[Photo via Liftopia]
Venture capitalist and former CEO of Expedia Erik Blachford (right, above) had some strong words for the ski industry when he spoke to the Mountain Travel Symposium in Snowmass Village this week, which bills itself as "the single largest gathering of mountain travel professionals in North America." The Symposium invited Blachford in to provide an outside perspective on the ski industry and give advice to the industry as a whole as it marches into the 21st century. Blachford sat the crowd down and told them they were going to have to change some key business strategies in order to stay competitive in an era of social media, climate change, and flat growth for skiing as a whole. Here are the five best quotes from his speech:
· "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter." Said in response to an Intrawest executive who asked how ski areas could track ski passes Blachford proposed that would give first-timers free lift tickets and/or rentals in a way that would ensure only beginners would use them. Blachford proposed the idea as one solution to what he considered the industry's insufficient efforts to attract new people to the slopes, and advocated that for just "a little wear and tear on your rental equipment," resorts could get new people in the door, build good will, and earn money from other purchases made at the resort.
· "People want to shop how people want to shop. The industry can't control that." Said to encourage ski resorts to get away from 'hoarding' their lodging packages only on their own websites, and post them on comparison shopping sites like (you guessed it) Expedia, where potential customers do much of their travel shopping. He also encourages resorts to have websites at least as sophisticated so customers don't get frustrated.
· "We are living in the most narcissistic time in human history." Said in reference to the potential for live streaming video from future skiers on the slopes, using Google Glasses or similar devices, to help ski area's presence on social media.
· "Social media can turn people on to something, but it can't close a sale." Said in debunking any attending marketing department's complete faith in Facebook to make sales.
· "You guys could do the world a great service by connecting the dots (by saying), 'If you love skiing, it doesn't take a lot.' Just tell your congressperson, 'Yeah, I love skiing, and I want to ski with my kids for a long time.'" Said in reference to ski resorts' responsibility to "connect the dots" of climate change and bring the issue to the attention of their visitors while using their lobbying power to push for policy action on the state and federal level.
· Outsider has tough love for ski industry [Aspen Times]
· Ski resorts urged to step up battle for the climate [Aspen Times]