There’s been little to no snow this winter, which has been a gift to those of us who commute in America’s northernly cities but an absolute existential disaster for ski resorts. You just can’t make enough snow (or keep making it fast enough) to come anywhere close to providing the sort of skiing experiences that most skiers expect. I can slide down ice in my driveway with no pricey lift ticket required.
This season could be a fluke, as there have been rotten snowfall tallies in years past, but what if it’s the shape of things to come? While folks continue to happily declare whether or not they believe in global climate change, the global climate seems to be changing: chunks of the polar ice cap are falling off and melting; droughts are plaguing normally less dry regions; severe weather seems to be getting more severe and frequent; species of insects and birds are either thriving or dying out thanks to changed temperature norms measured by only a few degrees.
So what if the snow isn’t going to be all that great at our nation’s ski slopes next year, or the year thereafter? Even if it does return doesn’t this year’s miasma reveal a core weakness in the ski resort business model, and suggest that doing something about it might make sense? I think so. I think it’s time to do some brand extending.
If you take snow out of the equation, it turns out that ski resorts are left with quite a lot of really great assets, from beautiful scenery to usable accommodations. So why not get to work right now on things like:
- Invent new sports -- Downhill skiing didn’t emerge naturally from the mountain tops. Somebody looked at snowy inclines and had to invent it, and then lots of people adapted and improved it. Why not come up with new activities that better suit today’s circumstances? My one idea is something that unites zip lines and rider choice, so you have to make split-second decisions at Y junctures as you careen down the mountainside. I know there are lots better ideas.
- Create facilitated experiences -- Resorts are great places for families and groups to congregate and do things...many different things...so why couldn’t the resorts create specific facilitated experiences, like art weekends or science fiction adventures? Sundance used to do this with art and theatre programs during the summer, and it was hugely fun. Think Disney activity cruise only in the mountains. And better.
- Host UGVs (“User-Generated Vacations”) -- Maybe the absolute opposite of facilitated vacations would work, in that resorts could offer potential guests a laundry list of activities (from outdoor active to indoor relaxation, and from groups to solitary exploration) and then craft custom user-generated vacations. They could differentiate themselves by level of expertise and attention to detail in crafting such activities.
Could Whistler be the place for science adventures? Jackson Hole the destination for families interested in nature? What about swinging singles? I dunno.
There are probably a lot more and better ideas to contemplate, and perhaps the resorts are already doing so. It’s just that sitting on your hands and waiting for it to snow isn’t a business strategy. I’m surprised we haven’t already heard of such invention from them.
(Image credit: from the Heyday)