Last winter, when I made my temporary move to Salt Lake City, I started researching the local ski resorts. The mountains surrounding the city are known for having some of the world’s biggest and lightest powder snow. I was convinced by the customer reviews I’d read online that were written by local ski bums from Utah.
Time and again, I read and heard reviews about the Snowbird resort having some of the most challenging terrain, coated by the area’s best powder. So when I finally got a chance to ski Snowbird’s Cottonwood Canyons trails for myself, I quickly turned into a raving Snowbird fan.
I was set on getting a season’s pass for the this year. And after reading reviews like this one from CitySearch, my excitement about the upcoming ski season reached fever pitch:
Depending on the characteristics of — or our level of attachment to — the must-have thing du jour, we all buy in different buying modes to match our feelings about it. I typically purchase commodities in a more Spontaneous mode, but I take my ski season very seriously, and my search for a good deal on a Snowbird pass turned into a Methodical review of various resources to find the ultimate deal. I took my time and I read everything I could before I pounced.
Although I knew I wanted a season’s pass, I had a hard time justifying the steep price Snowbird was asking ($1,149). If the season let me down with only a few big snow days, I could be kicking myself for risking that much money.
As the summer came to a close, I got a little anxious about my upcoming purchase. Around this time, I heard a radio ad about “Sniagrab,” an annual sale run by the Sports Authority a local sporting goods chain called Canyon Sports. They were offering discount season’s passes to Snowbird. I don’t recall them specifying a sale closing date, but when I called Canyon Sports (shortly after hearing the ad), I was let down when I heard I’d missed the sale by one day. Maybe it’s my fault that I missed their sale, but the ad was vague and I had still acted quickly. It made me feel stupid — as dumb as that sounds. Chances are you won’t catch me in a Canyon Sports any day soon.*
Unwilling to give up my quest for a deal, I searched for “snowbird seasons pass” at Craigslist. Believe it or not, there was a woman who posted a 10-day pass because she’d recently broken a bone and wouldn’t be skiing this season. She was selling it at a discount because she obviously needed to give the buyer an incentive to purchase from her, rather than go directly to the source. But since I was planning on skiing more than 10 days, I continued my search.
I sent an email to my local friends, asking if any of them had a connection to help me out. To my delight, I received a reply from a snowboarding friend. He encouraged me to join the Velocity Sports club in order to get a discount at Snowbird. Velocity’s an exclusive club, so in order for me to join, my friend had to sponsor me. He was only allowed to sponsor one person annually. There was also a $40 membership fee that I had to pay upfront. I signed up and paid my dues but this still didn’t guarantee me a discounted season’s pass. Before I had a shot at one, they made a limited promotion available to existing members who have been members for over a year. So I waited and waited for a reply.
After two weeks without a reply, I sent them a follow-up email. They told me I would hear back from them in a couple of weeks. When three more weeks passed without a reply, I decided to email again. That same day, I received a phone call from Velocity Sports, telling me that the promotion was now open to me but I had only two days to take action.It’s a good thing I didn’t miss the promotion (like I had with the Canyon Sports promo). It would’ve been nice to have gotten periodic updates from Velocity about the promotion. Then again, maybe I would have never even heard from them had I not been really good at nagging! Regardless, they came through for me in a big way, and I got my season’s pass for $799; a $310 savings (after membership fee) over buying directly from Snowbird.
No matter where they decide to buy a product, 64% of customers regularly do their research online before they go for it. In this case, there were a few multi-channel influencers (i.e., the radio ad, craigslist, Snowbird.com) in my buying decision process, but only the consumer-generated media (i.e, the customer reviews and word-of-mouth) had a positive influence on where I actually bought the thing.
The bottom line: It seems the local skiing/snowboarding community is more involved in finding and offering good deals for Snowbird customers than Snowbird is itself.
What do you think? Am I just griping, or should Snowbird consider being more involved in the community in order to better harness their marketing potential?
[Editor's Note: See comments below. Our sincere apologies go out to everyone at Canyon Sports. Although it seems the Sports Authority chain -- not Canyon Sports -- has the Sniagrab Sale, there's too much confusion about who Melissa called. Did she call Canyon Sports, and they answered her about a different sale that just ended? Who knows? Still, it seems there's a whole lot of ski marketing fog to break through in Utah. Either that, or Melissa needs to stop multi-taking when she drives. ]