The NSAA Marketing Awards are presented annually to ski resorts across the country for their successful sales & marketing programs that help grow the sports of skiing and snowboarding. These awards are designed to benefit the entire industry by raising overall marketing standards and promoting sustained growth of the industry. The awards recognize the best in ski area marketing campaigns.
Thank you to our gracious sponsor of the 2021 Marketing Awards, Doppelmayr.
Past Marketing Award Winners
Congratulations to the 2021 Marketing Award Winners and Finalists
Best Overall Marketing Campaign
- Winner: Wild Mountain, Minnesota
- The Keep it Wild campaign told the story of new ownership and high-visibility capital improvements, such as chairlift refurbishment and a new bar and deck, which really stood out amidst the COVID-heavy focus of the season. Wild Mountain saw a 24% increase in total winter revenues, a 75% increase in ticket revenue, and a 125% increase in future season pass sales. On top of that, the ski area deserves a kudos for attaining CarbonNeutral Certification through Natural Capital Partners, diverting waste and many other sustainability successes achieved for the modest investment of about $13K in carbon monitoring, renewable energy credits and carbon offsets. This purpose-driven campaign impressed judges by establishing a good foundation from a clear brand promise and authentically changing the guest experience to align with that promise. The judges also appreciated that a small resort in Minnesota was making big moves for the climate with eye-catching collateral. The cohesive Keep it Wild creative was delivered across video, (owned) billboards, email, direct mail and web, and the ski area took the opportunity to upgrade its email templates and gather mailing data for direct mail campaigns that still cut through the digital clutter.
- Blue Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania
- Blue Mountain Resort encouraged guests to Escape the Indoors this season, highlighting skiing and riding as a safe and solid outlet. A campaign with legs to be used for years to come, it was apparent to judges that Blue Mountain understands its audience demographic. The ski area went heavy on digital and local radio ads to keep the campaign dynamic and targeted to families and millennials in state due to Pennsylvania’s travel restrictions. Escape the Indoors aimed to increase skier, lesson and snow tubing attendance on the mountain by 10% each over last season. Employing clever messaging such as a play on remote learning and 1,000 feet of social distancing between snow tubers, the campaign crushed the targets: lessons increased by 31%, skier visits increased by 36%, and snow tubing increased by 41%.
- Jay Peak Resort, Vermont
The Return was a distinctive and top notch effort from Jay Peak that judges called a true campaign with a concept, content, and look and feel that aligns all elements and departments and clearly differentiates. Amidst Vermont’s very strict coronavirus environment, this clever print, web, social, email and billboard campaign emphasized the phased reopening, as well as many other programs, across three seasons. The ski area used a concert/music festival narrative where various acts came back online across multiple stages, a fun double entendre representing summer, fall and winter. Jay Peak used concert-style posters and illustrated characters, including a masked Sasquatch and an asterisk emcee (that also kind of resembles a ski pole basket), in an engaging and dynamic way that could be deployed across channels and altered to fit various messaging. As a side note, the Shining parody starring Jay Peak President and GM Steve Wright is a guaranteed, one-minute laugh: jaypeakresort.com/return-campaign-videos.
Most Unique Campaign
- Winner: Boreal / Woodward, California
- Judges loved It’s Go Time from Boreal for its ability to meet the needs of their guest, demonstrating an awareness of how this target behaves. The ski area’s Go Time Tickets program releases a certain number of online pre-purchase lift tickets for six sessions, decreasing in cost throughout the day — effectively creating a premium and a discount product and eliminating the exclusivity factor from the equation. In an era when season pass products are the focus of so much marketing, it’s refreshing to see a simplified lift ticket structure and campaign that makes the sometimes untouchable lift ticket accessible, enabling anyone to get out on the mountain at almost any time for a price that meets their budget. The Go Time campaign’s execution, with a built-in call-to-action, also stood out this season for its creative, video-heavy approach. Boreal realized an impressive 51% increase in revenue for daily access, a 10 point boost to NPS, 20,000 new guests added to their database, and effectively pushing participation into the “white space” of weekdays and nights.
- Jay Peak Resort, Vermont
- Jay Peak’s Relocation Vacation program managed to take one of the toughest coronavirus situations in the country and transform it into a lodging success. With its significant inventory of units left empty sans any of the usual wedding business, team travel, golf vacations, etc., the ski area used the new remote-work reality to their favor, luring people up for extended stays. Judges appreciated the clean and coordinated campaign, which ran across website, social and emails, all targeted to its existing core audience with modest marketing spend. The concept to invite guests up for an extended, reasonably-priced, pet-friendly stay packaged together with activities garnered a quarter million in room revenue and the same amount in associated spends during the summer and fall months. In the winter, Jay Peak brought in a total of $1 million in room revenue plus $500,000 in associated spends. Another win that caught judges’ attention: Relocation Vacation persuaded a handful of families to convert to Jay Peak homeowners.
- McIntyre Ski Area, New Hampshire
- This terrain park brand redesign turned park safety and community-building campaign was a fresh concept with long-term potential that stood out this season. Focusing their terrain park around the MAC PAC program, an inclusive opportunity for kids aged 6–12 to learn park etiquette and progress their skills with instruction, was a smart way to bolster participation throughout the community. Beyond successfully building a presence for the parks on Instagram, McIntyre created strong word-of-mouth opportunities through its branded swag, giving its participants MAC PAC sweatshirts, hats and water bottles. The ski area even gifted a custom baseball trading card for each kid on the freestyle team featuring their photo, stats from the season and a fun design. This terrain park-based campaign resulted in a 500% increase in total event attendance, more engagement across social, and on the mountain, the MAC PAC students quickly outgrew their original trick list and became more motivated to ride than ever before.
Best Use of Mobile Technology
- Winner: Snowbird, Utah
- Raise the woof for Snowbird’s Dog Chat! Making the ski area’s avalanche dogs the voice and face of their chat bot messaging — replete with frustration-diffusing dog puns — is a very smart and creative move that capitalizes on some of the most popular content in skiing (tied with babies on a snowboard). Judges appreciated how Snowbird connected such a strong brand point, avy dogs, back into a useful tool. Dog Chat boasted close to 900 programmed responses and growing, even utilizing YouTube videos for instructional answers to certain questions. Since launching in February 2020, the Snowbird Dog Chat has answered over 31,000 inbound messages from guests, and the estimated cost savings within the first year was equivalent to 30 work weeks of a staff member responding to each question. According to judges, this campaign’s impressive ROI shows how an investment in technology, if done well, can have a significant payoff. On top of cost savings, the chat dogs were able to get ticket and lodging inquiries seamlessly into the purchase funnel, driving $150,000 in projected annual assisted revenue and the fourth highest conversion rate of all Snowbird’s digital marketing channels. Snowbird has plans to develop this service in cool and functional ways, including integrating data feeds to populate the chat with real time answers to weather and operations questions, and working it into Facebook messenger and the Snowbird app.
- Purgatory Resort, Colorado
- Purgatory’s successful lodging campaign, based exclusively on first-party targeting, is ahead of the game given the questionable future of third-party cookies. This strategic effort from Purgatory involved integrating its CRM to automate advertising audiences, effectively lowering their ad spend and increasing their MROI by going after existing customers. Judges called this a very savvy use of audience targeting with minimal spend waste. Using owned data with placements across social media, Google search and network, radio and digital billboards, the ski area spent less than half on the ad buy but nearly quadrupled conversions, realizing a 51x ROI and blowing away last year’s lodging revenue with more mid-week stays to boot. Purgatory also played with audience targeting logic and kept the campaign dynamic.
- Wachusett, Massachusetts
- Wachusett implemented a peer-to-peer SMS initiative — taking new FCC autodialer rules into account — to efficiently engage guests and drive revenue on a one-to-one basis. This campaign got away from traditional opt-in platforms with a new text message-based channel using data collected from POS and RFID systems. The ski area set out to enhance customer communication with offers targeted to segments, including day ticket purchasers and season passholders. Secondarily, Wachusett wanted to establish two-way communication with on-mountain guests in real time, reaching about 99% this season and inviting them to enjoy mountain amenities while informing of any pandemic protocols. Judges loved the use of 1:1 technology to deliver personalized and relevant messages, calling it a smart use of mobile in a relatively untapped SMS category. In the course of this campaign, Wachusett delivered 49 separate promotions reaching a total audience of 83,707 guests, achieving an impressive 99% open rate and an average click-through rate of 12.7%, nearly four times higher than email.
Best Social Media Campaign
- Winner: SilverStar Mountain Resort, British Columbia
- In a season when gatherings of all kinds fell to the wayside, SilverStar’s virtual event series, complete with terrain park competitions, on/off-mountain activations and competitions, was an inspired idea to keep the momentum and spirit of competition going. All of the various components to this campaign featured unique methods for guest engagement, incentivized with high-quality prizes, and the gathering and sharing of user-generated content was as robust as it comes. Judges appreciated SilverStar’s dynamic and eye-catching creative, good use of sponsorship branding and fun, click-prompting imagery. The ski area’s social media audience agreed: +15% Instagram & +1% Facebook audience growth; 7.5% engagement rate, an increase of 4% over average; 163 entries for Rail Jam/SEISMIC Hits and hundreds of tagged posts; More than 53,000 positive reactions, comments and shares; organic reach over 1 million+; video views 140,000+ owned channels, and 35,000+ guest channels; direct shoutouts from prize winners on their socials tagging and thanking brands. This is a strategy that can carry over and will work well when social content is needed beyond the pandemic.
- Shawnee Mountain, Pennsylvania
- A marketing campaign focused around recruiting staff was a smart idea during an up-in-the-air year. Shawnee Mountain targeted their approach to retirees, the ski area’s development program graduates, and students with flexibility in their schedule (who wound up becoming a great staffing resources to ski areas this season). Social media messaging highlighted the opportunities to take advantage of learning from home, in the case of students, or passing on their knowledge, which was affective in getting more than 100 enrollees into Shawnee’s free Instructor Training Class — more than three times the participation from the season prior. Judges offered kudos to Shawnee for extending the reach of ski instructing to a new audience through an effective employee targeted campaign that invited people to join the team with custom messaging.
- Sunlight Mountain Resort, Colorado
- Now in its sixth year, Mini-Mayor is a cute content goldmine for Sunlight Mountain Resort. That was especially true this year with kids campaigning virtually on social media, creating ready-made user-generated photos and video. Sunlight estimated Mini-Mayor’s total reach to be more than 321 million readers and viewers with a comparative ad value of $14.5 million. Judges found the earned media exposure of this program — nationally recognized across print and broadcast outlets — to be undeniably impressive and also appreciated the PR effort and engagement components. What’s also really cool about this campaign is that the promotion is carried out live at the mountain. The most recent Mini-Mayor, 6 year old April Carter, enacted a successful coat drive and contribution to NSAA’s SWAG, and passed the Garlic Chicken Sunday Act with 10% of proceeds from her father’s recipe served at the Sunlight lodge donated to Literacy Outreach of Glenwood Springs.
Best Use of Video
- Winner: Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort, Washington
- Where many chairlift replacement projects get shine in the form of lift towers hanging from helicopters — photo and video that’s impressive in its own right — Mission Ridge gave viewers On The Way Up, an 18-part video series that documented every detail. As our judges point out, people love being in the loop with what’s happening at their favorite ski area. This project was major, and the fact that the ski area had the foresight to turn it into a mini documentary was fantastic. The judges also appreciated this unique campaign’s local tie-in to community businesses. With this campaign, Mission Ridge set out to drive social media engagement during the down season, and the results reflected success by every measure: 11% increase in year over year total views; views of On The Way Up accounted for 59% of all views across platforms; average views of episodes were 568% higher than the average views this season for weekly conditions videos; YouTube subscribers increased 81% since the start of the series. Another unique aspect to this video campaign is that it helped Mission Ridge stay in front of guests with a strong narrative while the ski area opted to pull back on all unnecessary and advertising-related posts and content out of respect for our nation’s ongoing social justice focus.
- Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California
- The athlete influencer POV video of a creative run through the resort never gets old. Mammoth’s partnership with Chris Benchetler and GoPro to feature a hidden line snaking through the rocks followed by several insane airs (some off resort-branded kickers), captured the adventure of skiing Mammoth and millions of viewers’ attention. This video campaign really showcased the power of an influencer’s sponsor network to multiply a message, and the ski area smartly brought GoPro, with its massive social media audiences, into the fold. Judges called the cross-promotion and results — 63.4 million views and over 7 million engagements — hugely compelling, very well documented, and a great collective strike between athlete/sponsorships and the resort. Even more impressively, the videos topped all three promoters’ social channels in terms of organic views and was picked up nationally via SportsCenter and Good Morning America, went viral on Reddit and was trending on the Reddit homepage, among many other earned mentions.
- Snowbird, Utah
- Little Cottonwood Canyon’s longest Interlodge in history is a story that deserved telling, and Snowbird captured the surreal situation as it unfolded in its stunningly produced At Last video. With the basics of the historic 60-hour Interlodge covered on the news, the ski area was free to focus on capturing the magic of the experience firsthand through their At Last video. Snowbird also deserves kudos for featuring a badass crew of female athletes enjoying dibs on all that powder. It’s not surprising that this was the ski area’s highest performing Instagram video of the year at more than 32,000 views, also garnering over 11,000 views on YouTube and a reach of about 80,000 people. Snowbird’s aspirational content did such a good job capitalizing on the natural stoke around a storm of this proportion that the ski area even saw $300,000+ in associated revenue and an immediate boost in lodging bookings from inspired skiers and riders.