2023 Conversion Cup Winner and Finalists
Congratulations to the 2023 Conversion Cup finalists and winner (bolded)! Read more about their programs here.
Big SNOW American Dream, NJ
As an indoor ski area, Big SNOW is uniquely positioned to test just how interested the general population is in snowsports. Indeed, Big SNOW’s data indicate immediate success beyond the typical demographic who regularly participates in our industry. A notable 55% of guests to Big SNOW are ethnically diverse, representing Latino, Black and Asian communities with a relatively equal gender split overall. These characteristics alone showcase a visitor base that is more representative of the American populace than is typical for the industry.
Importantly, more than half of Big SNOW guests are first-time participants to snowsports. This is impressive, but ultimately unimportant if guests do not return. Fortunately for Big SNOW and the industry in general, about one-third of three-day pass purchasers complete their series. Of these completions, the vast majority continue to participate by buying additional frequency pass products. Kids and adult camps found similar success, with 77% of adults redeeming the program’s ticket at Mountain Creek — indicating a strong indoor to outdoor snowsport development pipeline.
Aspects that rounded out Big SNOW’s winning entry were rental offerings that extend beyond the hard goods required to ski, snowboard or snow bike. Big SNOW provides rentals for nearly all snowsports gear required, which is crucial to attracting those who’ve yet to invest in the gear needed to make their first day on snow a comfortable experience. Additionally, skiing or snowboarding education happens via an open lesson concept that uses Terrain Based Learning to promote quick, effective learning of snow sliding mechanics. Roving on-snow instructors are available to provide customized guidance to those who need it.
Gunstock Mountain Resort, NH
Gunstock Mountain impressed judges with its four-week outreach program catered to 61 area schools, home school groups and community organizations in New Hampshire. Youth are the future of our sport, and success in creating a positive experience can encourage a lifetime of participation. Accordingly, the ski area has been able to consistently increase participation from the region’s elementary, middle and high school students aged 8–19.
Particularly notable in Gunstock’s program was the discounted season passes offered to participants, encouraging skiing and riding during non-program days throughout the winter. Lessons, rentals, and most importantly, 50% vouchers for friends and family were available to program participants. While reduced-cost children’s skiing programs are an excellent start, the cost associated with an accompanying parent or guardian also hitting the slopes can be a barrier. It is great to see Gunstock attempting to alleviate this through this specific perk to friends and family members.
Like other ski areas, Gunstock has recorded strong growth in its Outreach Program, especially since the pandemic. The program is also a standout for driving off-peak visitation during after-school and night hours. Retention of those who participated hovered just above 50%, and the included testimonials paint a promising picture of this program’s future. Also promising: One Outreach passholder logged 46 days to date last season — an impressive showing by any measure, and proof of the program’s success in conversion to full-blown snowsports addict status.
Mt. Hood Meadows, OR
Oregon’s Mt. Hood Meadows took an approach that focused purely on the guest experience and recognizing the unique status of first-time participants. Distinct VIP lanyards were available to “Explore Your Mountain Home” participants and acknowledged who should be provided an extra welcome to the industry. Employees were made aware of this from the onset of the season through training, which focused on the importance of welcoming those who have never participated in snowsports before.
Lessons and marketing pushed first-time visitation to typically slow periods during the season, ensuring work for employees as well as the capacity to provide extra attention to newcomers. The thoroughness of Mt. Hood’s marketing strategy and their ability to map the online customer experience was impressive. This led to remarkable year-over-year growth (333%!) in Progression Pass and Spring Pass Package sales. A new customer base is primed and ready to continue their experiences at Mt. Hood Meadows and other mountains.
Another aspect unique to the Mt. Hood method was the post-program meeting between lesson participants and the instructor. This allowed Mt. Hood Meadows to offer an upgrade of two additional lessons as well as planning for the participants’ next steps and listening to feedback on their lesson experience. Beyond learning the skills to succeed at skiing or snowboarding, newcomers to our industry must also learn the complex landscape of travelling, pass purchasing, and how to choose proper gear for their ability level and learning goals.