With Millennials increasingly attuned to ethical and philanthropic tourism, more ski resorts and ski resort-based businesses are espousing causes in order to endear themselves to this lucrative market and, at the same time, bond with local communities.
Consumer research specialists Nielsen have found that 20 and 30 year-olds are more willing to pay extra for environmentally-friendly products, are more civic-minded, compassionate, progressive, and preoccupied with issues such as unemployment and inequality. Ski resorts are tapping into this trend by utilizing cause-related marketing (CRM), helping to bestow a personal and caring image via mutually beneficial relationships with nearby causes and charities. For ski hills, in particular, this helps counteract negative vibes about their environmental footprint.
Companies like Vail Resorts and Aspen Snowmass have devoted corporate giving departments, which bestow millions of dollars annually to hundreds of causes, but it isn’t only the burly behemoths of the ski industry that are making a downhill difference. Smaller companies can employ the most common form of CRM known as autonomously-branded philanthropic collaboration with local charities. Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, for example, has Charity Ski Weeks whereby lift ticket vouchers are provided to several causes. These can be redeemed for $25 full-day lift tickets: a great deal for local skiers and riders while generating 100 percent of proceeds directly to the issuing non-profit organization.
There are co-branded collaborations, too, which are more strategic and specific. The resort becomes the sole sponsor of an event or cause, implying increased commitment and effort. Stowe Mountain Resort Ski and Snowboard School, for example, partners with Friends of Stowe Adaptive Sports. Their annual event, the Adaptive Ski Bash, facilitates access to sports and recreational opportunities for people living with permanent disabilities.
Fernie Alpine Resort in Canada has been pairing with local businesses to help multiple charities via its Summit Fund.
“We don’t do enough sharing this story,” admits Powder Matt Mosteller, Resorts of the Canadian Rockies’ (RCR) Senior VP for Marketing & Resort Experience. “The real ROI is knowing that it matters, that it truly makes a difference for our community.”
The Fernie Summit Fund has bequeathed over $250,000 to local programs. And, as the saying goes ‘money breeds money;’ these donations have enabled nonprofits to leverage more support from provincial and federal sources. “Without us being the tipping point many community projects would not have gotten off the ground,” he explains.
Positive feedback from these coordinated projects garners more awareness for all these organizations within – and beyond – the communities, as well as doing the same for Fernie Alpine Resort and its umbrella company, RCR which has similar programs for sister ski hills, Kimberley and Kicking Horse.
“I believe RCR just wanted to contribute to the community to help youth and organizations that were struggling to find funding,” says Fernie’s Mayor Mary Guiliano.
This philanthropic persona and policy emanating from the ski hill has also helped create momentum, bringing more community members on board with each project. This in turn facilitates community spirit, says Guiliano: “For instance, the Sit Ski program that is at the hill is supported by many different businesses and individuals but probably couldn’t have gotten off the ground without RCR’s support. This type of project, and others, develop positive community and ski hill relations in Fernie.”
In many ski towns where there is a corporate-owned, purpose-built ski hill adjacent, there can initially be some dissension and lack of empathy between town and hill. But the mayor says that cooperative endeavors like The Summit Fund show the collaboration.
“The hill belongs to us, so to speak, it is a very important and essential part of our economy and our recreational quality of life,” Guilano says, adding it proves that RCR cares about the town. This cooperative attitude is disseminated via photos taken when checks are donated, during events and when a project is finished. These are placed in local media and via social media strands – for example a Pinterest page.
Snowbasin Resort in Utah spreads its social awareness via a multi-prong media network. “We are getting the message out through social media, on-site advertising, event calendars in the local area, email blasts to our customer database, ads in the local paper, and work with the local organizations to advertise through their channels,” says Megan Collins, Snowbasin’s Communications Manager. The ritzy resort has been championing the Best Friends’ Animal Society and the Food Bank this year, both of which have benefitted from this networking in terms of participation at fundraising events at the hill.
At the end of the day it’s a win-win situation, Collins confirms: “Being a positive part of the community is huge to us. We depend heavily on support from our locals to stay in business and doing projects to better the local community will make it a better place for our employees and our visitors.”