By Karen D. Lorentz | December 25,2012
KAREN D. LORENTZ
Magic Mountain President Jim Sullivan and Terence Cracovia of mountain operations and sales let attendees at the 31st annual Ski and Snowboard Expo in Boston, MA know that Magic Mountain is open for business and making snow.
The 31st annual Boston.com Ski and Snowboard Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, MA provided a cornucopia of ski-resort and other booths, entertainment, an opportunity to meet Olympic athletes, a plethora of deals on lift tickets and lodgings, drastic price reductions on equipment and clothing, and a chance to learn about the new “rocker” technology.
More than 200 exhibitors filled the hall, ranging from the Boston Globe and Liftopia, to ski resorts and Vermont crafters like Long Trail Brewing of Bridgewater Corners, which participated for the first time. The November event drew 45,000 snow-sport enthusiasts, “even with last year’s attendance,” according to event producer Bernie Weichsel, president of BEWI Productions, Inc., which produces snow-sports expositions and publishes the annual trade newsletter, The Bewi Flyer.
The expo provided exhibitors with real-time, personal opportunities to cement existing customer relationships or to foster new ones, and consumers benefitted from the deals as well as the fun. This consumer “face time” in an important snow-sports market was a key reason for attending the show, Vermont Ski Areas Association (VSAA) Director of Public Affairs Sarah Neith said. For ski areas, it was an opportunity to meet and greet the public and update them on what’s new; reward snow-sport enthusiasts with freebies, raffles, and deals on lift tickets and lodgings; and to provide convenient on-site sales.
This year’s expo also featured the World Slackline Federation (WSF) World Championships — professional athletes performing aerial and gymnastics maneuvers while balancing on a two-inch wide trampoline known as a slackline — and an opportunity for attendees to try that as well as a daily SkyRiders Aerial Trampoline Show, sponsored by Killington and radio station WBOS.
For Magic Mountain President Jim Sullivan, the expo was “an important opportunity to let people know we are open for business.”
“Since the area was closed from 1991 to 1998, many still don’t know the ski area exists. The show allows us to get the word out and to inform people that we make snow and continue to improve our snowmaking system and expand coverage of trails,” Sullivan said.
Brian Halligan, director of sales at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, said this was his second year for on-site show sales, thanks to technology that has made it possible to sell tickets, passes, and other products at the show.
Pat Ryan, sales director at Stratton Mountain Ski Resort, also noted the significance of on-site sales and the opportunity to update people on resort events and changes by attending the show.
Rob Megnin, marketing director for Killington and Pico, said the Killington region made a big commitment to the show with up to 14 people — including the resort’s president — staffing their booths daily.
“Consumer shows are different from the years past when attendees searched for information to make decisions on where to ski or get season passes;” now, the Internet provides that information, he said.
“The attitude of the consumer at the show today is, ‘What’s the deal this year and what’s in it for me?’” he said. “So, the big commitment in manpower makes sense if you make offers to them, and the Boston market is a strategic one for growing competitive market share, so we are getting pretty aggressive about that.”
One tactic, said Megnin, was its show-specific Express Card with free lift ticket. Another was he scratch off-card that “drives people to our booth where we can talk,” he added, noting they burned through 5,000 cards that gave attendees a chance to win a season pass.
Sponsoring the Aerial Trampoline event, which repeated throughout the day, also helped, he said. “Banners use the word ‘free,’ so that drives people to it, and then Killington staff there hand out cards to drive people to our booth,” said Megnin. “We pick off enough new people to continue to do it.” New York is a primary market for Killington, so the Boston show is important for growing market share, he said.
Saying sales were off just a few units on Express Cards relative to last year, he also reported selling season passes to college students.
“Mike [Solimano, president and general manager] and I go down to see guests,” he said, noting the show also gives them a good pulse on consumer attitudes going into the season.
“It was clearly evident that regardless of economic and other factors, people are into ski and ride,” said Megnin, also noting optimism also in retail reports from SnowSports Industries of America and Killington’s own early-season start November 5, with good crowds all week and weekend.
Bonnie MacPherson, director of public relations at Okemo, likened the expo “to the grand finale in a fireworks show.
“It’s the culmination of pre-season enthusiasm and the crescendo that takes place in a market where a large percentage of the population are snow sport participants,” she said.
Okemo had 14 staff members working at the show in one- or two-day shifts, and MacPherson said the considerable expense for staff, accommodations, and exhibit space was worth it.
“We see and track results of the special offers that are show-specific,” she said. “We also have booked group business, garnered real estate sales leads, and successfully reinforced business relationships and media contacts.”
Unlike other shows on the circuit, said MacPherson, “Boston is a show where the majority of attendees already know us and love us. We’re here to mirror the enthusiasm of attendees, listen to memories and mentally record the list of favorite trails. People just love walking up to our giant trail map and pointing out their favorite runs to friends and strangers.”
In addition to its booth, VSAA sponsored Operation Mountains of Love at the show to help New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Attendees were encouraged to make e-donations to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, with a variety of incentives provided by Vermont ski areas and VSAA marketing partners such as drawings for free vacation packages, lift-ticket deals and vouchers, and free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Additionally, Sugarbush Resort and the Long Trail Brewing Company matched donations, so a total of $40,000 went to relief efforts.
VSAA also sponsored a cocktail reception for media, giving ski-area personnel the opportunity to get acquainted, or to reconnect, with invited media and to update them on what is new at their respective areas.
“Expo exhibitors were extremely happy with the quantity and quality of visitors at their booths,” said Kathe Dillman, the expo’s media director. The Slackline championship rounds drew “huge crowds,” she said.
“Sales at the two retail outlets were going great guns,” and people were leaving the expo “loaded down with new gear,” said Dillman: another sign that indicates enthusiasm for the season ahead.