Ski Resorts Give Back Despite Tough Year
Mar 7th, 2021
Even after being hard hit by a too short 19/20 season and the gamut of challenges ski destinations were forced to navigate in 2020, some ski areas not only found a way to support their own companies through these challenging times, but also extended a hand to the communities around them and the environment through raising donations online. Companies like Aspen Skiing Company, Thredbo, Telluride Ski & Golf, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort raised nearly $200K collectively towards various organizations through offering donation products online and other fundraising programs like donation matching initiatives.
These resort’s marketers and product managers offer their advice and experience to other resorts that may have their New Year’s resolutions set on giving back to their surrounding communities and beyond.
Examples of successful campaigns.
Aspen launched a COVID-19 Community Relief Fund, organized through their employee-led Caring for Community Fund, which raised ~$125K toward 18 local organizations, including but not limited to Valley Settlement, and Aspen Youth Center.
Deciding on which organizations to give to can be daunting when the need appears everywhere. For the most part, ski areas that offer donation products online have a long-standing connection to these organizations. Shut-downs caused by COVID-19 in some cases sparked resorts into action. “During the early days of COVID-19, when our resort shut down over a month ahead of schedule, our loyal guests were sad to see their home away from home struggling and were eager to help this community in some way,” said Regan Barret, Product Marketing Manager at Aspen Snowmass.
Telluride Ski & Golf raised ~$23K toward the local Ski and Snowboard Club in 2020 through the offering and marketing of a $25 donation day ticket on November 25. Chris Jaquet from Telluride Ski & Golf, emphasized the importance of this ski club to the community, noting they have club graduates on the US Ski and Snowboard team and at the Olympics.
In addition to community initiatives, many ski areas recognize a deep responsibility to the environment and mountain safety. Thredbo Resort was one of the first resorts we’ve worked with to offer a Greenfleet donation option alongside every product they sell online, which not only promotes donations but also “maximum exposure for the cause,” according to Luke Beaumont, Guest Services and RTP Operations Manager at Thredbo. The impact of their partnership with Greenfleet over the years has offset “10,910 tons of carbon emissions by planting over 40,000 native trees,” according to their website.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has raised thousands through offering an avalanche donation add-on option with every season pass sold over the years, and Aspen Snowmass’ matches employee donations made toward the employee-led organization The Environment Foundation.
How to go about creating a Give Back Campaign for your resort.
Providing ample opportunities to donate and creating campaigns around your donation products is key to fundraising success. After looking at analytics and hearing stories from these successful resorts, donations spike most dramatically around seasonal product launches (i.e. lift tickets, season passes) when donation products were offered as add ons, and then additional boosts happened around “campaign events,” which are social and marketing messages that promote the cause and link to donation pages.
Thredbo’s Beaumont credits good content and social media exposure to their successful Greenfleet strategy. “Social media presence is key. With environmental sustainability a massive focus, the Thredbo Media team produced amazing content in support of the offset initiative.” For example, Thredbo pushed marketing and social messages encouraging donations on “National Tree Day” and included content that showed the impact of these donations in their email marketing and on social media.
In addition to social media, Luke and the Thredbo team set up their commerce so that the donation product was “an add on for all products online.” The image below shows how donation products were offered as an add on.
The report below shows donations spiking significantly when Thredbo ski products went on sale in early June for the 2020 season because Greenfleet was offered as an add-on to everything.
Aspen Snowmass also relied on an intentional shift in marketing messaging across all channels. “We started to lead or pair all of our marketing messaging with the opportunity to donate across social media, email, public relations outreach, and other channels,” said Barrett. Examples of Instagram content from @aspensnowmass included a simple message, “when our lifts closed, you kept climbing” paired with tangible metrics around the impact of these donations.
Leah Swan, Senior Product Manager who also serves on the board of the Environment Foundation, and the team at Aspen Snowmass got to work highlighting these donation products on their commerce platform. They used “a separate detailed Product Display Page with a wide range of donation values, as well as an add-on product for key products.”
They included the COVID-19 Community Relief add-on with their spring Season Pass sale in a lower denomination to give more visibility to the donation options. Offering matching also made donating an easy decision for Aspen guests. “The Aspen Skiing Company Family Fund pledged a limitless 2 to 1 match for every donation made to this relief fund,” said Swan. The graph below shows donation product activity spikes around season pass activity because it was offered as an add-on to passes on-sale in the Spring.
When asked “is enabling donations online worth doing?” Their answer, a resounding “yes!” Jacquet from Telluride believes “supporting ski and snowboard club kids to develop a lifelong passion for the sport is something all resorts should be investing in.” Swan from ASC advises “I would recommend providing clear information about where the donation will go, and where the donors can see positive impacts of their contributions. Providing a compelling story behind the campaign that can connect potential donors to the impact of their contribution is also key.” And at Thredbo, Beaumont simply recommends, “Do it. This is such a simple process to raise awareness and to show that our resort takes environmental sustainability seriously.” So no matter the organization your resort backs, the message is clear, it’s easy – together with your guests- to make a difference in raising funds and awareness for causes that matter, it just takes some planning, add-on know-how and effective messaging.