People finding their news (and snow reports) via the internet.
I’ve been holding this story for what seems like years. We began posting snow reports back in 1996 and since that time we’ve seemingly been attempting to get all of the ski area operators to understand the value and power of the internet to attract more and more people to our area. Some came to understand this concept quicker than others, and incredulously some resorts are still behind the learning curve when it comes to promoting their product online.
The Southeastern Ski Areas Association is meeting this week and among many other things that the ski resort owners and marketing staffs will be discussing, will be snow reporting. More specifically WHO will be handling this all-important task. For those unaware, the Southeastern Ski Areas Association (SSAA) is comprised of the sixteen ski areas located in the five southeastern states of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. For the most part the past and current snow reporting has been in the form of providing daily snow reports via text and audio formats to radio stations across the region. You’ve heard them. A radio segment might sound something like, “This is your Southeastern Ski Areas Association snow report for Monday, December 31st. Appalachian has 10 slopes open and a base of 31-120”, Cataloochee…”
There forecasts have almost ALWAYS been inaccurate nearly every day of every season – not because the reporting service is inadequate, but because nearly every single day there are some member ski areas that have not updated their report to the reporting agency. Some ski areas simply do not update their own report but every few days, some do it at 11am or so, and others at 3am every morning. When one or two ski areas fail to update their own report, then the whole report becomes inaccurate. An example is that currently Timberline ski area is being reported by the SSAA as “Reopening Soon” and they are reporting a current base of 16-34”. That report has ran all summer long.
This is not a crack on the reporting service as much as the antiquated system that is still in place. Case in point is that some ski areas in the region stayed open well into April and yet the last audio report going out to radio stations was done on Tuesday, March 24th. The majority of ski areas operated until AT LEAST the end of March. The full audio report only mentioned Appalachian, Sugar, Timberline, Wisp and Massanutten. Huh? No Snowshoe? We clicked to listen to the last WEST VIRGINIA audio report that was done on March 24th and the first resort mentioned was Appalachian.
Needless to say the SSAA’s website doesn’t get much in the way of internet traffic. Here’s hoping that the SSAA member resorts will elect to go with a more internet savvy reporting system and get it out to a much wider audience. It would be great to see all member resorts commit to daily updates that all come prior to 7am each and every day. Whatever company that is called on to provide this new content arrangement should be proactive in contacting the resort’s daily when a resort fails to update so that the information shared by the SSAA is accurate and up to date.
We’d be a good fit, but there are plenty of good firms that would make for a much more efficient and entertaining arrangement than what they have implemented now. The design teams behind Massanutten’s and Wintergreen Resort’s website would do a marvelous job of production and outreeach. We’d highly recommend SnowshoeMtn.com’s crew but we’re fairly certain that they have an in-house crew handling their content.
We can hope that ALL of the member resort marketing crews and owners will recognize the power and outreach of the internet in selling their product to a new group of skiers and snowboarders for years to come.
SOME RESORTS ARE WINNERS ON THE NET…
Some ski areas have yet to really begin marketing their resorts on the internet by updating their own web content and working to get their name our in front of potential new skiers and snowboarders. Wolf Ridge, Bryce Resort, Timberline and Sapphire Valley are woefully short in terms of their websites and traffic to them. Even though their websites are less trafficked than most of the other SSAA member resorts, at least Bryce and Timberline updated their website snow reports each day last season.
When some resorts fall short of getting “their fair share” of traffic, the big winners are the resorts that proactively and aggressively market on the internet. Another way to look at it is some resort’s websites simply get far more traffic than they should BECAUSE associational and other resort websites are not getting their share.
Here’s how the ski resorts in our region rank in monthly visitorship/traffic according to two different net traffic reporting services*:
1. SnowshoeMtn.com – 15%
2. MassResort.com – 13.6%
3. WintergreenResort.com – 12.6%
4. SkiSugar.com – 8.6%
5. WispResort.com – 7.1%
6. SkiBeech.com – 6.7%
7. Winterplace.com – 6.6%
8. OberGatlinburg.com – 5.8%
9. AppSkiMtn.com – 4.0%
10. Cataloochee.com – 3.9%
11. TheHomestead.com – 3.6%
12. CanaanResort.com – 3.5%
13. SkiWolfRidgeNC.com – 2.8%
14. BryceResort.com – 2.5%
15. TimberlineResort.com – 2.0%
16. SkiSapphire.com – 1.0%
* The percentages shown in the rankings above are the percentages of monthly traffic of ALL of the traffic to the websites above during the month of January 2009, which was the peak month for all of the websites shown. (To be clear, these rankings are based on the resort’s website traffic and not the traffic that their web pages on SkiSoutheast.com receive. )
Using a little simple math, if all resorts were equal in their internet marketing then they should all receive about 6% of the daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal internet traffic of people looking at ski and snowboarding information for their favorite ski area. That means that NINE of sixteen ski areas received less than the 6% share that they should have. The top three trafficked websites gobbled up over 41% of ALL of the traffic with two of those three resorts located in Virginia. SnowshoeMtn.com and Winterplace.com were the only West Virginia ski resorts that surpassed their share of the overall southeast and mid Atlantic traffic. SkiSugar.com and SkiBeech.com were the only two North Carolina ski areas (of five ski areas) that “made the grade”.
Bear in mind that internet visitorship isn’t the same as physical, skier visits, but it probably isn’t a coincidence that the WV ski resort’s website had around 800,000 unique visits during the 2008-2009 ski season. That is on par with the 800,000 physical skier visits that the four ski areas saw last season.
There is no question that people are now planning their vacations and getaways on the internet and it goes without saying that the websites that do the best to create more “snow fever” will get the greater share of physical visits.
When some resorts fall short of getting “their fair share” of internet traffic, the big winners are the resorts that proactively go after that traffic and resorts such as Snowshoe Mountain, Massanutten and Wintergreen have been the biggest beneficiaries from the subpar traffic of some of the other ski resorts on the net.
WHY SKISOUTHEAST.COM IS MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER SKI WEB PRESENCE…
If SkiSoutheast.com was a ski resort, our website would only rank 4th behind the traffic received by SnowshoeMtn.com, MassResort.com and WintergreenResort.com, with only slightly more traffic than SkiSugar.com. Obviously we’re not a ski area, but that isn’t where our traffic ends either. The bulk of the traffic coming to SkiSoutheast.com stems from the 23,301 inbound links directing traffic to us. According to Google the figure is 18,500 websites linked to us. Either way, that is the most of any ski web presence east of the Rockies. Most link trackers count approximately 14,000 inbound domain names linking to us, and that is substantially higher than the second most linked to website covering our region’s ski resort that has nearly 600 inbound domain names linking to it. SnowshoeMtn.com as an example carries with it about 8600 inbound links.
If that’s where things ended, we’d have a lot to brag about; however we also pull an inordinate amount of traffic (nearly 25,000 unique visitors a day) through our webcams and weather content via HighCountryWebCams.com and HighCountryWeather.com.
That stated, SkiSoutheast.com’s network of ski and snow related content drew more than 5.7 MILLION unique visitors during the period of October 2008 through March 2009, with more than 42 MILLION pages viewed and an average of more than 31,000 unique visitors every single day.
January 2009 provided the peak visitation month this past season with 1,302,810 unique visitors, 9,789,148 pages viewed and an average of 42,024 visitors per day.
(Visitor, page views and daily averages confirmed by Urchin Stats Web Server)
We saw peak visitation days that were in excess of 100,000 visitors twice due to heavy snowfall days.
This success has emboldened us to undertake our largest reconstruction project in our thirteen year history. We look forward to an increased popularity as we move into the 2009-2010 ski and snowboarding season and beyond.
The internet is most certainly “where we’re at” and we commit to you, our visitors, to work to inform and entertain you. We’re excited about the season ahead and hope that you will continue to spread the word that for all things related to skiing and snowboarding in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic – the best, one-stop-shop for snow reports, trip planners and more – it’s SkiSoutheast.com
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