There's a breed of pre-season skier common to Whistler, shuttered in their homes, rolling around the floor with new gear and fine tuning their already perfectly-tuned bindings. Whistler Blackcomb has catered to this crowd for decades, even relied on them to radiate the hype of an upcoming season. But in duplicating a wildly successful outreach initiative of last year, it seems the mountain has reinvented its role from simply being an object of desire to being an active playmate.
Once again WB has rolled out its Wonder Campaign, a two-platformed outreach that first inspires skiers with Wonder Reels — a seven-part video series parcelled out through the season — and a social media blitz that corrals fans to share their own experiences through photos.
The Wonder Reels are sharp, emotive, narrative-driven pieces produced by the celebrated local production outfit, Switchback Entertainment. Last year the series focused on physical places of wonder — the slopes that define the Whistler experience. This year, the theme targets the more ethereal nature of our addiction: "Wonder—is it a place or a state of mind?"
The Whistler Blackcomb website describes the series as a "thrilling search for the elusive state that emerges when a spectacular place and a special moment collide." While the message might aim for the soul, viewers can still expect a good dose of action, too.
"The look and feel is very similar to last year," said WB's communications manager, Michelle Leroux. "We're celebrating that moody quality of being in the trees and having the deep-powder snow shots."
The latest of the series, The Wait for Winter follows the evolving state of the mountains from autumn glum into winter glory.
Upcoming episodes include a feature with freesking legend Mike Douglas riding the new Harmony 6 Express and taking the viewer on a visual, historical tour of the Harmony zone.
The Wonder Campaign more or less sets the mood of the season, it lays the foundation for the mountain's marketing through magazines, travel agents and would-be visitors. It's the social media aspect, however, that drives the hype, an accomplishment WB seems to have mastered over the past couple years in similar social media campaigns.
Whether stoked by the Wonder Reels or resurrecting an innate zeal for the season, the public is invited to share their own photos through Instagram and Twitter, to share their interpretation of a rotating theme, which is currently "what it means to be snow ready" (#WBsnowready). In the first two weeks, more than 700 people have participated, whether it's enthusiasts suiting up or sharing their best photos from last year, or professional athletes photographing their gym workout or surfing equatorial waves.
"We have a very strong social media audience — it's big," Leroux said, and she’s not kidding — the official Facebook page has over 155,000 likes, while they have over 55,000 followers on Twitter.
"They're quite engaged this time of year because they're in that state of anticipation,” Leroux added. “We found that we just had to offer them that directive of showing us what it means to them to be snow-ready."
Whistler Blackcomb is no stranger to social media. They were one of the first mountains to launch a Facebook page and they have also devised social media campaigns since 2006. But not until the last few years have they strategized their approach, a decision that transformed in some ways the actual culture of the mountain. It's not just the subject of media attention anymore, but an actual content producer, releasing a constant flow of media about numerous aspects of mountain operations to keep fans engaged.
"We really do take advantage of that opportunity to almost act as a media outlet," Leroux said. "Now we can produce these amazing videos with Switchback, and we have a way of getting it to the masses, without necessarily relying on (the media) — although the media partners are still very important, we can now directly serve up the content to fans.
"Before this, you almost wonder how we told people that it snowed (in the alpine). Now you just post a photo of fresh snow on the mountain and we get thousands of likes. It is by far the best way to engage our audience."
Part of the current campaign's success is due to its organic outreach, Leroux adds. For the social media aspect there is no advertising or outside buy-in to push an agenda. It's a pure, rapid dialogue between mountain and skier.
"It's more timely, more grassroots, and it's basically getting our fans on the social channels to play with us," Leroux said.
Watch the Wonder Reels at www.whistlerblackcomb.com/vidoes/wonders.
To upload photos to Snow-Ready tag your Instagram photos with #WBSnowReady. The best shots could win a heli-skiing trip, a GoPro or other prizes.