Ski Resorts and Snow Reports and Social Media: A match made in heaven?

19 01 2010

Howdy, Katie Van Sant here, of Extanz.com fame.  As those who read this blog know, here at Extanz, we’re always keeping an eye on trends and creative ideas in the social media sphere. My attention, therefore, is always

(and naturally) piqued when the conventional media looks at the use of social media in sectors in which I’m personally active.  Last week for example, NPR ran a story about how ski areas have been inflating snowfall data on weekends to attract skiers. While this news wasn’t much of a shocker, this next part was fascinating: ski areas that were reporting data on the popular iPhone ski report app and that had good iPhone reception (for skiers and riders to send instant condition updates) had reduced their snow report inflation due to the instant backlash by the ski and snowboard community. Yet another example of how social media is democratizing the dissemination of information across industries. These days, I too look to my iPhone for the snow report at Steamboat rather than calling the snow report hotline number I’ve had memorized since I was 6 years old.

This news made me wonder about the rest of the social media platforms – you know, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr etc. – and whether they were now being leveraged by ski areas and their customers to a similar degree. Ski areas are perfectly positioned to leverage social media because they have loyal customers like you and I, who are enthusiastic about sharing their activities on the mountain and staying up-to-date on snow conditions, competitions and events. Little did I know how much the ski areas already knew this…

So, which of the major North American ski areas do you think are taking advantage of social media’s opportunities to best connect with their community? Let’s take a look. I identified the top ski areas, compiling the top 2010 ski areas as identified by the perennial ‘best ski resorts’ reports by Skiing Magazine and Outside Magazine.  Now, I’ll acknowledge this list leaves out some of the best local and regional ski areas – Bridger Bowl, Mt. Hood Meadows, anywhere in Alaska – but we have to start somewhere. Next, representation and community engagement across social media platforms were measured.  During a recent social media presentation, Vail CEO Rob Katz brought up a key point that was taken into consideration when ranking these resorts: videos. As all you skiers and riders out there know, we spend Fall getting amped up for ski season at Warren Miller and Teton Gravity Research ski film showings. A number of other factors were considered as well in order to rank the ski areas (i.e. one resort may have had more Facebook fans, but another’s Twitter and YouTube presence trumped the Facebook fan count):

  • Facebook fans,
  • Facebook fan engagement through ‘liking,’ commenting & posting, posting pictures & videos,
  • Twitter followers & activity,
  • YouTube presence measured by subscribers, views & videos, and
  • Quality of engagement on behalf of the resort (as opposed to super enthusiastic, unprompted fan postings).

And….now for the drumroll…

The Top 10 North American Ski Resorts Utilizing Social Media are:

  1. Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia: 26,059 fans, 405 fan photos, 7,856 followers, operating their own video site (rock stars!)
  2. Mammoth Mountain, California: 19,366 fans, 217 fan photos, 3,504 followers, 19,308 YouTube views
  3. Vail, Colorado: 10,049 fans, 12 fan videos, 3420 followers, 297,059 YouTube views
  4. Breckenridge, Colorado: 10,042 fans, 9 fan videos, 3,806 followers, 353,085 YouTube views
  5. Jackson Hole, Wyoming: 10,573 fans, 299 fan photos, 23 fan videos, 2,771 followers, 344,602 YouTube views
  6. Keystone, Colorado: 9,706 fans, 93 fan photos, 4,276 followers, 16,576 YouTube views
  7. Bear Mountain, California: 11,984 fans, 209 fan photos, 1,180 followers, 682 YouTube views
  8. Sugarloaf, Maine: 10,946 fans, 24 fan photos, 1,739 followers, 89,000 YouTube views
  9. Jay Peak, Vermont: 9,706 fans, 237 fan photos, 1460 followers, 44,198 YouTube views
  10. Sunday River, Maine: 7,460 fans, 49 fan photos, 1,706 followers, 319,591 YouTube views

With an honorable mention: Steamboat Springs, CO: Steamboat can’t get it’s social media act together with two competing Facebook and Twitter sites, but between the 2 sites (admittedly, there’s overlap), Steamboat has 11,286 fans, 151 fan photos, and 1,918 followers.

Wow! Clearly, Whistler Blackcomb is blowing everyone else out of the water, even the ski areas run by Vail Resorts (Vail, Keystone, Beaver Creak, Breckenridge, Heavenly). As you may know, Vail Resorts implemented a much covered social media strategy this season, shifting 80% of its print advertising budget to social media and other short-lead mediums. Its resorts are showing strong results in the social media sphere, but the results are often community driven, i.e. these resorts are maintaining their social media sites, but not engaging their communities on the level other Top 10 resorts are. Interestingly, Heavenly, the largest U.S. ski resort, doesn’t even rank in the Top 10. Remember the ski videos? Vail Resorts took this info and ran with it, garnering YouTube views only matched by Jackson Hole, the long-time leader in ski videos.

So, is Whistler’s dominance driven by the looming 2010 Winter Olympics? OR do people just really love Whistler? What do you think?

We’ll ponder the ‘Olympic Effect’ in upcoming posts and see what else is going on at the nexus of social media and the ski industry!

Thanks to tim_in_sydney and toetoe for the great pictures.

Katie

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