conversion cup logo

What is conversion? Conversion is simply the process of turning beginner skiers and riders into repeat customers, and ultimately lifelong enthusiasts of the sport. With this, NSAA has developed the Conversion Cup Challenge, a friendly competition among member ski areas that closely aligns with the industry's overall goals to grow the sport. Award finalists will be recognized and the winners announced at NSAA's 2023 National Convention & Tradeshow on May 10, 2023.

2023 Conversion Cup 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.

Application Considerations

The NSAA Conversion Cup Award recognizes the best ski area programs aimed at bringing in first-time guests and converting them into lifelong participants. While there is no single recipe that works for every ski area, the common denominator for success is demonstrating a dedication to getting these new participants excited about snowsports, so much so that they come back time and again. Other parameters judges look for when making their selections include:

  • Increase in Level 1 lesson volumes
  • Level 1 lesson volumes in relation to total skier and snowboarder visits
  • Quantifiable success of multi-lesson packages
  • Season-to-date sales data on specific learn-to packages designed to drive repeat visitation
  • Overall data collection capabilities and sophistication
  • Marketing ingenuity, creativity, use of new media, etc.

The Conversion Cup is graciously sponsored by:  

2022 Conversion Cup

Looking for inspiration? Read about last year's award-winning finalists to understand the caliber of a winning program. Also view the 2022 NSAA Awards Ceremony that took place in the Country Music Awards Theatre in Nashville, TN.

  • Winner: Snowbasin Resort Co., UT
    • Snowbasin’s aptly named program “Learn and Earn” is chock full of discounts and freebies for new snowboarders and skiers. The program started in the 2015–16 season and has generated over 16,000 participants since that time. The continued commitment to the program on the part of Snowbasin is one of the more noteworthy aspects of the initiative. Learn and Earn is a three-year program that encourages new customers to continue with a variety of milestones and rewards along the way. Year one follows a well-worn path taken by other resorts: three lessons, an equipment rental package and a season pass. Snowbasin’s program takes it to the next level in year two, which includes three more lessons and a seasonal equipment rental package the guest can purchase at the end of the year. Snowbasin partnered with Salomon, which has a factory outlet in Ogden, for the Learn and Earn equipment component. Salomon also provided several coupons and discounts on products in the store or online, making it easy for customers to gear up with additional clothing and accessories. This season, Learn and Earn participation increased by 32% over last season. Over time, the average return rate of Learn and Earn participants for the subsequent season is an impressive 67%.
  • Palisades Tahoe, CA
    • The Alpine Meadows side of Palisades Tahoe Resort boasts a Perfect Progression Program, which is designed as a two-year package with lots of discounts and incentives along the way. The target is to get new customers skiing and riding comfortably on intermediate terrain and to purchase a season pass. Among last year’s PPP participants, 34% purchased a season pass for the 2021–22 season. The first year of PPP includes three half-day lessons (including lift ticket and rental), and after completing the third lesson, the customer receives a season pass for the rest of the year. While this steppingstone progression has been done before at other ski areas, the program has a unique component. New participants receive a free piece of gear that many first-time skiers and snowboarders do not have: goggles. Participants also get free equipment rentals for the rest of the season and discounts on retail purchases. The graduation rate (those completing all three lessons) of PPP for the 2021–22 season was an impressive 80%. Year two features three more lessons, a season pass, 50% off equipment rentals and a free beanie. PPP is a growing portion of the snowsports school at Alpine-Palisades, representing 55% of beginner lessons this season.
  • Ski Saint-Bruno, Quebec
    • Learning through play is a cornerstone of Ski Saint-Bruno’s Evolution Trail, a learning area specifically designed for new skiers and snowboarders. The trail has specialized zones for step-by-step learning and fun. The thought and preparation that went into designing the multi-day progression for learning is a noteworthy component of Saint Bruno’s application. The Evolution Trail is unique because it is set up to be either self-taught or instructor taught. The trail is broken up into four zones, each with a different slope angle and various features for beginners to experience the sensations of gliding, turning, changing direction and stopping. The trail also has distinct features for skiers and for snowboarders. Guests start in zone one, with an 8–10% slope angle for experimentation with initial movements. From there, the progression moves to zones two through four, which ends with riding a chairlift and skiing or snowboarding on a 16–20% slope angle. Results have been impressive. The Evolution Package includes four lessons, equipment rental and lift ticket. The self-guided option provides lift access and free on-site guidance via signage and roving instructors. Almost all (96%) of the Evolution Package participants completed the second lesson, and 32% completed all four lessons (only 10% of the self-guided participants completed all four lessons).
  • Winter4Kids, NJ
    • Winter4Kids is a program and facility dedicated to sharing snowsports and outdoors with kids from the New York City metro area. The ski hill is a private facility located in New Jersey, and it is 100% committed to introducing area youth to different types of sliding on snow. Winter4Kids is focused on children aged 6–17 through public schools and other youth-serving organizations. One of the unique aspects of Winter4Kids is that participants are introduced to winter sports in three different disciplines: two lessons each in downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding. After these six lessons, the student selects the equipment that they want to continue to use, which empowers the kids with a choice of their favorite snowsport. Winter4Kids also removes other barriers to participation: Transportation is provided, clothing is supplied and healthy meals are served as part of each day on the snow. The program is quite holistic in the materials and supplies that are included, and Winter4Kids goes well beyond the traditional lesson/lift ticket/equipment rental package. The program has hosted more than 10,000 kids to date at the facility. The annual return rate of participants is 62%, and Winter4Kids has a goal of lifelong conversion to snowsports for 50% of their students.

Past Conversion Cup Winners

2020-21 Sky Tavern, Nevada
2019-20 Blue Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania
2018-19 Les Sommets, Canada
2017-18 Snowbasin, Utah
2016-17 Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort, Washington
2015-16 Wachusett Mountain, Massachusetts
2014-15 Killington Resort, Vermont
2013-14 Camelback Mountain Resort, Pennsylvania
2012-13 Mountain Creek, New Jersey
2011-12 Mt. Bachelor, Oregon
2010-11 Snow Time, Inc.