Snow Sports Retailers Offer Advice on Resort Partnerships

Snow Sports Retailers Offer Advice on Resort Partnerships

Best Practices by Lou Dzierzak,

Snow sports retailers have found that creating marketing partnerships with local ski resorts can improve the effectiveness of marketing programs and reinforce a shop’s loyalty with ski enthusiasts who spend the most time on the slopes.

Partnering with a local ski area can be a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship since both partners are serving the same consumer base. “We work closely with Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania because we have a shop there and it is mutually beneficial for us to focus on each other as we both tend to focus on the same target market,” says Kjerstin Klein, communications and social media coordinator at Willi’s Ski Shop, Inc.

Downhill Skier

White Pine Touring has had a long and beneficial marketing partnership with the Park City Mountain Resort. The partners host a telemark clinic that has created more interest in that ski technique and built a long-term following for the resort and retail shop.

“We’ve been fortunate over the last 15 years to partner Park City Mountain Resort. The resort offers discounted lesson and ticket rates for people who want to learn how to telemark ski. White Pine Touring offers discounted equipment and the resort allows our instructors to teach at the resort,” reports Scott House, communications, events and social media director at White Pine Touring.

“Bob Ward’s uses ski area partnerships as a mainstay of our winter sales and marketing strategy,” reports Ryan Corwin, advertising manager at Bob Ward and Sons. “By partnering with local media and ski areas to procure lift tickets, we are able to offer those tickets as incentives to purchase more products. We actually save some of our co-op dollars to use in advertising those incentives for buying a specific brand’s products from us.”

Retailers and resorts benefit as consumers connect the partners with their enjoyment of the skiing experience. Consumers pledge preference and loyalty on the companies that help them pursue their winter sports passions. “Customers who have participated in the telemark event are very loyal to our shop,” says House. “They see that we are trying to get people into the sport. This is how my wife, kids and friends learned how to telemark.”

Klein summarizes the advantages of retailer and resort partnerships. “The key benefit for the resort is off-slope access to its customer base as well as a ringing endorsement from us— someone the customer base trusts,” says Klein. “The key benefit for us is being linked with a company with a far larger media/marketing budget then we have.”

Snowboarders, alpine skiers and Nordic skiers all benefit when retailers and resorts collaborate on marketing efforts. “The main benefit of the partnership with Park City is the cross-promotion and multi-channel marketing efforts. We have the equipment, but we don’t have anywhere to ski. Park City provides the other half of that equation,” says House.

Retailers and resorts both benefit from active skiers who spend more time than average at local ski areas. A more committed skier is more likely to purchase new equipment, apparel and accessories in addition to lift tickets. “We find that a customer who buys in-store before heading to the ski area is more likely to follow through on the planned trip,” reports Corwin. “Plus, being a ticket hub and offering all the gear necessary for such an adventure makes Bob Ward’s an ideal choice for gearing up. It makes the outfitting process feel more complete with ticket in hand.”

One element of a successful partnership is educating resort employees about the services the retail partner offers. “Whether the skier specifically needs something during his or her visit to the resort or is looking to ‘window’ shop, the resort staff will send them to our locations,” says Klein. “We have far more exposure and institutional advertising, not just for our area shop but for our city stores as well. Simply by being associated with the number one resort in the area gives us credibility and exposure.”

Eyes Wide Open

The most successful partnerships deliver significant benefits to both parties. But that success comes from paying careful negotiations and paying attention to the details.

“Don’t ever let a potential partner act or feel as if they bring more to the table then you do. Without the local shops, resorts have lower skier/snowboarder days, lower event turn-out, more unhappy customers and lower overall customer satisfaction,” says Klein.

Partnerships by definition deliver value and benefits to both partners. In some instances, a resort’s business practices could harm a retailer. “The sad reality is that, in most cases, the ski areas have tried to monopolize, directly or indirectly, through vertical integration of their services or restrictive covenants, the most profitable part of the snow sport (rental), and gladly leave the least profitable part (retail) to the independent retailers,” says Patrick O’ Winter, CEO of Christy Sports. “In general, that is their view of a ‘partnership’. Generally, I see the ‘partnership’ idea more like a gimmick to help certain resorts to look like a good guy, while continuing their predatory practices.”

Managing expectations and open communication in negotiations will avoid complications, challenges and hard feelings in-season. “With any partnership that we go into, we definitely have our eyes wide open. It’s super important that you do so,” says House. “In any business you are looking out for your own interests and anyone you are partnering with is going to be doing the same thing. As long as you are both open, honest and everything is on the table from the get-go, we have a very good track record creating partnerships.”

While aligning your shop with a popular ski resort, Corwin suggests building and nurturing relationships with a variety of local ski destinations.

“We partnered with a local resort on in-store ticket sales and a shop program. They wanted a commitment from us to post their ads and press releases to our web and social sites. We are fortunate enough to be surrounded by many, many fine ski areas and didn’t want to seem like we were showing favoritism. We declined and were still able to work out a deal to sell their tickets in store,” explains Corwin. “The point is that you want your store to be recognized as the off-mountain ticket location for every possible ski destination.”

Creating marketing partnerships with local ski areas can deliver significant benefits to a snowsports retailer. “Local shops are problem solvers, not just clothing and equipment sellers,” says Klein. “We bring the energy, passion and expertise. We are the cornerstone between the resort, the consumer and the vendors—without us they all fall.”

Partnership Tips

  • Meet with the resort marketing team to plan a specific strategy and set of ‘playing rules’ so you are all rowing the boat in the same direction.
  • Share information on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to build an audience for both partners.
  • Make sure that you both understand the image you are trying communicate. The resort may have more dollars to throw at marketing but the retailer has more credibility as a source for the skiing consumer.
  • Engage your reps and customers to help you build the resorts image as well as yours. Delivering other support to the resort will boost your influence with the resort.
  • Determine what your marketing and social media metrics are and how both partners will measure return on investment. The findings will help with future negotiations.

Best Practices
Managing a successful snow sports specialty retail store requires expertise in an ever-changing array of business operations. Human resources, event planning, marketing, product selection, social media and e-commerce are just a few examples. Lou Dzierzak has written about these topics for over a decade. Best Practices will shorten the learning curve by offering case studies, resources and how-to tips from experts in specific fields. If you have suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact Lou at