describe in this slick video:

The second, and nowhere near as ‘neat’ news, is that airlines are planning cut back on their flight capacity, more than usual for the upcoming winter months, with even Southwest Airlines holding off on expanding its fleet at all. The potential for higher fares is not as big as threat to destination ski resorts as the fact that it will be even harder for ski and snowboard vacations to find empty seats to even get to the resorts. Here’s hoping the airlines are judicious in their winter flight planning and keep plenty of capacity to all the winter destination gateway airports…

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 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
Flickr photo

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Flickr

Flickr photo

This is the next in a series of posts in which I am reviewing “Social Networks for Ski Resorts.”  There are a huge number of ways to share photos online, but Flickr is one of the largest and most established and has some unique features/benefits that make it hard to bypass if you have a business that is looking to share photos online (personally, I’m not sold on their video option at this point).

First off, Flickr is owned by Yahoo! so you can (pretty much) rest assured that the site will be up and your photos accessible for years to come. Now, the key to this is to understand that if you are planning to post more than 200 images, then you’re going to want to purchase their “Pro” account. It’s just $25/yr and allows for unlimited uploads for images up to 20Mb apiece, using a nifty uploader application, I’ve been able to upload literally hundreds of images totaling well over 1Gb all at one time! All images are stored in high res format and Flickr even resizes for various download options. Here’s my one caveat: I’m a bit perturbed to have  just learned that Flickr has now limited their stat reporting for Pro users to the past 28 days, which is a negative, but hopefully not a harbinger of changes to come.

In any case, uploading images to Flickr is easy, tagging is simple in the uploader, EXIF data can be readily included (geeky camera info) and geolocation tagging can be added through a nifty map interface. The overall user interface in Flickr is a bit problematic and many of the navigation and editing functions aren’t as intuitive as they could be, but additional integration with the Picnik online image editing application is very much appreciated by those who don’t have Photoshop (or perhaps don’t want Photoshop) on their computer.

Flickr is also a tremendous resource for Creative Commons licensed images via their Creative Commons search option. What this is means is depending upon what usage you intend for an image – business blog post or the like, you can search for images that Flickr users have allowed you to use with simply giving them credit, many even allow you to modify the images if you’d like. In fact, this is how I get many of the images that I use in my blog!

In closing are a few Resorts I’ve found using Flickr and using it well:

  • Alpine Meadows – lots of photos, consistent posting, and I love that they have a gallery of employee images.
  • Big Bear – great quality images, organization is just chronological, but they’re consistent.
  • Moonlight Basin – basically just used Flickr for their Photo of the Day postings, but they did also include several Video Snow Reports.
  • Diamond Peak – doing a great job of keeping images coming, even in the offseason, with photos of some construction that they’re doing.
  • The Canyons – an example of a way to promote lodging and weddings via Flickr.
  • Mt Snow – I think it’s awesome how they posted a chunk of photos of their employees thanking everyone for a great season.

If you think there are other resorts using Flickr in unique, or well-executed manner, please let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: Flickr user Zanastardust via creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
Ning Logo

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Ning

Ning LogoThere are a plethora of quality choices that allow a brand or resort to create their own social network and until this past weekend, I’ve considered Ning to be one of the best of these. In particular, I’ve been impressed by the community that Steamboat Resort has built there that they call My Steamboat (or perhaps ‘Your Vacation Planning Community’, I’m a bit confused on its title). There are nearly 2,000 members and the site appears to have a good level of engagement between the resort and those members.My Steamboat screen capture

Here’s the thing, this past Friday, Ning announced that they will be eliminating their free platform to concentrate solely on paid products. Hopefully Steamboat is already a “paying Ning Creator” so they won’t have to wait for pricing to be announced for their social site that they’ve worked quite hard to establish. In any case, this is a clear example of how dependence upon a third party for services like social networks is an exercise in trust and something that can change at any time.

This all said, I have to say that I really like what Ning provides as a social platform. We’ve done a number of experiments with closed Ning communities (primarily online focus groups) at the resort and they’ve all been exceedingly successful. The setup is very simple and the administration tools are easy to work with and it’s quite easy to build in corporate branding as well.

I hope that Ning doesn’t get pushed down by the glut of  publicity that their business model shift is getting as I think that it is a great service, just one that the end users need to be able to know that it will exist in the future and not be priced too high or have services reduce unnecessarily.

Ski Resorts Online – Websites, Blogs, Social Networks and More

My Ski Resorts on Twitter post has been up for a bit over a year now and it’s become apparent to me that the list is already falling behind the times (even with regular updates). It’s not just Twitter now, but Facebook, YouTube, blogs and any number of other networks that resorts are using to engage with their customers online.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and I’ve put together a much more robust document, “Ski Resort Online – A Fairly Definitive List” to track as many of the different points of online presence for ski resorts as I could. I created it in Google Docs (let me know if you want to help edit) and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

To view this document in full, visit  Ski Resorts Online – A Fairly Definitive List. And, if you see any resorts or accounts that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments below – this is definitely a work in progress!

Yelp logo

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Yelp

Yelp logoI recently read the story “You’ve Been Yelped” in February’s issue of Inc. magazine and it prompted me to get back to writing my Social Networks for Ski Resorts series that I’ve been neglecting.The article does point out some of the short comings of a user review site like Yelp, but it also nails the benefits of the network for a business that takes advantage of the tools that Yelp provides for business owners.

If you’re not aware of what Yelp is, it’s a social review site that has a core of active members that are typically quite frank, or perhaps brutal, when it comes to reviewing all sorts of local services. The nice thing is that once you ‘claim’ your business listing, you get the ability to reply to reviews either publicly or via a private message to the reviewer. Yelp even provides a great Business Owner’s Guide that will help an owner or manager respond appropriately to reviews. This is quite important because as the “You’ve Been Yelped” article describes, Yelp contributors can be quite opinionated and if they are messaged in a way that they feel is not appropriate, they are more than likely to respond publicly and vociferously. Resorts can also post additional information including photos to their profiles which once created will give you measurement of page visits and the option to post “offers and announcements” in addition to the  opportunity to create a Yelp ad.

So cutting to the chase, which ski resorts do I think are using Yelp well? Easy answer, not many at all. As a matter of fact, in a quick survey of ski resorts on Yelp I found that only my friend Milena Regos at Diamond Peak was publicly responding to user reviews (I haven’t even done any as of yet), and only a few resorts, mostly in the Tahoe area had posted “offers” to their Yelp profiles. I’m sure there are more ski resorts that are engaging with their customers on Yelp, I just haven’t been able to find them. If you know of some, please let me know in the comments section.

Social Networks for Ski Resorts – Facebook

facebook-imageContinuing my series on “Social Networks for Ski Resorts,” let’s talk about another marquee player. Facebook is one more “no brainer” social network that ski resorts should be using. As with many of the social networks, the question is not if, but rather how?

In my mind, Facebook is one of the best social networks for ski resorts because the tools and the community are very well established and easy to use. Creating a fan page is quick and easy and the various tools to import blog posts, images and video are just as simple to setup. Facebook also offers up “Insights“, a nice analysis tool for fan pages The one big quirk with Facebook is that because it’s a closed network, there are limits to how a brand can interact with it’s fans and possibly the big on to me is that it’s not searchable for brand mentions in the Facebook network.

Which ski resorts do I think are using Facebook well?

  • Diamond Peak – I know the Marketing Director here and think she’s doing a great job of using a variety of things, but in particular a “Where’s Waldo” style contest to drive interest and engagement on the Diamond Peak Facebook fan page.
  • The Canyons Terrain Parks – It’s great the way The Canyons is using this terrain park centric fan page to create a high level of engagement with the core audience for their park users. I also like how they are posting ‘behind the scenes’ things to really keep visitors coming back for more.
  • Whistler Blackcomb – With well over 18k fans, this is the most ‘faned’ of any of the ski resort fan pages that I’ve found on Facebook. Lots of interaction, contests and info keep the feed fresh.
  • Valle Nevado – It’s not just North American resorts than are doing good things on Facebook, check out the action on the fan page for this Chilean favorite. My spanish is awful, but from the volume of posts and comment, this page is doing great.

New FTC Guides and Ski Resorts

There was much anticipation in the social media world last week as the FTC came out with their newly updated Guide covering endorsements and testimonials in advertising (PDF) – it was time, they were last updated in 1980! The implications of this update are covered very nicely in this Slidehare version of a webinar from WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association):

It will be interesting to see how the travel and tourism industry, in particular ski resorts, adopts these updated guidelines. To me this is because ski resort PR has traditionally involved offering up anything from a comp day ticket up to an entire “Fam trip” to journalists or other interested parties that providing coverage  of the resort. Resorts typically have policies about who might receive these comps, but don’t require any sort of disclosure (at least that I’m aware of).

From now on, I think that resorts should require some sort of signed document at time of ticket pick up, stating that the person using the product will disclose the comp as per the new FTC guidelines. The difficult part for ski resorts and travel/tourism in general is that there are many journalists who aren’t covered under the guidelines for when they are writing for their media outlet, but those journalists also have their own blogs now which are covered by the guidelines.

An additional element of this guideline update will be the off-hand mentions on other social networks like Twitter or Facebook by people that have received comp tickets or passes such as “Great day on the slopes at ____”  because according to the guidelines, that needs to have disclosure. This will not be easy to ensure and I know that many of these will slip through the cracks.

And, I haven’t even touching on the myriad of review sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp which already have their own review policies in place, but now may wind up being compelled to work with the FTC to ensure appropriate disclosure of any “material connection” to anyone writing reviews.

I know that many brands and bloggers will, both intentionally and unintentionally, push the envelope on these new guidelines so it’s going to be interesting to watch. But, to me, the key takeaway regarding these new guidelines for ski resorts is to be sure to be completely transparent and disclose any “material relationship” online and also monitor to ensure that people that have these relationships with your resort are doing so as well. What do you think about how ski resorts should adopt the new guidelines?

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