The winter of my senior year of high school I was fortunate enough to ski 87 days. Days working as a ski instructor, practices and races for the high school ski team, and free skiing days certainly added up. It helped to have a working car equipped with a ski rack, free weekends, and a flexible school schedule. During my spring semester, I only had a first and last period class; I would do the ten minute drive to the mountain right after class, ski by myself for two hours (I taught myself how to telemark ski over this period of time), and rush back into class with my snow gear still on. It also helped that at this point I was already accepted to Babson.
The following winter, the winter of my freshman year at college, was the exact opposite. A record year of snow in the northeast and I had too much work and was figuring too much out for myself to make the drive up into the mountains. I got days in of course, but not of quality. So over the summer I made it my goal to take back my winter. In the fall I committed to a intensive work out routine and got the entrepreneurial wheels turning in my mind. What resulted was an amazing winter. I maximized my ski-related-enjoyment in one of the least conducive winters in the northeast on record (incredibly warm and very little snow). Here is what I was up to this winter:
1. Visited the Boston Ski & Snowboard Expo at the Seaport Trade Center (November)
2. Worked for Poor Boyz Productions for their Triple Threat Tour stop in Boston at The Royale (November)
3. Alpine and telemark ski instructed at Gunstock Mountain Resort (January)
4. Began doing internet marketing for pro skier Dan Egan kicking off at “Ski the Beast with Dan Egan” at Killington Resort (January) See my review of the event here.
5. Was invited to the Eastern Winter Sports Reps Association (EWSRA) On Snow Demo at Stratton Mountain to become a contributing writer for SnowEast Magazine (February) I tested 10 all-mountain twin tip skis across 7 different companies. My review of the year’s best will be featured in SnowEast’s 2012 October issue.
6. As president of the Babson Outdoor Association I planned trips to Sunday River, Blue Hills, Waterville Valley, and Jay Peak; all of which lucky enough had great weather/conditions.
7. …..And of course I free skied with friends. Notably I caught first tracks at Waterville Valley after an 8″ overnight storm and skied Okemo on two bright sunny days.
A friend shared this with me recently. I love it! A great addition to the recent group of ski film that doesn’t involve a whole lot of production and focuses on the core of the sport and its culture. Yes, I love the giant ski productions that come out each year by the major companies, but we need simple stuff like this.
A little while ago I reflected on what it would be like for resort marketing to embrace the popularity and growing maturity of today’s ski film. Upon writing the post I understood that few marketing budgets and manpower could cater to the idea, so I decided to put into practice what I thought could be done. Below is a plan that I would implement if put in the position to implement an interactive media campaign for a ski mountain.
The campaign is based on my theory that resort marketing in the ski industry lacks its consumers a much-desired intimate experience that goes beyond simply supplying them a playground for themselves, their friends, and their families. A large portion of the market (18-30 year olds mostly) would welcome being interacted with in a whole new way – interactions that would have local insight that is both inspirational and untreated into the products and services they love. This sort of campaign would not be in replacement of the refined marketing strategy that has been successful for mountain resorts in the past, but would rather compliment it quite well and reach an audience in a way that will change how they view ski culture and ultimately where they decide to spend their extra hard-earned dollars.
A large section of the plan involves basic utilization of interactive platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. The magic of the plan is in the creative use of technology and the capturing authentic emotion. The campaign is fairly low budget, but could certainly be more impactful with a little extra money.
I have broken up what my campaign would be in three parts, which I will call Marketing Through a Different Lens, Sharing the Love in Both Directions, Tie it All Back Together with Personal Interactions.
Marketing Through a Different Lens
1. Documentary-type film based on the “life” of the mountain resort. Basically, an unscripted look at what is traditionally marketed each year by the resort.
Snow Production (ex. Grooming Operation at Mount Sunapee)
Whatever the mountain prides itself on
2. POV film of the 3 “best” trails at each mountain
The most thrill (black diamond or double black diamond)
The best cruiser (blue square)
The unique (sidecountry, park, trail with special view)
3. Through video, pictures, write-ups, and audio a real look into the good local eats (including the mountain’s lodge), local shops and brands to know, and après ski places and experiences.
4. Give customers GoPro’s to film their own POV films for an hour, morning, or full day similar to testing out skis. This promotes GoPro as well as gives footage to use (Customer inclusion).
Sharing the Love in Both Directions
1. Each element will be posted individually on YouTube and will be combined to create a 5 minute inspiring video of the mountain.
2. Blog-style webpage, Twitter, FourSquare, and Facebook will be fully integrated (except special content available on each medium exclusively). Constant variety of posts on each medium.
3. Blog-style webpage
Contests & Sweepstakes (Free Gear, Free Passes)
Where to be this upcoming weekend or upcoming vacation advice
Catching content to bring followers onto other media outlets (blog, Facebook)
“Check-In” Scavenger hunt around mountains for prizes
Connect customers with each other to learn about where the fun is
Let customers know where you will be to push personal interaction
Creative and interactive Welcome Page
Like Gating – Customers have to “like” Facebook page to see exclusive YouTube videos. Bold request for the “like” and hint at what’s waiting for the fan
Utilize “send” button to have customers share with friends easily
Create partnerships with resorts and ski manufacturers to benefit fans
Post Rules of Engagement for Fans (brief, but impactful and encouraging)
Places application utilized with FourSquare
Fill with photos of mountains and skiers posted by customers and the mountain
Tie it All Back Together with Personal Interaction
1. Host events that on the mountain where interactive media has a key role
2. Follow up with fans and followers – an online interaction should also continue on the slopes.
Learn why customers come back through a competition where they make their own videos (through camera phones and personal cameras) that show why they love the resort). This aspect of capturing data to push out offers would need to be improved upon.
3. Receive feedback and repeat.
What if ski resorts marketed their mountains like ski production companies market the ski culture, athletes, and brands that they represent in their films?
What I am getting at is that although ski resorts have executed high quality commercials over recent years, they have not been able to cause the viewer to forget they were being pitched to. Granted that television commercials and web videos are not anywhere close to the center of marketing strategy for any resorts, I still believe that film can take a more influential role than it does now.
Ski film became popular in parallel to the emergence of “extreme” skiing probably most notably in the early 1980′s. On the whole films were compiled of endless tricks and stunts. No story line. There was music, ski jumps, and powder lines continuing in what seemed to be an endless loop of adrenaline-infused video. In retrospect, any film from this point up until the turn of the century was lovingly referred to as ski porn. Appropriately named – all action, no plot.
I have not uncovered what film was the first to break away from this trend, but certainly I have found some in recent years that have done an exceptional job at being about more than just shots of big air and stylish spins. Certainly the ski film conversation cannot go far without mentioning Warren Miller’s contribution to encouraging skiing in America and undoubtedly the influence his films have had on any skier, but my first ski movie I purchased was something not necessarily deemed a classic.
The movie was Contrast by Nimbus Independent. Filmed on the basis of taking a different approach to both documenting and editing, the Contrast is moved forward by the story of a small group of progressive and innovative skiers. To set the stage, the film begins with a silent shot looking forward at the empty chairlift ahead in a snowy scene – a peaceful moment that any ski enthusiast has enjoyed. The film then shifts to intertwining interviews with each skier reminiscing how they began their journey in the sport while we see glimpses of home videos. Their dialog continuous through video of the friends planning a ski trip together and the travel it takes to get there, where then the professional-caliber ski video begins. Throughout these skiers talk about how skiing is an art, it is an expression for them. They share how valuable the adventure in getting to their snowy destinations is as the film goes between the actual skiing and shots from the car ride of the open road. Contrast even came in two disks, one was the motion picture and the other was a DVD of webisodes called “en route.” This film deeply made an impression on me and how I view the sport and culture I love. As the name alludes, it contrasts conventional thought and gets you to think about what is truly important and what you should actually be spending your money on.
Films such as Contrast are about the fun of the sport and showing it in all of its different lights – skiing has never been only about the snow. The marketing needs to reflect that and stay close to that intimate experience between yourself and the mountain and the experience between friends. I think in a way the ski industry has done a good job over the years, but for me who really hits the fun of the sport on the head is the freeskiing film crews. Now you may mention that none of these videos are trying to showcase a family-fun area or other aspects that are generally showcased at a resort, but it could. If I heard that there was a video compilation on the internet showcasing a mountain I would be much more interested than seeing the (well done, but just not the same) commercials on tv. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of one of those commercials for a mountain (naturally I won’t be sharing that link), and although they are done amazingly well, I think if a mountain was able to take the time to film all year the pure reactionary video from guests would sell more if done right.
Now the monetary cost and use of resources to get a season’s worth of film completed, organized, and edited for a ski mountain would at first seem far too monumental for its worth, but what if you put the skiers themselves in the position to do most of that for you? Let’s take a look at the probably unfamiliar name Andrew Whiteford and his contribution to ski film. Whiteford is credited with some of the year’s top Point of View (POV) videos which have circulated through Vimeo. Keeping mind he is a sponsored skier, you still watch his videos with amazement and enjoyment from anticipation of doing something similar yourself. POV photography has been growing for several years now because it gives such a unique, personal viewpoint. What if that viewpoint was delicately edited together to show what the actual, intimate experience is at any given ski resort? You could even take a competitive approach: check out the Jon Olsson Super Sessions (JOSS), a competition between 7 nation-based teams made up of 2 filmers, 2 pros, and 1 rookie who have 264 hours to put together a 5 minute edit that is judged on the aspects of the skiing and the film. My favorite video to come out of this format is the 2009 Team America video with Simon Dumont starting off talking about “that special moment when the light is perfect and the camera is in focus…” or on an unofficial level, the 2010 Team Canada celebratory parody of an old WWII film. For one last approach to the film idea we can look at the G.N.A.R. Competition and the movie that resulted from it put together by Unofficialsquaw. Yes the game may be slightly immature, but as the Skiing Magazine article points out, “it reminds us to stop taking everything so seriously” like Shane McConkey (the founder of the game) would have wanted it.
In essence, I would like to see film be used to appreciate the little things about the sport and culture of skiing. I also think that it would be of great advantage to many mountains to try and capture the small things about their resorts that keep bringing skiers back to market to their future skiers. In a small part, sidecountry (one of the growing elements of ski resorts) was embraced by resorts due to the popularity the videos gained with their skiers wanting to explore beyond the groomed trails (for example, Sugarloaf’s Bracket Basin). So I think that is enough proof to give the idea some consideration and certainly enough examples to continue enjoying the media behind a pastime I certainly love.