Make it Happen Repositioning the Iconic California Ski Resort

The Challenge

In the highly competitive ski industry with over 800 resorts in North America competing for skier visits, and with as many as 41 options to choose from on a single mega-pass like Ikon or Epic, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows was faced with the challenge of making our resort and brand stand out in a crowded space.

Being host to the 1960 Winter Olympics and having been featured in numerous ski movies including the popular 80's Hot Dog the Movie, Squaw Valley benefited from decent brand awareness amongst skiers and snowboarders across the country. However, recent brand tracking research showed that while our brand awareness was on par with our competitive average, the brand wasn't resonating with the target audience in a way that was driving equally high consideration and visitation.

*Competitive set includes 20 western US resorts, 4 of which are in Lake Tahoe, plus Whistler in Canada.

Objectives & Goals

How Do We Differentiate Ourselves in a way that Drives Brand Affiliation & Resort Visitation?

More than ever, Squaw Alpine recognized the need to differentiate itself, to stand out from the sea of resorts; not just with an appealing offers and competitive pricing but with a strong brand that connects with guests on an emotional level and puts Squaw Alpine at the top of skiers’ “Must Do” list. We had these specific goals for the 2018/19 season:

  • Drive skier visits.
  • Own the Ikon Pass market. Be the most desirable resort on the Ikon pass.
  • Increase brand awareness specifically within the destination market.

Our Approach

Leverage and Embrace our Unique California Culture

We knew that the unique people, vibe and energy at Squaw Alpine was something to celebrate, and that our distinctively Californian ski experience would resonate with our customer. But with California being best known for sun, sand and surf, how do you compete with Rocky Mountain resorts with such strong reputations for snow and skiing? Our challenge was to educate people not only that there's good skiing in California, but that the experience at Squaw Alpine is as good as it gets.

Our strategy leans into the ambition and positive energy of our guests while celebrating our unique California culture, which is filled with:

  • Innovative thinking & a pioneering spirit
  • Ambition & progression
  • Fun & play
  • Laid-back attitude
  • Youthful individuality

In every life experience, Californians turn it up a notch! There's more energy, more personality, more challenge.

Bringing the Campaign to Life

With a defined focus for the brand, it was important to craft creative that would help bring the positioning to life. Working with Origin, our creative agency, we developed a new brand campaign to connect with the target audience of adventurous families and outdoor aficionados.

From our video/photo assets to traditional and digital advertising, the campaign celebrates the aspirational nature of the Squaw Alpine brand, positioning it as a place that encourages people to dream of potential and possibilities, in a distinctly fun and playful Californian way.  But we don't just leave it at dreaming. Through the campaign, we wanted to motivate people to Make it Happen.

Brand Anthem


Our photo assets are shot to capture the energy of Squaw | Alpine skiers, and our resort’s dynamic vibe.

The creative incorporates a unique visual style that combines exciting, vibrant colors and textures to bump up the California vibe and create a fresher, more differentiating and less corporate feel. The Golden State's landscape is very subtly infused into our headline and border treatments.

Print and Out-of-Home Advertising

In print and out-of-home we focused on simple brand messages to drive home our brand positioning.

Reno Airport Concourse

Digital Advertising

We also developed a suite of digital banners and takeovers with various CTA's to get across the brand message in display advertising while often driving home more specific tactical messages.

The Shred Report: Video Series

We launched a weekly video report called "The Shred Report" providing near-real time condition updates and showing fun times regardless of what the weather brings.

Legends of Squaw Alpine Videos

In tying together the broader California experience, we partnered with Teton Gravity Research to launch a video series showcasing the colorful and inspirational characters that make up the unique Squaw Alpine culture. These people are not only legendary skiers and snowboarders but are motivated, ambitious influencers who embody positivity and are Making it Happen.

In this episode, we follow Chuck Patterson, a world-class surfer and skier who splits his time between the sea and the snow.

Delivering the Experience

It was crucial that our brand repositioning was not solely a marketing initiative but the experience was brought to life at the resort, across all operations. From events to signature food & beverage offerings to employee uniforms, we focused on bringing the fun, energetic, quirky California vibe to life.

Snow golf at Alpine Meadows
Cushing Crossing Pond Skim at Squaw Valley
Fun apres ski scenes
Employees in Spring Skiing Capital Uniforms to complete the spring vibe

Dialing Up Spring Skiing

As one of the few major ski resorts in the country that stay open past mid-April, we also capitalized on enhancing our spring skiing experience so we can continue to grow our reputation as the Spring Skiing Capital. We aimed to show the ultimate California experience on the snow by focusing on:

  • California sunshine: t-shirt skiing, goggle tans
  • Dependable snow surface: corduroy, corn snow
  • Multi sport: ski & paddle; ski & bike, ski & surf

The Results

2018/19 was a monumental and record season in many ways. With the help of mother nature bringing the snow and a successful launch of a new brand campaign, we saw astonishing results.

Business KPIs

  1. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows was the 8th most visited resort in North America during the 2018/19 season
  2. Squaw Alpine was the #2 most visited resort by Ikon Passholders (beating Aspen, Jackson Hole and 38 other major resorts)
  3. We achieved record breaking sales in multi-day lift ticket products as well as lodging

Marketing KPIs

  1. Digital campaign drove positive advertising results with a ROAS of 1087%
  2. Video view rate of 51% well exceeded the industry average of 30%
  3. Last season, Spring Skiing Capital coverage garnered 460 million unique monthly viewers for the months of March through May alone.
  • We will be conducting another brand research study this February 2020 where we will be able to see if we have meaningfully increased our brand awareness and/or consideration.

Thank you for your time!