How independent ski resorts can win the next generation

Approximate reading time: 2 minutes

Much has been written regarding Millennials (aka Gen Y) and their relationship with skiing.

But if you’re a marketing director at an independent mountain who thinks skiing will be around for another generation or two, there are opportunities afoot.

It’s time to understand how to attract Gen Z to your slopes.

Gen Z at a glance

True, they are not yet financially established. And yes, they bear a striking resemblance to Gen Y in several ways. But Gen Z needs to be understood as its own cohort.

  • Born after 1996, Gen Z’s oldest members are 23 this year
  • 50% have been hit hard by pandemic – either personally or parentally
  • They are ethnically diverse, even more so than Gen Y
  • They are more educated than any previous generation
  • On social issues they are progressive, pro-government, and pro-diversity

As Millennials enter their 40s and Gen Z enters their 20s, they are ready to accept the generational baton of skiing as part of their pandemic and post-pandemic lives.
So what’s a ski resort marketer to do?

5 ways to reach Gen Z

1. Smaller = Better

Opportunity: For Gen Z, Ikon’s mega pass program is toxic waste. Too expensive. Too corporate. Too big. By contrast, Indie mountains feel smaller and more authentic.

Action: Create on-mountain communications – posters, digital signage, video – that capture intimate, solitary experiences with fewer people and more open space. Render this creative direction in search-based marketing and display ads.

2. Create a Gen Z blog

Opportunity: Gen Zers are self-educated digital natives and alert to content that balances information and opinion.

Action: Consider a Gen Z blog with short-form content from a series of Gen Z guest bloggers. You can solicit topics and drafts through social media, with a cap on word and character counts.

3. Pick principles and stick to them

Opportunity: A McKinsey study identified Gen Z’s perceptions of consumption: That it is about individual identity and ethics.

Action: Align your resort with meaningful causes that you can sincerely support. 3 examples:

  • Sustainability. As our client Jiminy Peak has done – by turning environmentalism into a brand pillar.
  • Food. Support food justice, farm-to-table programs, and local producers such as craft beer makers and privately labeled gourmet foods.
  • Fairness. Be transparent about pay equity practices, fair treatment of part-time workers, and hiring an ethnically diverse staff.

4. Offer educational experiences

Opportunity: Gen Xers are digital natives who respond to information as much as experiences – and they believe in the power of dialogue.

Action: Create ways for Gen Zers to self-educate about the mountain: the environment, the community, local life, and how the resort interacts with its surroundings. Deliver this content 2 ways: Through social platforms/online video, and with people – resort information experts who are always ready to talk. In other words, not in a brochure.

5. Lose the luxury

Opportunity: Many resorts are clinging to the idea of offering “premium” services that Boomers and Gen X demanded in the past. Gen Zers could care less.

Action: Introduce value-driven offers that encourage roughing it. Examples: Guided backcountry tours. Toboggan races. Games of cornhole played blindfolded. Ping Pong round robins over microbrews or warm cider.

Gen Z is a big topic to tackle for independent resorts.

So contact us for a conversation.