Podcast: Winterplace Ski Resort “warms” guests to adventure

Engaging guests year-round creates opportunities for authentic marketing and brand loyalty.

Winterplace Executive VP Tom Wagner talks about updating guests with video, how they engage new skiers and hooking fans (and future employees) in the 5th grade.

Winterplace Ski Resort is a day use ski area located in Southern West Virginia. Attracting skiers from around the region, Winterplace is known for its dependable snow (due to the extensive snow making system), fun terrain, and friendly staff. Winterplace has a proud tradition of introducing first-time skiers and snowboarders to a lifelong passion of Winter Sports.

Winterplace was voted the #1 Place to Learn to Ski and Snowboard in the South by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, and Executive Vice President Tom Wagner knows why. “We get you to the fun fast. No one does it better.”


Influencers and Digital Marketing for the Win!

Winterplace Ski Resort takes a grassroots approach to the local markets by making themselves available to local media for interviews, short news stories, weather forecasts, or live shots that showcase the resorts. As Tom reminds us, “If your local media station is a small or medium market, they are rotating through reporters every 1 to 2 years. These stations are looking for stories to fill their time slots that viewers like to watch.”

Take some time to get to know these stations and their staff. Knowing the reporters and making yourself accessible can give you tons of earned media coverage. Sending press releases every time there is an event drives attention to your attraction. For the ski resort, that may be a seasonal hiring clinic, staff training, snowmaking, opening day, or holiday specials. Many times, this can be picked up across your state or on the national news as a bright or fun spot on what can otherwise be a dark news day.

Tom asserts that digital advertising today is critical for success. Not only do these channels allow marketers to get messaging out but everyone’s phone has now become a cash register.

“Imagine if 30 years ago we would have known that people would be purchasing everything from pizza to luxury vacations from their handheld phone. With more and more people always on a hand held device, the importance of paying attention and staying current in the digital world can’t be taken for granted.”

Here’s an example of how Winterplace uses simple YouTube videos they create in-house to keep guests up-to-date on conditions and options. You’ll see why Tom’s iconic mustache prompts guests to arrive at the ski resort with cardboard mustache cutouts in hand.

Five Rules for Successful Marketing for this Winter Attraction

  1. Stay connected to the communities you do business with.
  2. Look for changing trends with your customers and what they are looking for.
  3. Take advantage of Earned Media when possible. There’s nothing better than a free third-party endorsement.
  4. Stay relevant with your market and how you communicate with them.
  5. Pay attention to the marketing analytics and use them to stay current. “If you can’t measure it, why are you doing it?”

Prediction: Emerging Marketing Trends

Tom foresees advances in how technology allows attractions to interact with patrons and speed up the purchasing cycle. “Advertising that can be viewed on your handheld device along with the ability to make reservations… This will continue to grow.” Shorter and shorter purchasing cycles wthanks to mobile technology will allow younger generations to have more purchasing power.

“For resorts such as ours, we’ll see a growing number of our product purchases happen prior to arrival, followed by seamless flow for the customer to become engaged with the experience.”

About the Guest: Tom Wagner is the Executive Vice President of Winterplace Ski Resort located in Ghent WV. His career has spanned over 40 years of experience promoting, marketing and operating outdoor adventure facilities. Besides his current position at Winterplace, Tom’s experience ranges from the development of the West Virginia White Water Rafting industry, working for the outdoor supplier and image company “Patagonia,” to overseeing the construction and helping to package the adventures facilities for The Summit, the largest high adventure camp in the country for the Boy Scouts of America.

Want more destination and attraction marketing insights? Find our most recent chats on the Zesty Marketing Podcast.

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