Camelback Mountain Resort in Tannersville, Pennsylvania, is the winner of the 2013/14 Conversion Cup Challenge, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) annual award that recognizes resorts across the country that have developed outstanding programs to convert skiers and snowboarders into lifelong enthusiasts. The Challenge is sponsored by HEAD Wintersports.
NSAA launched the initiative in 2010 as a way to pique competition among member ski areas and recognize those who make significant strides in boosting conversion rates. Camelback is among 12 ski areas that submitted an application outlining their specific trial and conversion efforts over the 2013/14 season based on key conversion metrics: beginner lesson volumes; quantifiable success of beginner lesson packages; season-to-date sales and repeat sales data collection; and marketing ingenuity and use of new media. The other two finalists were Killington Resort in Killington, Vermont, and Boreal Mountain Resort in Truckee, California.
Camelback’s win is largely due to a straightforward combination of simple messaging and great offers that have led to consistent growth in snowsports lessons at the area over the past four seasons. Camelback has witnessed an impressive increase in learn-to lessons, from 25,082 in 2010/11 to 37,536 as of the March 14 application deadline.
The main reason for the increase is the success of the Explorer Card, a package that offers three 90-minute lessons, three lift tickets, and three rentals for $129, according to Brian Czarnecki, vice president of sales and marketing. The program has grown from 650 cards sold in 2010/11 to 4,742 cards sold during the 2013/14 season.
"About 52.1 percent of the 7,485 Explorer Card purchasers from 2010/11 to 2012/13 have returned to purchase a lift ticket, rental, or lesson during the 2013/14 season", Czarnecki said. "An additional 7.5 percent have purchased a season pass or value card product".
Geared to first-timers and beginners ages 6 and older, the program not only is a great value but also incentivizes guests to take more lessons. Upon completion of the three-visit Explorer Card, the skier/rider is offered a fourth and fifth visit for $34 each—complete with lift tickets, lessons, and rentals.
Sale of the card runs through January, but the resort promotes the offer throughout the year by cross-marketing to its four-season operations. Camelback sends ongoing follow-ups about the program to card holders and other guests who purchase learn-to products online. The bar-coded offers allow for effective quantitative measures for ROI and weekly tracking.
In addition, the resort highlights its terrain-based teaching program in collateral materials, emphasizing the ease of the first-time visit, rental process, and on-snow experience with slogans such as "Take the Fear Out of Sliding!" Camelback also touts its ranking as the Number One Place to Learn to Ski and Ride in the USA (Huffington Post, 2013), a sure way to resonate with newcomers.
Camelback has used extensive web, radio, newspaper, magazine, and digital advertising to promote the Explorer Card and its "Learn Here, Learn Right" trademarked branding—and the growth in lessons sold indicates those efforts are paying off.
But it’s not just about lessons sold, said Czarnecki. "Camelback’s focus is on converting the 37,536 skiers and riders taught this year to life-long enthusiasts".
The Conversion Cup Award, a large silver trophy based on a Stanley Cup prototype, is a traveling award. Camelback claims ownership of the Cup for one year, until the next winner is announced at the 2015 NSAA National Convention, scheduled for May 3 – 6, 2015, in San Francisco, California.