Skiing with Social Media

By Lauren Sleeper

Skiing is an inherently social sport, and has become even more so with the advent of technology that you can carry along in your parka. Basic planning can be started by checking the snowfall with a mobile app from SkiResort.com (among others) as reported by fellow skiers and boarders.  In true social media form, many of the snowfall apps report information that is crowd-sourced by the skiers and boarders themselves, not the often inflated stats that the resorts provide. In fact, the report "Wintertime for Deceptive Advertising," published by Dartmouth professors Eric Zitzewitz and Jon Zinman, recognized that snowfall exaggeration by resorts fell dramatically with the release of mobile apps, even more so at resorts that had good iPhone reception!  Social media is forcing resorts to stay truthful, and providing skiing enthusiasts a way to connect with each other around the most basic of questions - is the snow good?

When you're on the mountain, camera phones and small flip video recorders allow you to easily take photos and videos slopeside, and instantly share them with your social networks.  Skiers and boarders love to share their best ski days with each other and relive the best trails through photo and video (as can be further illustrated by the cult following the skiing community has for Warren Miller movies).  Ski Resort Facebook pages allow skiers and boarders to collectively post their best pictures and videos in one location - and continue to strengthen the mountain's skiing community, no matter where they may live.

By far, one of the coolest players in the social media ski scene this year is Epic Mix, introduced by six major Colorado ski resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly, and Northstar at Tahoe.  These resorts have implemented technology into your ski pass that automatically tracks everything you do on the mountain - your best run times, vertical feet skied, and the hardest trails you tackle.  You can track all your accomplishments by signing into their website, and now also by downloading one of their mobile apps.  Special achievements are rewarded with pins, similar to foursquare badges, that are easily shareable on Facebook and Twitter.  You can even choose to auto-update your profiles when you achieve those epic mountain adventures so you don't have to even stop skiing to share with friends and followers.  The mobile apps have added functionality such as resort maps, road conditions,  and a news feed of updates from Facebook friends on the mountain.  One incredibly useful feature they offer is showing you which of your friends are on the mountain, and where, with tools to message them and easily set up places to meet!

Geo-Targeted check-ins through FourSquare are also getting involved in the social media skiing movement with the introduction of a Ski Bum badge this year. This generation of skiers will be able to not only proudly show their mass of tickets on their jackets, but also begin to accumulate resort specific badges as Mount Snow, Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Valley and Sunday River have also released their own FourSquare badges.  The resort specific badges often coincide with giveaways, contests, and special deals for Foursquare users checking in at that mountain.  Whistler will be raffling off resort schwag to users who have checked in each month, and Sun Valley is running promotions at their cafes and nightclubs for Foursquare users.

A fun fact I wanted to share -  I posted a picture to Facebook as I was riding up in the chairlift at Attitash last weekend and Likeable CEO Dave Kerpen commented with the suggestion for this blog post! So thanks Dave, for paying attention to my skiing pride on Facebook, and providing yet another example of how skiing and social media are truly a perfect match.

What other social media promotions have you seen this ski season?  What would you like to see resorts do? Share with us!