Millennial Mountains – Part 1

By Louise Hudson

In the world of mountain marketing, there’s been a recent recognition of the lack of Millennials following in the footsteps of the buoyant Baby Boomer ski market. Moreover, it requires two Millennials to fill each Baby Boomer’s boots in terms of spending power. With student loans, marriage, babies, houses, careers, and diverging spending priorities, Millennials are being distracted from downhill delights. A contrast to Boomers who were skiing aggressively during their 20s and 30s, this has led ski resorts to come up with more innovative ways to attract the younger generation.

Resorts of the Canadian Rockies has launched Mappy Hour, a Millennial-motivated project to inform and encourage the 20-36 age-group to recreate outdoors. Originating in NYC, the first Canadian chapter is in Calgary. “We’ve hosted a number of guest speakers including a National Geographic photographer, rock climbers, backcountry snowboarders, trail runners and world travellers to give a presentation to our attendees and inspire them through stories of their adventures and offering some advice on their area of expertise as well,” says RCR’s Cali Sammel. “This is meant to be a social event and is hosted in a pub type environment – attendance is always free.”

Ski instruction is morphing to meet the needs of mindful Millennials with a focus on meditation and mindful skiing at resorts such as Blue Mountain, Mont-Tremblant, Big White, and Golden. And many ski areas are espousing fitness classes, yoga and ski-readiness programs. The Canadian Ski Council’s Never Ever Days program is proving an effective means of attracting Millennials new to skiing and riding. The $25 price tag for a lift ticket, rentals, and lesson is bringing newbies to over 80 resorts across Canada. For age 9 and up (and starting at 5 in Quebec), these deals are aligning winter sports with the Canadian national identity and lifestyle. And highlighting the message that they are an all-day experience rather than just another short-lived hobby.

A new season’s pass category was spearheaded this winter by Brighton Resort, Utah – the ‘Millennial Pass’ for ages 26-30, $149 less than the ‘adult’ pass. And there’s a similar project at Sunday River, Loon and Sugarloaf ski hills with a special reduced price for those aged 19-29. The Stratitude Pass at Stratton similarly serves the 18-32 age-group; Mt Snow and six other resorts are part of The Peak Pass which has The Drifter category for ages 18-29; and Taos features the Zia for the same age-range. Although not yet in Canada, this trend will no doubt arrive soon.

Everything is about delivery and convenience these days and Ski Butlers has been ahead of the curve in delivering skis, snowboards and boots direct to hotel, house or condo with personalized fitting and free adjustments. Since launching in 2004, the Park City-based business has expanded to serve 37 North American resorts in Colorado, California, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Whistler, BC, and this season started a service at seven top destinations in the French Alps.

“With baby boomers retiring and generations X and Y becoming the dominant demographic in consumer spending, their wants and needs, and therefore our industry’s priorities, have shifted,” says Mike Cremeno, Ski Butlers’ VP for Sales & Marketing. “In the social media age, the services, amenities, and commitment to excellence your product or services offer must go above and beyond for every customer.”

Customer reviews are key, he adds, with sites like Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp and social media informing purchase decisions. “Our younger customers are more reactive when planning their vacations, meaning our lead time is shrinking as these demographics become larger in our overall spend of our customers,” Cremeno points out. The company’s ability to respond to both advance and last minute orders is standing them in good stead for the demographic shift. In competition, Black Tie Rentals now operates in 39 resorts in Canada and the US, there’s in the US and Whistler, and even ski shops are starting to offer delivery – for example, Telluride Sports, CO.

Check back next week for Part 2 of Millenial Mountains.

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This post is also available in: French