WATERTOWN, CT ??вЂќ AlpineZone, a popular Northeastern ski and snowboard website located at www.alpinezone.com, has introduced a revolutionary means of communication between its members and key players in the Northeast’s snow sports resort industry. Borne of website founder Greg Blasko’s innovation, and the suggestions of its users, the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge is a way for Internet-savvy skiing enthusiasts to directly ask specific questions of Northeast ski area representatives.
The program has been effective in dispelling rumors and myths that plague the industry amongst its patrons, while giving consumers a sense of the challenges involved with ski area marketing and operations. Northeast ski area managers previously seemed unaware of the valuable resource at their disposal in the various online skiing communities that are literally filled with passionate members anxious to ask questions and provide feedback. Consumer responses to detailed, specific questions are not easily achieved by emailing the mountain or by visiting their guest services counters.
When AlpineZone.com forum member Bill O’Brien, posting via the nickname “ChileMass,” started an online discussion topic entitled “…and now, let’s hear from the Marketing Department…,” other forum members were likely unaware of what would follow. In that discussion, known on the Internet as a “thread,” AlpineZone participant “Joshua B” suggested inviting a mountain representative “to participate in an interview, where we generate the questions in advance and then post the results of the interview.” Blasko ran with the idea.
He encountered difficulty convincing some ski and snowboard resorts to participate. Forum member “Klugscheisser” is not surprised. “What’s stunning is how little attention most of the mountains pay to online ski chat boards,” said Klugscheisser. “If I were running a resort, I’d take advantage of them to a much larger extent.”
In their defense, most ski area marketing reps lack the time to visit, much less participate directly on Internet message boards. Furthermore, conflict sometimes ensues in such public situations, a situation that most resorts understandably wish to avoid. To overcome this obstacle, the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge mediates the dialogue by providing a structured format for the general skiing and riding public to ask ten specific questions of resort representatives in advance, and their responses are posted online for all to see. Ski resort staffers are starting to take notice.
According to the program’s first respondent, Eric Friedman, Marketing Director for Mad River Glen, “the most important thing that we can do to promote Mad River Glen is to develop a long-term relationship with our skiers.” Friedman adds, “Hopefully I have been able to convey what is unique and special about Mad River Glen and encouraged some new people to visit us this winter.”
Cindy Feltch, Group Sales Manager for Bretton Woods Mountain Resort in New Hampshire, says that the challenge “has provided us with a great venue to present the facts without the hype to people who really are interested in snow sports in New Hampshire and New England.”
Chris Bradford, Director of Sales and Marketing for Crotched Mountain Ski Area in Bennington, New Hampshire agrees. “It gave me a venue through which I could inform interested skiers about topics not generally covered in day-to-day marketing,” Bradford says. “Since Crotched is a new ski area, there have been a lot of rumors and misconceptions about it. Every piece of information I can put out is absolutely critical to our success as a business.”
The information gathered from the responses was clearly of interest to AlpineZone readers. The online community learned how Mad River Glen’s ownership transferred to a cooperative, and the history behind the ski area’s famous “Ski It If You Can” bumper sticker. They learned about terrain expansion and glade clearing at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Massachusetts before this information was officially released to the public. Similarly, the installation of wireless Internet in the hotels at Sunday River Ski Resort in Bethel, Maine was revealed first directly to AlpineZone readers.
Northeastern snow sports resorts have earned credibility in the online skiing and snowboarding community via their participation in the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge, as “Joshua B’s” feedback illustrates. “From the reps’ answers, you come away with a positive or negative feeling, based on how forthcoming you feel the rep answered the questions. We want to ski at areas where we think they’re doing the right thing, or at least striving to present us with a positive experience,” he said. Bill O’Brien adds, “The instant-grading nature of the forum has the potential to create a lot of interest for members to visit an area they haven’t been to before.”
A total of 28 Northeast ski area representatives have responded to the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge thus far, and more are constantly being added. Questions and responses posted to date may be viewed online at http://skiing.alpinezone.com/articles/challenge/ .