SAM Summer Ops Camp Explored Opportunities, Challenges, and Fun


Quebec’s four-season Tremblant resort was the host site of this year’s SAM Summer Ops Camp—an immersive, multi-day event designed to help ski area operators grow their summer business—Sept. 7-9. More than 80 operators, vendors, and experts were in attendance to experience a variety of unique activities, learn from several educational sessions, and network with each other. 

Tremblant was chosen as the host site for its broad summertime offerings, including a ZipTrek Ecotours zip line tour, Moment Factory “Tonga Lumina Night Walk,” Le Luge downhill cart track, beautiful base village, and more. Campers also experienced nearby attractions such as a via ferrata and the new netted attraction, Upla, from The Trekking Group; Scandinave Spa; and the new Treetop Walk Laurentides. 

During the opening night reception, Tremblant president and CEO Patrice Malo detailed what has made the resort a successful four-season business for many years. To build a strong summer business, he said, operators must “build a critical mass of eco-friendly attractions and events, providing compelling stories and unique experiences,” while gradually adapting operating structures and staffing models.

Day two began with an informative session about summer ops trends led by Paul Cummings of Strategic Adventures and Claire Humber of SE Group, who interviewed the leaders of summer and all-season attractions companies from around the world. A theme throughout the discussion was that summer guests are a very broad demographic, and may not have a lot of experience with outdoor activities.

“Everyone comes to the outside at a different level—experience, ability, background, expectations—and for a lot of people, getting outside and enjoying the beautiful outdoor environment is a new thing,” said Humber. As such, it’s beneficial if your summer activities appeal to a broad user group.

Then, members of the Insights Collective think tank examined the assumptions and forces at play that are changing the future of four-season business. The group of data-crunchers discussed a variety of factors that are impacting travel, tourism, and destination communities, including the economy, consumer confidence, housing, staffing, policy, environment, and much more. 

The Collective’s Carl Ribaudo of SMG Consulting suggested a balanced approach between promotion and environmental behavior in messaging to would-be visitors. “Instead of just saying, ‘Come here and let it rip’ in your marketing, set some expectations—ensure visitors understand how to take care of a place before they come there,” said Ribaudo. 

An afternoon of outdoor activities followed, with campers exploring glamping tents from EJH Events and Distribution, a demo of LockD Clips from Ropes Park Equipment, rides on Le Luge, and a guided tour of Tremblant’s village. 

The group then visited the newly-opened Treetop Walk Laurentides, a fully-accessible canopy walk that culminates in spiraling up to the top of a 12-story tower where everyone toasted with glass of sparkling wine and enjoyed 360-degree views of the mountainous landscape. Returning to Tremblant after dark, campers embarked on the Tonga Lumina night walk, a multi-media sensory experience through the woods at the resort with rich sound, lights, and digital projections telling the story of the sleeping giant that calls the mountain home.

The final morning culminated in two sessions: Selling Summer and Summertime Incident Trends.

Selling Summer was led by Marie-Josée Legault from Origin Outside, Monyse Bélisle from Gendron Travel, Strategic Adventures’ Paul Cummings, and Claire Humber of SE Group. The experts warned operators not to fall into the trap of assuming people know what they’re getting for the price they pay and what the experience will be like. They suggested operators should do more to explain what the products and experiences are on their websites, and help potential customers plan by guiding them more effectively ahead of time. 

Cummings raised the issue of businesses using the same nomenclature to describe different things, and using different nomenclature to describe similar things. “The indoor family entertainment center ‘adventure park’ is not the same as an outdoor high-ropes course adventure park, and that’s confusing to people,” he said. Clear messaging and guidance are vital.

Tim Bruce from insurer Safehold Special Risk and Marie-Anick Tourillon, who handles risk management for the Quebec Ski Areas Association, discussed incident trends, the leading causes, and how to mitigate incidents that result in claims. 

Staffing was a big discussion as it relates to incident trends. The importance of thorough training was stressed by both experts, especially given data presented by Tourillon showing that newly installed activities and attractions tend to generate more claims. She said there’s a learning curve for new operations.

The team at SAM would like to thank everyone who came to Summer Ops Camp this year. Next year, the event will be held at a western location to be determined. Stay tuned.


About Author

Dave Meeker is the senior editor for Adventure Park Insider. He has a background in marketing, public relations, and writing in the mountain resort industry. Before joining the team at API, Dave was the marketing director for Mount Snow in Vermont. What better way to try and conquer a slight fear of heights than to work at a magazine that covers adventure parks? He couldn't think of one.

Leave A Reply