Fall Immersion 2019 Conference Highlights

Fall Immersion 2019 Conference Highlights

Every fall we invite all our resort partners to gather for two days of networking, educational presentations, information sharing and creative discussion on what we can all be doing collectively to help grow our sports.  This year’s Immersion took place at Mountain Creek Resort in New Jersey and included a sneak peak of the upcoming Big SNOW American Dream, North America’s first real-snow, year-round, indoor ski and snowboard resort opening in the New Jersey Meadowlands this December.  Below is a recap of this year’s event for those who were unable to attend.

2019 Fall Partner Immersion Conference Highlights
By: Eric Lipton, COO Conversion & Growth Progam

Thank you to the resorts and supplier partners who joined us at Mountain Creek, NJ Oct 2-4th for our 6th Annual Immersion Conference, and a special thank you to the Speakers who make this event such a valuable learning experience for all.  To kick off the event on Oct 2nd, the group enjoyed a private tour of Big SNOW, North America’s First Indoor ski area, as well as American Dream, the 5 million square foot entertainment and retail complex at the Meadowlands.  The night was capped off with dinner in Times Square.

Congratulations to the 5 Resorts who received a SNOW Platinum Partner Award.  These resorts are leading the way in creating great guest experiences.

Aspen Snowmass, CO

Cranmore Mountain, NH

Jiminy Peak, MA

Les Sommets, QC

Taos, NM

Windham Mountain, NY

SNOW Operating CEO Joe Hession set the stage for the event, imploring attendees to think differently about how we serve the guest.  “Question everything, and be bold.” said Hession.  Borrowing a phrase from Daniel Burrus, keynote speaker at NSAA 2019 national convention, Hession continued, “You’ve got to let go of old ways of doing business.  Even if you grab hold of a new vine, you’ve got to let go of the old vine in order to move forward.  Be fearless, and let go of some old vines.”

Hession then presented NSAA President Kelly Pawlak with a $5,000 donation to the Mountain Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit scholarship foundation created to prepare the next generation of ski industry leaders for the challenges that lie ahead, giving the best and brightest ski industry employees increased access to education with the goal of taking their ski careers to the next level.

Keynote Speaker and President of NSAA Kelly Pawlak kicked off the morning presentations by taking attendees through the growth initiatives that NSAA is spear-heading.   Under the umbrella of the Growth Committee, multiple work groups have formed to tackle everything from transforming the Conversion Cookbook into an evolving toolkit, to creating resources for resorts to make a Learn-To-Ski-and-Snowboard campaign work for them – at anytime of the season, not a specific month, to exploring Non-Traditional lesson structures.

Dave Belin, Director of Consulting Services at RRC Associates then took the stage to share the latest research on beginner participants, as well as what we know about Lapsed skiers and riders and how we might approach that group to make their re-entry into the sport as friction-free as possible.

SNOW Operating VP of Marketing & Sales, Hugh Reynolds commented, “We want to make sure that our resort partners always have the most up-to-date research available so they can make decisions based on sound data, so having RRC here to share that information is extremely beneficial.”

The conversation then turned to creating strong, resilient culture – both resort wide and within the Ski & Ride school, so Managing Director of the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen, Jonathan Ballou shared with the audience some of their secret sauce.  And for eastern resorts interested in what they can do on a smaller scale to build culture, Caroline Conner of Snowshoe, WV took attendees through the steps that she’s taken to transform her school into a close knit group based on mutual respect, and infusing their core values into on-boarding and training.  “We take care of Snowshoe guests, and each other,” Conner noted.

“I’ve always been so inspired at this event, and having been able to share what we’re doing – and give the attendees a little shot of West Virginia culture, makes me very proud.” She added.

The group took an afternoon break to enjoy some outdoor recreation time at Mountain Creek’s Golf course, or Mountain Bike park, and reconvened for an evening design-thinking exercise, led by Hugh Reynolds.

Reynolds commented, “It gets our creative juices flowing.  You can bet that some crazy ideas came out of this session for how we could attract and retain guests, and we need that – to keep thinking differently.”

“Free form brainstorming is something that we really encourage resorts to do.  It’s often not the crazy ideas that wind up being implemented, but it’s the creativity that spawns from those crazy ideas that can turn out to be revolutionary, said Eric Lipton, COO of SNOW Operating.

Inntopia’s SVP of Strategy, and the marketing mind behind the Slopefillers blog, Gregg Blanchard delivered a thought-provoking presentation about the industry needs to re-examine how we market our sports if we intend to grow participation. Recognizing that only 3% of the population skis and snowboards, we’ve got to appeal to non-participants in ways that resonate.  “50% off lessons” doesn’t cut it.  Consider phraseology that is relatable to everyone. “Sledding?  Pretty fun.  Skiing? Pure magic!”

“Gregg continues to challenge us to think differently.  Our industry can sometimes be guilty of setting marketing on auto-pilot, repeating offers and campaigns from previous seasons, and Gregg inspires us to stretch our minds and create,” said Lipton.

SNOW Partner Prinoth delivered a short presentation on their snowcat technology and how the company is taking an active stand against climate change and is leading the industry in almost zero carbon emissions from their snowcats.

Sue Urbanchick, Director of Marketing at PSIA-AASI was in attendance and Kevin Jordan, creator of some of PSIA-AASI’s first E-Learning Courses shared how the program has evolved to offer course in more disciplines and specializations – from New Instructor guides, to Certifications. Resorts can tap into this educational content to enhance their in-house training and speed up new instructor on-boarding. PSIA-AASI continues to forge ahead in providing more tools to make instructor training easier and less costly.

Capping off the event, Eric Lipton shared the findings from our Voice of the Customer study last season, capturing live interviews with first time guests answering questions such as “What inspired you to try skiing or snowboarding today” to “What types of images come to mind when you think of skiing and snowboarding.”  See our website for the full article on this study.

Overall, the event was well received and is considered by attendees to be the perfect start to their season, giving enough time to implement new ideas in advance of the coming winter.

“Like every year, I learned a ton from the event,” said Craig Cimmons, Ski & Ride School Director at Jay Peak.

“So many great ideas and best practices to take home to share and execute at our Resort.  Your passion, motivation and energy at SNOW Operating are very contagious and a driving force for many of us to always be improving and embracing change,” says Karen Dolan, Snowsports Director of Cranmore, NH.

Photos courtesy of Dave Gibson.  See the Full Gallery Here

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