What’s Next For SkiSoutheast.com?
To tell you “what’s next?” I have to tell you a not-so-short story.
Those of you who have followed this website for the previous 19 seasons will attest that we’ve never had a shortage of “ideas” about what we could do in terms of delivering content that would be of interest to our readers. When we first started the website nearly twenty years ago we featured a very amateurish (compared to today’s standards) chat room. Back then we were ecstatic over 100 visitors per day and although it FELT like we had an audience back then, the chat room was something of a ghost town as we’d be lucky to see two people on it at the same time to actually converse.
We migrated to the (then) industry standard bulletin boards of the day and as the visitation of the website grew – so did the participation of many of our regular visitors. This past February 28th, the messageboard saw 67 users logged in at the same time posting and communicating with fellow ski and snowboarding enthusiasts.
That number might sound a little low, but if you think about it – if you can attract from 10-20-60 visitors at any given time during a day – for even twelve hours a day – you’ll have a good visitor number (40,000 or more).
Even with the explosion of social media – we are seeing participation on the SkiSoutheast Messageboard that is viable.
We receive emails daily from potential visitors asking questions about where the best slopes are for rookies, or where the best ski schools are, etc. and while we DO make an attempt to answer all of those, the truth is the people who are frequenting the messageboard offer a great wealth of knowledge that they are happy to share with anyone.
If you haven’t visited the messageboard, you really should. Signing up is FREE and if you’ll just login and introduce yourself and/or post a comment or question or two – we think that you’ll find it entertaining AND you’ll meet some new friends.
So What’s New? What’s Next?
Over the last month or two we’ve been posting “what’s new” at individual ski areas and we’ve posted some new additions of our own – such as the addition of David McCue and Randy Johnson to our writing team.
So the weather is crap; no snow has fallen to get the masses excited and now NO ski areas are open…and yet our traffic up. Go figure.
So we’re growing. Traffic is UP by nearly 30% on SkiSoutheast.com alone – compared to the exact same period last season. THAT is remarkable when you consider that we had ski resorts open and snow on the ground last year at this time. So far – to date – only Sugar Mountain and Cataloochee have opened and that was for only ONE and FOUR days respectively.
If you’ve visited our site over the years you’ll know that we jumped into the aerial drone scene and now have TWO drones and we’ve been reasonably happy with offering a bird’s eye view of resorts like most of you had/have never seen prior. We’ll be doing more of that AS OUR PARTNER ski areas allow us to.
However…we’re REALLY excited about the potential of offering something that NO OTHER resource is doing within the ski industry and that is LIVE BROADCASTS from the slopes to your desktop, laptops and phones.
Let me table that excitement for a second and continue with my story. To do so, I need to take you guys back about four years. Like any good content delivery website of ANY subject, we’ve been posting videos that were either produced by the ski areas, visitors TO the ski areas or by us. I remember standing in our front offices with Kenny Griffin and recording he and I chatting about the daily resort news…and posting it to some FLASH player – because YouTube wasn’t what it is today. He and I were toying with the idea that what we were doing at that time…could be SkiSoutheastTV. We even went and bought the domain name.
However, that really wasn’t LIVE. It was pretty cool and the concept could have worked if we’d have been funded to go and do videos and meet with all of the ski area folks. We weren’t and we didn’t. But the IDEA was good.
However the videos that WE DID post and have continued to post on the front page of the site have ALWAYS been well received and watched.
Fast forward to the last year or so – we now have Meteorologist Brad Panovich shooting studio quality weather videos for us a couple of times a week and the resorts themselves are doing MUCH better about providing video updates regularly…and we post them to our content so that MORE of you guys can see the messages that they want to send.
Snowshoe, Winterplace, Wintergreen and Massanutten do some amazing video productions and our visitors have paid notice to them. If “a picture’s worth a thousand words”, then how much is a video worth?
The crazy thing is that I can remember back perhaps ten years ago when a couple of our more zealous readers would send video clips nearly every day. It took us hours to get those online…but we did it.
…and now, more and more ski areas are recognizing the value of great video.
…and Then “It” Happened…
Then something happened two seasons ago. My brother-from-another-mother, Joe Stevens – formerly of Snowshoe Mountain Resort and The Media Center – called me to ask IF we would be interested in broadcasting a LIVE EVENT on SkiSoutheast.com. That event was the LEARN TO SKI & SNOWBOARD MONTH press conference held in WV and attended by all of the ski area ops and the Governor of West Virginia. Joe and his team at The Media Center set up their satellite truck and all of their camera equipment and put all of their resources into getting that event LIVE and on the air via SkiSoutheast.com.
It worked. Joe and his team pulled everything off without a glitch…and we did that event again last season.
The technology worked because of hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and the combined IT efforts of his team and our Kenny Griffin. By THAT time, www.ResortCams.com was a huge success and we were running our own video servers and encoding software.
So a few months ago I started looking around at new cameras. I remembered that Kenny and I had played tennis up at Seven Devils a couple of years earlier and he was able to use his Smartphone and actually show us playing tennis LIVE through our video server. I’m fairly certain that nobody was interested in our tennis match – but the the crazy thing was THAT WE COULD FILM US LIVE.
The quality of the image was not great. The connectivity was sketchy, but it worked.
So as I’m looking around at new cameras to film resort activities with – I also found some pretty cool equipment that when combined with the brain cells of Kenny Griffin (okay and mine) the THOUGHT OCCURRED TO ME THAT WE MIGHT JUST BE ABLE TO BROADCAST LIVE FROM ANYWHERE – including on the snow, on the side of the slopes, on a freaking chair lift…ANYWHERE.
STRAIGHT INTO THE FREAKING FIREPAN!!!
Now normally any SANE person would test systems, run some “what ifs” and maybe even see if we MIGHT be able to do what we thought we could do – before jumping right in the fire with this stuff.
Kim Jochl of Sugar Mountain sent me a VERY NICE email last week inviting me to attend the NC SKI AREAS ASSOCIATION’S press conference on Wednesday, November 18th at 1pm. Since we are THE BEST AND ONLY RESOURCE for all things snow and ski and snowboard and tubing and…well you know – I thought that it would be cool to FINALLY attend one of these things and share that message with our readers.
Then it hit me. What IF we could televise the damn event LIVE?
So ON MONDAY (yes two days ago) I bit the bullet and bought a sweet new camera system, some accessories AND some video encoding equipment with a HOPE that we could televise the event. We already owned the video servers and software to run it. In THEORY we could make it happen; but we had no idea how good the quality might be and we had no clue about the usage of WIFI at Sugar, etc.
Kenny gave me SOME hope that we might be able to broadcast through this new equipment – tethered to his Smartphone…but again, we were not sure what the quality would be.
So the camera and video encoding equipment arrived LATE Tuesday afternoon. That’s correct – yesterday – less than 20 hours to showtime.
Talk about faith. I placed an invitation on the front page of the site and sent our our SkiMail invites to all of you guys (on our list) and to every weather television personality in the region. More than 500 or so opened the email. (Remember we JUST sent them out on Tuesday – LATE!) (By the way, thanks to my man, Matt Laws in our office to pulling that off very quickly!)
As a “sidebar” if you guys and gals have not signed up for our Newsletter and Notifications, you REALLY SHOULD. Click on the graphic to the RIGHT and sign up. It’s THE best way, other than visiting our site all the time, to get news and updates.
…back to my story. (I’m nearly finished…really I am.)
So bear in mind that Kenny Griffin, nor Randy Johnson of our team had ever even SEEN the system. We met this morning in my office (at 10am. Yes we’re risk takers!) and tested the system. It worked! But of course we were on our office WIFI and we have fiber in our offices so we could launch the space shuttle if we wanted. But it worked. So IN THEORY it should work at Sugar.
We charged up the batteries (only had ONE for the camera and ONE for the video encoder – again risk takers) and Kenny and Randy headed to Sugar. We were HOPING that we’d have an AC outlet close by in case things went long – but that didn’t happen.
So here we were with a new camera (never seen or touched until two hours before the event), a new video encoder gadget, limited to NO WIFI and NO power outlets – “ready to broadcast to the world”.
I WISHED THAT I USED PROFANITY…
…because I couldn’t even THINK of good enough adjectives to use to share how this all turned out! It was awesome, kick-ass (ass is not a profane word), it was simply amazing how well things turned out. As Kenny related more than once via texts during the broadcast, “Dude! I’m so geeked out! This is AWESOME!”
The event was delayed about 10-15 minutes but we were LIVE nonetheless and then Kim Jochl stepped to the microphone. She asked our Randy Johnson if he could hear her from back where we were filming from and with our confirmation – she went to delivering her presentation and introductions.
Literally an hour and a half later, we were still filming and broadcasting this event LIVE. We watched as people logged onto the video. We were texting with Snowshoe Mountain’s Shawn Cassell as he tuned in. We saw that the average visitor hung around for an average of twenty minutes each on a rainy weekday when people are working; on a day with NO SNOW on the ground and NO ski resort in the Southeast open and operating.
All I can say is – UN-FREAKING-REAL.
Watch the video. It is unedited, raw footage – with all of the chatting while we’re waiting to go LIVE and all – but it was shot and delivered LIVE to our viewers. Immediately after it was finished, it was automatically processed to watch by anyone coming to the site tomorrow, two weeks or years from now.
Here’s the crazy thing. Previously you’d have needed a satellite truck, some VERY expensive equipment and lots of resources, bandwidth, cam servers and more…and you can’t park a satellite truck on the slopes!
NOW – we can broadcast LIVE from any location…even while riding a chair lift!
We’ve combined some amazing new technologies with our knowledge of live streaming video (see ResortCams.com) and what we have is an amazing opportunity to show you our ski resorts like you’ve never seen them before…LIVE.
WHAT IS SKISOUTHEASTTV?
Yesterday I speculated about that. I even hinted that it remained to be seen just WHAT that could mean.
TODAY – I can tell you that we are only limited by YOU!
What do I mean by that? Simply put – for SkiSoutheastTV to be viable, you have to want it. You have to be interested enough to just visit and tell others to.
We want your help. How can you help? Simply share your ideas of what you’d like to see and WE will see if we can deliver. For example, we’re thinking of never before shared LIVE content broadcasting, LIVE snowboarding competitions from the ski areas. We’re thinking LIVE interviews and conversations with the people RUNNING these ski areas. We want to introduce you to these brave souls who MAKE the ski areas run.
We’re thinking of just stopping and interviewing people on the side of the slopes to see where they’re from and what they like about XYZ Resort.
How about you? What do YOU want to see? Anything? Nothing? Are you interested in this kind of delivery?
If you ARE, then tell us what you’d like to see, who you’d like to see interviewed and maybe even what kind of questions that you’d like asked.
So WHAT IS SKISOUTHEASTTV? Nothing – without you.
Yesterday we were hoping and wondering IF we could make this happen. NOW we’re simply wanting to “do it right”.
Thanks to all who visited the website and who watched the LIVE EVENT. On a rainy day, with no snow and no skiing happening anywhere in the region we have still pulled around 5,000 visits to our network at the time of this post (4:15pm). Obviously everyone didn’t stop to watch the LIVE FEED but for those of you who did – thanks for being our guinea pigs.
By the way if you missed the LIVE event, you can now watch the entire press conference archived. Before you do…I’ll mention that the meeting itself was REALLY very interesting and our Randy Johnson will be sharing ALL of the details with you later in the week. However, the gist of the study is that North Carolina’s ski resorts turned 653,654 skier visits last season. A skier visit includes snowboarders and what qualifies as a skier visit is one person buying one lift pass for one day.
The economic impact of those visits was $197.2 Million Dollars to the communities where the ski resorts are located. Pretty impressive. That was UP 34% from the last analysis that was done in 2010.
Another “interesting moment” was when some Q&A was being allowed at the end of the event. Watch at about the 1:03 (one hour and three minute) mark where a guy introduced himself as having recently moved from New York and was representing a syndicate of investors who were exploring parcels with an eye on opening another ski area.
Obviously this meeting was not the time or place to ask those questions…but it’s an interesting “watch” to say the least.
So THANKS FOR TUNING IN. If you’re interested in MORE…how about emailing me and telling me? Don’t be SHY!
Until then – THINK COLD! THINK SNOW! Think SkiSoutheastTV!
You can email me at [email protected]
Here’s the VIDEO. Click to play it.