White Snow, Waxed Skis, and the World Wide Web

Saddleback

Objectives:

  • Create a website for this Maine ski resort that enables visitors to quickly find the information they want
  • Design a site reflective of Saddleback’s brand, enabling it to stand out from other ski resorts by highlighting excellent customer service, a friendly atmosphere, four-season offerings, and a big mountain “vibe”
  • Attract more website visitors
  • Improve Saddleback’s search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Develop an e-commerce function so the resort can safely and easily manage its own online sales
  • Provide the resort’s marketing staff with the ability to edit content internally

Situation Analysis:

Since purchasing the 8,300-acre Saddleback Mountain several years earlier, the Berry family had invested many millions transforming it into a first-class resort. With new trails and lifts, a new lodge, significant improvements to snow quality and an innovative customer service program in place, Saddleback had been completely transformed. The resort’s leadership now recognized they needed an online marketing and sales tool that could spread the word about the mountain’s new positioning as a leading ski destination and ultimately attract and engage a much larger group of visitors. NMC was tasked with building the site from the ground up. Leveraged by aggressive public relations, social media marketing, and advertising, the new website would become the heart of Saddleback’s promotional efforts.

Methods:

NMC designed a look for the site that conveyed the resort’s positioning as a family-friendly ski area offering a “big mountain” experience. Compelling photography of skiers and snowboarders of all ages and levels enjoying the trails and glades illustrated the mountain provides a great vacation experience to a wide range of people. A streamlined Web architecture enabled site visitors to find exactly what they were looking for quickly. Trail maps, driving directions, event details, videos of Saddleback fun, lodging information, the snow report, and the e-store could all be accessed right from the Home page. Keyword research helped determine what terms individuals were using to seek out ski destinations via the Web. With this information in hand, NMC was able to draft copy using the keywords to generate great SEO rankings and significantly increase traffic to the new site. An e-store enabled the online purchasing of lift tickets, season passes, concert tickets and ski shop items, a brand-new value-added offering to Saddleback customers. Seasonal changes to photography and text — a task that could be completed in-house thanks to the content management software capability incorporated into the site by NMC — promoted the resort as a destination for four-season fun . . . not just winter sports. Content management software also enabled Saddleback staff to update the snow report and mountain views daily as well as regularly update the “Saddleback Buzz” sidebar to let people in on upcoming activities at Saddleback.

Results:

Website traffic increased more than 60 percent in the months after the new site went live. Search engine-driven Web traffic also showed a significant increase, with a 74.5 percent boost from Google and a 30 percent upsurge from Yahoo. The new e-store also proved popular among Saddleback fans, with more than 3,800 individuals shopping it in just one month.

The season following the introduction of the website was a big success for the ski mountain. Saddleback's revenue went up by 40 percent, and skier visits were up by 15 percent over the previous year. This was a result of the mountain’s new offerings and a great marketing communications strategy — of which the new website was a key element.