More than 160 summer operations managers, vendors, and schemers gathered at the Canyons Grand Summit in Park City, Utah, to explore the state of the art in summer activities at SAM’s Summer Ops Camp, Sept. 14-16. They experienced flow trails, hiking trails, mountain coasters, zip lines, aerial parks, and a variety of other activities at Canyons, Park City, Snowbird, Deer Valley, Sundance, and the Utah Olympic Park. And they heard plenty about how to implement these activities—financially and conceptually.
Camp opened with the chance to experience the bike park, zip tour, and other activities at the Canyons base area. Petzl conducted a demonstration of high-angle rescue and evacuation of both zip lines and ski lifts, and Jeff Suffolk of event producer Human Movement described how to choose events that can serve as anchor attractions and produce significant revenue.
Ralf Garrison of DestiMetrics charted the explosive growth of summer business in resorts across the West and helped quantify the magnitude of summer’s revenue potential. He noted several trends: the blossoming of integrated activities, such as “bleisure” (business and leisure) and “framily” travel, the importance of health and wellness, and the exponential growth of Airbnb.
Planning for summer activities received special focus. Travis Beck of SE Group led a panel of Forest Service representatives, who offered their perspectives on how the agency is moving to implement the 2011 Recreational Opportunities Act. Claire Humber of SE Group and Brad Wilson, GM at Bogus Basin, Idaho, dissected the 10-year plan the resort has created for its summer operations, and showed how careful phasing can minimize the need to raise outside capital. And a panel of experts from the adventure park world described both the potential benefits and the frequently overlooked details that can frustrate or disappoint operators entering the aerial realm.
The hands-on aspects of Summer Ops Camp remain one of its major draws, and Campers had several opportunities to actively participate. Thursday afternoon saw attendees playing and exploring Park City’s extensive activities, including its new kids adventure center. Later, Camp headed to Deer Valley for horseback riding, mountain biking and exploring Deer Valley’s signature flow trail, as well as a hike on the trail that connects Park City with Deer Valley. The hike showed how such trails give guests a way to explore the region and can drive significant indirect revenue, from lodging to F&B and other services.
To help resorts acclimate to summer employee culture, human resources consultant Paul Thallner of Great Place to Work (and Insider Management contributor!) outlined what it takes to build a culture of trust and an effective, productive team. He cited relevant examples from like-oriented companies to inspire managers and suggest ways they could alter their own systems and processes.
In another session, Tim Yates of Safehold Special Risk, Mary Bozack of Willis, and ASDA attorney Gainer Waldbillig discussed four strategies to mitigate risk in the summer months.
Last but not least, attendees visited nearby operations for first-hand and behind-the-scenes tours. Snowbird took Campers through its mountain coaster and other activities, and offered a backstage look at its Oktoberfest. Other attendees toured the Utah Olympic Park, Petzl’s elaborate Technical Institute in Salt Lake City, and flew down the Sundance Zip Tour.
In all, it was a jam-packed three days of workshops and field testing that left many participants, both attendees and vendors, gushing about valuable contacts forged and information gained. The future of summer business in winter resorts looks bright.
And that will be the focus of Summer Ops Camp 2017 next September when we go to an eastern location, which will be announced shortly. Make a note to be there!
To see the full gallery of all the fun, visit our sister publication SAM (Ski Area Management) Magazine!