This year, the word resilient is thrown into almost every conversation. However, after 10+ years of working with ski resorts, we believe that the ski industry defines ‘resilience’ — every single season. Now, budgets are being slashed due to COVID, the climate continues to change rapidly and visitor’s travel plans will not look the same.
The ski industry’s marketers may get the shortest end of the ski-pole. But, we know their resilience (and years of practice) will shine this year, more than ever. For those ski industry marketers out there, we recommend getting back to the basics. Goodbye for now, flashy marketing campaigns, and hello, user-centric, inexpensive, marketing tactics.
1: Bulk Up The Informative Content
Given the relative similarities amongst the competitors for core content, it becomes very important to think outside of the box. If Google and users are seeing “basically the same” site time and time again within the competitive set, small improvements in content breadth and quality can go a long way towards improved organic positions.
Tactically, this looks like reevaluating your ‘core content’ on the site, those most visited pages. Do they satisfy user-intent? Do they answer the most frequently asked questions? Do they include links for further reading?
BEST EXAMPLE: You! After visiting more than a dozen site’s homepages they all began to blend together. They shout (buy a lift ticket!) rather than invite and inform.
COVID TIP: But first, before you revamp your core content, build a ‘bulletin board’ of up-to-date information on safety practices and protocols. This should be easy to find and present on every single page.
2: Redefine What Makes Your Resort Unique
As noted, the resorts take one of the following approaches: they are either trying to sell all the stuff that comes along with a ski vacation (i.e. things to do, logistics, lodging, etc.) or they are trying to think bigger and push the experience of a trip. When looking at the sites collectively, the approach of pushing experience overwhelmingly works better for content. It is more inspiring, more complete, and most likely better to convert. Furthermore, you can cover the same focus areas of the ‘selling’ sites while still pushing lifestyle. It is difficult to do the reverse.
BEST EXAMPLE: There is, perhaps, no domain doing a better job of emphasizing lifestyle than Aspen. They are far and above the best at showing the ideals, principles and guiding philosophy of their mountain. For example, nothing beats the ‘We Are Different‘ content silo on Aspen Snowmass. It encapsulates everything that they value. What’s more, the silo is not just a half-hearted tag-along piece of content. It is a core aspect of their content strategy online, just as the ideals are a core piece of who they are as a business. The combination is a powerful one.
COVID TIP: Speak candidly about how your resort supports your workers and your city. People want to feel like they are contributing more than just the price of a lift ticket, especially now.
3: Create First-Timers’ Guides
Most sites offer content to new visitors, but a few take it to the next level. Some of the best content we see exists in the form of comprehensive first timer’s guides. These are excellent content. We recommend all sites push a hard angle towards these new visitors. As much a resort can make them feel comfortable, informed, and excited ahead of time, the better. Plus, these should be relatively easy to put together as they consist of the basic info about a place.
BEST EXAMPLE: Jackson Hole is hard to get to, but worth the extra effort. And they built an app for that. We’d love to see other on-site content here too.
COVID TIP: A first time visitor will have a whole new set of concerns this year, therefore, you could test very unique formats to connect with them. What about hosting a welcome webinar? Or open up your chat feature? Or do an AMA on Facebook or Instagram live?
BONUS TIP: Google loves showing current, up to date content in the SERPs. Users like seeing up-to-date reports from the mountain. The easiest way to do that is via social. A content strategy that strives to integrate these concepts would be very powerful.
4: Show Off Your Surroundings
All the sites talk about the epic and incredible locations in which they are situated, but few actually show what they mean. A huge opportunity lies in letting people explore, get to know, and experience the areas and people they will be visiting. The mountains are an incredible place. Create content that provides information and resources all about the area where people will be coming.
This could look like any number of creative ideas: you could talk about the geography of the area. You could write about the local history of the land and how people have engaged with it. You could highlight local shops that people love to visit.
BEST EXAMPLE: A lot of resorts sprinkle this in through all their marketing channels, but they haven’t given it a permanent home. The closest example we could find is Aspen Snowmass’s employee page. Who doesn’t want to get to know the locals and steal their tips?
COVID TIP: Let your people speak for you. Highlight seasonal workers, staff, and locals. Mimic the collection and tactics of ‘testimonials’, as ways to connect your visitors to your community, before they visit.
5: Continue to Leverage User-Generated Content
A way to further expand upon shared social content is to take it a step further by actually featuring and exploring user stories.
It is no secret that we live in an age where people love to share, show off, and generally distribute the cool things they do. A ski trip or a day on the hill is a very cool thing for most people. As such, the opportunity to tell a story and feature the experiences of others is huge. This content already exists to a large degree, so the key is to harness it and find ways to make it a core pillar of the on-site strategy.
BEST EXAMPLE: We encourage you to look beyond the ski industry for inspiration, often. Our favorite recent example is from medium-sized home decor and pottery shop in Kansas City. They make a habit of posting behind the scenes stories on Instagram and asking for feedback, constantly.
COVID TIP: Make these easy to find, so people can feel like they can capture a ‘live’ look at your resort, whenever they need it.
6: Focus on Demographic-Specific Content
Most competitors naturally segment their content by activity or function (i.e. lodging, vs. tickets vs. mountain info, etc.) However, very few attempt to organize content based on the actual users coming to the site. This lack of demographic segmentation within the content is striking. It’s almost unheard of for resorts to think of their content in a manner of, “Ok… I’m an avid skier, but not an expert looking for a hard-charging weekend. What do you have for me?”
Thinking about content generation and segmenting from a person’s perspective could be an incredible way to not only drum up new content ideas but also, to think about more effectively organizing content that already exists. The ski industry lends itself to fairly easily definable personas, so take advantage of this with custom-generated content generation.
BEST EXAMPLE: You again! We truly could not find a great example.
COVID TIP: Budgets will be tighter this year and building content not just for what type of skier they are, but also what type of experience they can afford this year.
7: Show off Your Environmentalism
For many, being on the mountain is about more than just skiing. In the face of mounting environmental, people, and legal pressures, the effort to protect and steward the mountains is growing. These pressures represent an opportunity.
Environmental protection, altruism, and support of worthy causes can be a key theme for any resort and represents a major content differentiator. Many of the competing sites talk about these things, but few show an actual commitment. In a growing age of focusing on these values, expanded content in this area could represent an opportunity to be a real leader with regard to this content by highlighting it on the site.
BEST EXAMPLE: Taos Ski Valley is the first-ever, B Corp ski resort. They must live what they market, thanks to these high B Corp standards.
COVID TIP: Find ways for visitors to become a bigger part of the change or help them understand the impact of their visit and how they can off-set it.
8: Optimize Your Old Videos
Most ski resorts are investing heavily in video, but some are doing it much better than others. For an industry that is so heavily dependent upon visuals, stories, and selling the experience, it is difficult to argue that there is any better medium to do this than with video.
However, properly optimizing a video requires a whole lot more than just putting it on a page. There are many techniques and tips you can use to ensure that you are getting maximum visibility out of not only the video itself but also out of the URL on which it sits. Here is an excellent resource for the top 10 video optimization tips you can use for improving your video’s impact.
BEST EXAMPLE: Almost all resorts! But do they begin to all look the same?
COVID TIP: Focus less on new content and reformat, enhance and optimize what you can.
9: Tell All About the Specifics of the Mountain
Nearly every competitor has a silo dedicated to ‘Mountain Information’. Each set of content looks generally the same: it explains mountain stats, vital info, how to get around, etc. This content is useful from an informational standpoint and has its place. However, it is still missing something vital.
Once visitors understand the general layout of things, they want to then know the specifics. They want to be able to find that information quickly and repeat users will reply on it, for each trip. details and will seek out information that will give them a unique experience. Resorts should not forget that not everyone is local. Much information that feels like it’s obvious can be hugely beneficial and interesting to site visitors.
BEST EXAMPLE: Eldora’s Twitter feed is less fluff and more ‘vital stuff’. Parking updates, wind, and lift conditions can be found simply, in one location. Every single time.
COVID TIP: Create a similar feeling through email alerts, that folks can easily rely on. This information will be way more vital this year, so skip the long email newsletters, for now.
2020 and Beyond
Good content marketing in the ski industry can be tough. It is a very competitive, growing space. What’s more, the competition out there generally does an excellent job of covering their bases and offers a healthy set of core content. In light of these challenges, it is more important than ever to get back to the basics.
As marketers who have fought on the front lines with ski resorts for many years, we’re all ears. We’d love to help in any way we can.