Episode 29: How to Attract Visitors in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, with Drew Broderick
In this episode, you will learn about managing a destination through all four seasons from Drew Broderick.
No day is ever the same for Drew Broderick, director of sales and marketing for Bristol Mountain and Roseland Adventure Attractions, which is comprised of Bristol Mountain Ski Area and Fall Sky Rides, Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures and Zip Line Canopy Tours, Roseland Waterpark, and Roseland Wake Park.
Her enthusiasm for tourism and attractions began with a summer college internship at Walt Disney World. She spent ten years in upper management in the hotel industry and later as the owner of a successful meeting planning and consulting firm, On-Site Meeting Solutions in Dallas, Texas, before relocating to Upstate New York. One of Drew’s most memorable events was supervising the VIP hospitality venues for Anheuser-Busch during the 1994 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. She also traveled the globe as a consultant for an international training company. Some of those places included: Dubai, Singapore, Brazil, Australia, Chile, Bermuda, Spain, and Poland to name a few. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Tourism Management with a Minor in Marketing from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.
Drew has been with Bristol Mountain and Roseland Adventure Attractions for eight years and serves as the media liaison as well as handles all advertising, marketing initiatives, photography and video assets, social media for multiple attractions, and oversees the group sales efforts. Currently, Bristol Mountain has six former Freestyle athletes competing on the US Ski Team and with the next winter Olympics taking place in February of 2018, Bristol Mountain hopes to see one or more of these athletes competing for Team USA.
One of Drew’s passions is getting people involved in outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, wakeboarding, zip lining, and climbing the courses in the aerial adventure park. Drew says, “There is so much to do right here that we’ve adopted the tagline of Adventure Capital of the Finger Lakes.”
Thank you for joining me, Drew.
I’m excited to be here, Nicole.
That bio is so fun because everything that we’re talking about just sounds like fun. I want to get right outside and do all of it. So I can’t wait to hear about our conversation today, I know our listeners are going to learn a lot from you. Before we get started, can you just talk a little bit more about your story and how you’ve gotten to where you are today?
Sure, absolutely. I think probably one of the most memorable parts of my story is my internship at Disney World. When I was in college, there was a show, a weekend magazine show so to speak, and I saw a program on the Magic Kingdom college program, which is what it was called at the time at Disney. I was so excited when I saw that program and I think at the time I was a freshman in high school or a freshman in college. I was so excited, I called Disney, I said, “How do I get involved in this program?” There was dead silence. They said, “Well, you really can’t based on the school you’re at, we don’t recruit from that school. So sorry, it’s not gonna happen for you.”
So I hung up, I was discouraged, and it just kept kind of eating at me, that I wanted to do this program. You know, I didn’t want to change programs because the school I was at, Northeastern State University in Oklahoma was one of the first colleges with a tourism management degree. I just kept pursuing and mulling this over, and I called them back and just said, “Look, I really want to be a part of this program, how do I interview for it?” And finally, I guess I nagged them enough, they said, “Well, we have an interview session coming up, but it’s in Texas. It’s at the Texas A&M. So you’re welcome to come down there and interview, we can’t make any promises.” I actually had two other classmates that were very excited to participate in the interview process with me. We went to Texas A&M, and there were only six slots available for the interview session. So the three of us went down and ended up with three of the six slots in this internship program.
The funny thing is, this is one of the first internship programs, so our class for this program was only about 400 students for the summer session. We were so excited, it was a fantastic experience. But the behind-the-scenes story is that when we received our acceptance letters, you know, “Welcome to the Magic Kingdom college program, we’re so happy to have you, you’ll be staying during your college internship, we’ll be housing you at Snow White Village.” We were so excited. We show up and Snow White Village at the time was a trailer park. So they put eight students to a trailer. And so that’s where we lived for the summer internship. Now they live in very lovely condominiums, but because we were at the forefront of this program we kind of were the guinea pigs for what they decided to do.
But spending the summer at Disney was like no other summer I’ve ever had. Everything from the get-go was customer service. When you were on duty and in the park, it was called being “on stage”. Everything was based on a theatrical performance. One of my most memorable experiences from that was showing up, you would show up to the employee parking area, you would then walk through an underground tunnel, which was how you would get to your attraction. I worked in Tomorrowland, so wouldn’t make sense for me to walk through Adventure Land in a space costume. I would walk through the tunnel, go up to my attraction, which was at the time If You Had Wings and Carousel of Progress.
The crazy thing is, you’re walking down that tunnel to get to your attraction, it’s like a football player walking through the tunnel to get on the field to play a major football game. You’re getting very excited and geared up. No matter what your mood is of that day, the minute you go up the steps and you open that door that takes you into your land, mine was Tomorrowland, all of a sudden your game face is on, you’re grinning from ear to ear with a smile, you’re ready to help customers have that ultimate experience, which is what you see in the Disney commercials.
To have that experience and everyday be on stage and really create lifelong memories for families was so important, and everything that I’ve done with every job that I’ve had since then, I’ve had that in mind, of “that’s the experience”. There’s kind of the buzz word now, experience-based tourism. It’s not new, it’s been happening for many many many many years, and again, my fondest memories of learning this comes from my days at Disney.
Wow, that’s really awesome. I know several college students who have participated in that internship program. Some of them actually I’ve worked with or have interned for me. But I think they would really enjoy to hear your story about how it was when you first started. What I also really like about your story is how that was really foundational to setting you up for the rest of your career and kind of laying that groundwork and understanding that whole idea of experience-based tourism so early on. I think that’s really incredible.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
That’s great. Well, Drew, I’m really excited to talk to you today. And on this podcast we like to focus in two areas, one is on creativity and the other is on collaboration. And generally, when we’re talking about creativity we end up talking about collaboration because they work so closely together. But we would like to start with just talking about creativity and specifically, in the tourism and hospitality industry being such a competitive industry, visitors have so many choices these days of places to travel to and when they’re in a destination of so many different things to do. What have you done to help stand out from the crowd?
Well, I think the one nice thing about working for seasonal attractions is that at the beginning of every season I have a fresh palette. We do have long-range planning, but every season for every attraction that we own and manage, we create a new marketing plan with new expectations as far as what we want to do. We start with a blank canvas, and we decide, what are the expectations we want to provide for our staff and for our guests and what do we want to accomplish. From a creativity standpoint, the sky is the limit.“For seasonal attractions, every season is a fresh palette and a blank canvas.” – Drew Broderick #podcast Click To Tweet
I’ll give you a simple example of a program that I created at Bristol Mountain called the Bristol Mountain Snow Angel Program. This is a two part program and it goes on today. One part was to help us with some situations that we wanted to resolve, and part two was it really gave a lot of customer satisfaction. So the Bristol Mountain Snow Angel Program is basically kind of a pay-it-forward program. For example, if someone comes into guest services and they’ve found a cell phone that was dropped while someone was skiing, our guest services staff have Bristol Mountain Snow Angel cards. They reward that guest for bringing that to our attention so we can get that item back to the guest.
It was very well-received, in fact, the first year that we launched this program, we would give away prizes for guests who participated, and it’s not only guests, it’s staff members as well. What we found was no one came to redeem their prizes. They didn’t want prizes. They just liked being acknowledged that they had done something nice for somebody. So if a guest is skiing and a guest in front of them drops a pole, they ski the pole down to that guest and ski patrol or one of our other staff out skiing sees that happen, they can just pull out a Snow Angel card and reward that guest. Say, “Thanks for taking a moment to help that guest, take this Snow Angel card to guest services and we give you a reward.” Like I said, they really didn’t want to redeem … One, they liked the cards so much they didn’t want to give it away, and two, they didn’t care. They just liked that they did something nice for somebody and they got acknowledged for it.
So this past season, with that same program, they can keep the card. We just say, “Thanks for being a Bristol Mountain Snow Angel and we’d like you to take this card and redeem it for a small hot chocolate or small fountain drink over at Carvers Kitchen.” We find that they’re getting more redeemed in that manner versus thinking they’re going to get a big prize at the end of the day. So that program is very helpful. The way it’s helped us is that again, people are bringing in lost and found type items, we’ve had kids bring in wallets with $300 in it. It’s quite amazing.
Also, at one point we had a situation where folks at our main lift like to just walk out of their gear and just leave it on the ground instead of putting it in the ski racks that were just right there. I would have staff or myself go out and start rewarding people for the simple act of racking their skis, which most people typically do. Other people who weren’t racking their skis would say, “What are you doing? Why are you giving them that card?” I’m like, “Well, because they racked their skis.” So we actually turned around a situation where we had lots of equipment laying on the ground to a situation where everyone was racking their skis in a few short weeks with this particular program. So it’s one of those very simple, creative, fun, feel-good programs that actually helps us out as well.
Yeah, that’s really powerful. I like that on so many levels. I love the whole idea of these random acts of kindness, like you mentioned, picking up someone’s ski pole and returning it to them or turning in a wallet with $300 in it. I mean, that’s just phenomenal. But then that you’re able to take that kind of simple idea and actually use it to make the experience even better by getting guests to rack their own skis, I think that’s incredible. That’s just a really really cool example.
Oh yeah, and one of the nice things to is we also can use it for social media. Some of the stories, we’ll push out on our Facebook page. A couple of years ago when we started the program, one of our first recipients of the Snow Angel Program was Bob, who’s one of our snow sports instructors. I had asked Bob to help me out with a family who had two autistic children. The father of the family called me one day and said, “We’re from Pennsylvania, I have a blended family, I just got married, my wife has three kids, I have three kids. We’re kind of the Brady Bunch. Each of us has an autistic child. You don’t want us to come there to learn to ski, do you?” And I kind of chuckled and said, “Well, of course, we want you to come learn to ski, but let’s maybe take a look at this and make sure that it’s the experience that you’re looking to have and it’s a positive outcome for you and your kids.”
And with a little additional planning, we had the family come out for a weekend, we met with them the day they drove in. They were not intending to ski that day but I said, “Come out to the mountain, let’s meet with you, I’ll give you a tour. Let’s get the kids fitted for their equipment on that day, so that when you come out the next day ready to ski you don’t have to worry about that. That’s already done, they’re already familiar with what they’re gonna do and where they’re gonna go.” I had Bob meet me, we walked around, toured the family, got them all geared up with the equipment. And the next day they brought them back to see Bob in the children’s learning center.
One of the children who were autistic was low on the spectrum and one was high on the spectrum. I really felt that Annie, the child that was higher on the spectrum, I thought, “You know, probably this is gonna be a ten-minute lesson.” And it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen here. Bob took Annie out … And by the way, the family, the two parents didn’t even plan on skiing. They just thought they were gonna be managing kids. At the end of the day, not only was Annie out on snow with Bob for ten minutes, they were out for an entire morning. The other kids had a ball in their lessons, and the parents, we gave them a private lesson. Which was almost like date night for them. They actually got to spend time together just by themselves, kind of learning how to ski.
All of this was done because of Bob’s amazing ability to work with autistic children. One of the reasons why he’s so fantastic is Bob raised Mitchell, his own son is autistic. It was just such a fantastic experience with that family, that we were just rolling out the Snow Angel program at the same time, and I awarded Bob the first Snow Angel card because of his fantastic work with the family. To this day, I have a photo of Annie and Bob out on the snow in my office. So really, really is a fantastic program.
That’s awesome. You know what else is really cool is to hear you tell it as, you know, this podcast we’re talking about marketing and collaboration, but these little special moments that you get to witness when you’re in this industry and the way you just described them, is like icing on the cake.
Oh, absolutely. It is amazing, a lot of people look at, especially snow sports, and they say, “Oh, you know, if they’re not a skier or snowboarder or cross-country skier,” they don’t really understand. There’s many many backstories like this. I have the window to the world here. I really get to see people overcoming personal situations through skiing. We have a program we work with Oasis, which is a program that teaches disabled veterans. Whether they have PTSD or they have a physical limitation, they bring them to Bristol Mountain and teach them to ski. Every week I’m seeing a new and amazing story with regards to how folks are overcoming things because of learning snow sports.
Wow, that’s really awesome. Well, that is actually a perfect segue into our next question, because we do know that creativity usually appears in the face of adversity or challenge. Of course what you just described is adversity or challenge of the personal nature. But could you think about or share with us maybe one of the biggest challenges that you’ve faced as an organization and kind of the impact that it had on you and maybe the creativity that came from it?
Well, I think in this day and age, I have to say it’s probably social media, which is a fantastic marketing tool. I went to college in the eighties and nineties, and marketing has come a long way. So from traditional marketing, which I’m ashamed to say back then there was sometimes where you’d kind of set it and forget it, to now. Literally, you have all these fantastic tools from digital marketing. We still do engage in some traditional marketing, but social media has become such a big part. When I first started here, we didn’t even have a Facebook page. So that’s kind of evolved since I’ve been here. For us, social media, the Facebook and Twitter channels and now from Instagram, they are not only a communication tool for getting information out to our guests and really highlighting all of the fantastic adventures whether you’re skiing and snowboarding or at the Aerial Adventure Park or zip-lining or at the water park/wake park. That’s fantastic for that and pushing out information very quickly and instantaneously.
There is a little bit of a downside because now social media has become the customer complaint media, people wanting answers. I take pride in our websites. Anything that you need to know about any of our attractions is on our websites with plenty of video and photo assets. So it’s really hard to look at our website and walk away and still scratch your head and wonder what it is that we do.
With social media, in particular Facebook, people constantly private message us about the price of a lift ticket or the price of a zip-line ticket, you know, when the information is there. We’re a family-owned company and I’m a one-person marketing department and the administration of the Facebook page falls to me. So there are times when I’ll have a question on the Bristol Mountain Facebook page and I usually check it during the winter season about 11 o’clock, 11:30 before I go to bed, and then I check it about 5 o’clock in the morning. I’ll see a post for a question for something at one in the morning, and then about 1:30 I’ll see another post and it says, “Aren’t you gonna answer me?” It’s that expectation that information is instantaneous.
With social media, it’s making sure that you’re putting out compelling content, but there’s that secondary factor where people are using it now as that customer hotline. They need information, they want to know it now. Despite the fact that it’s out already on a website. Or we have pretty much all of our attractions has a guest services department. During the operational hours, there’s a human that will actually answer that question for you. But I just see and more and more, people want to go to private message or they want to go onto the page and ask questions, which is fine.
The other challenge is all of our adventure attractions are family-oriented, family-centric. We use the same guidelines when it comes to our social media. We don’t tolerate anything that remotely looks like a bullying comment, which in this day and age with social media, people are getting to where they’re pretty harsh. People are typing before they’re thinking, so even the nicest of people sometimes, what they’re trying to convey can come across as harsh and bullying. We do not tolerate any curse words, and again, we’re trying to keep our Facebook page and our social media platforms, are integral to our overall guest experience. Managing multi-attraction Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, can be a little daunting sometimes because it’s not about for us pushing out content. It’s also managing that content and making sure that our guests are also on the same platform as us with regards to respecting other people’s comments and the types of information that they’re wanting to convey on our platforms.
Right. There are so many things that you just shared with us that I want to point out for our listeners. One thing I’m hearing is, in terms of the challenge that social media brings, not only for all of the advantages it brings, but one thing I’m hearing is back to what you started off with is your training at Disney and that experience-based tourism and that focus on the guest and how you in your own career, and I know the organization you work for is very focused on that, and how social media challenges you to be able to continually deliver that 24 hours a day.
Yeah, yeah absolutely. It is that 24 hour a day expectation. Thank goodness for smartphones because really that’s how I manage and I am constantly, if I’m out at dinner I’m checking that. If I get an alert that there’s been something posted I’m checking. Just again, to make sure that everyone’s on the same page and that the content is appropriate.
Sometimes the cool thing about social media is if they post it publicly. Private message, of course, is different than that. But sometimes your base can actually respond for you, right, and answer the question. I’ve seen that happen before as well.
Yes. That’s a great comment. Here it does, it does. We have a lot of our guests are as invested in our attractions as we are, and they take, sometimes take personal offense when somebody posts something that they feel isn’t true. Many times the guests will jump on and the issue will resolve itself on its own. But again, you have to monitor it just to make sure that, if there’s a situation where that’s not the case, you do. It’s amazing, and again, I’ve been here eight years, and you think you know what posts you’re gonna put out there or what photo or video assets you’re gonna post and you think, “Wow, I know this is really gonna be off the charts with likes and shares.” Then you’re like, “Well that didn’t go the way I thought it was gonna go.” Or you post something that’s pretty kind of obscure and you just kind of push it out there to see what happens and it’s off the charts.
One of the things that I’m thinking of today is we, believe it or not, last week we still had snow on the mountain. And we had a small patch of snow on one of our trails called Sunset Trail. I took a picture of the snow and called it Patch, referred to it as Patch, “Patch is sorry to see the winter coming to an end,” and put it out there. It was amazing. That just a simple, “Oh, there’s a patch of snow, I’ll take a picture and I’ll throw it on the Facebook page,” how much conversation was generated around a patch of snow.
You know, sometimes you just kind of have to go with your gut instincts, and you have to have fun with it. That’s the thing too. I mean, I’m so fortunate to work for a company that, you know, my job is to make sure people have fun. We know each other, so you know I like to have fun when I’m out. It’s hard not to work for Adventure Attractions and not walk around all day long with a smile on your face.
Yeah. That’s great. Well, and the other thing I’m hearing too in this conversation about social media and I just wanted you to elaborate a little bit, is that you’re really focused on the voice of your brand and kind of how you’re portraying these attractions through social media. You mentioned you’re family-oriented and family-centric and you portray that through all of your social media channels as well. Can you elaborate a little bit more on your philosophy around how you manage your social?
Well, again, I mean it’s pretty easy when that’s in our mission statement, we’re family friendly. Our mission is to get people outdoors and enjoying being active and disconnecting from electronic mobile devices. We just try to showcase that through our social media channels. Then I think too, working for these organizations and these attractions is that our guests … I have a guest that sends me pictures, oh my gosh, sometimes multiple times a week. It’s great because I can’t be everywhere in all places at one time, and so I have so many great guests that will share their own photos and their own videos with me, knowing that I can’t be everywhere at one time. They’ll say, “Hey, you might want to post this on Facebook.”
So, I know we’re gonna talk about collaboration, I have collaboration here on so many levels. I think sometimes the terms organic and authentic get overused, but it truly is. That’s the best type of marketing, is when you can show guests actually engaged. I do for my brochures, I do very little what you would call a model session to get the shots for a brochure. Many of our brochure shots are photos I’ve taken when I’ve been out skiing or I’ve been at the waterpark that are real life guests. I’m just basically eavesdropping and kind of peeking into their world of having fun at one of our attractions. I’m not saying that it’s always easy to get those shots and you have to shoot thousands to get the five really really good ones, but I have the ability to work with our guests to get some really compelling content whether it’s for social media or whether it’s for a rack card that’s gonna be in a brochure stand.“The best type of marketing is when you can show guests actually engaged.” – Drew Broderick #Podcast Click To Tweet
That’s great. I love that, that’s awesome. I want to shift gears here, and I’m actually gonna take you down a little a path because I live near Bristol Mountain, actually near all of these attractions, and I want to talk about another challenge because I think that you have really come up with some great creative solutions for it. And that is the challenge of weather. Because your attractions are all weather-dependent. And in particular, I know where I live, we can get snow, or you might have snow but other areas around us might not have snow. And can you talk a little bit about some of the creative things that you’ve come up with in terms of weather? You can’t control weather.
No, absolutely not.
But I know you have to get creative to be able to let your guests know that what you can offer, that the experience is still there.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s not just snow, I mean obviously there’s rain in the summertime sometimes. For our Aerial Adventure Park, the nice thing about it, it’s almost like a chameleon attraction. You can have five different experiences depending on the day that you come, and they’re all fantastic experiences. All of our attractions, whether it’s the waterpark/wake park, Aerial Adventures, they are rain or shine events. We operate our zip-line canopy tour year-round. That’s the only attraction we have that’s 12 months. You can zip-line when there’s snow on the ground, and I’m telling you, there are some of the most beautiful views on a day when you zip-line and there’s snow in the trees and snow on the ground, and the Bristol Valley is just gorgeous when it’s just coated with snow.
Or in the wintertime, you know, you never know what you’re gonna get. I’ve been here eight seasons, eight years, and I haven’t seen one winter that mimics another. They’re all different for various reasons, but weather does play a factor. With our snow sports attraction with the skiing and snowboarding, we have a fantastic mountain ops team, and we make snow, we target to make snow starting in November. But obviously, in order to make snow, it’s pretty basic science, you have to have certain temperatures and certain conditions in order to turn that water that’s coming out of the hose into snow. And a lot of people think, we’ll get calls and it’ll be 40 degrees out, and they’ll say, “Why aren’t you making snow today?” Right, well, let’s go back to high school science, or, “Hey, go out and turn your hose on and see what comes out of it.” That’s the same thing that comes out of our hoses when there’s not appropriate conditions. We’re constantly educating our guests on when we make snow.
That’s another great thing about social media, is I can put out a video of the mountain manager talking about how you make snow. And why aren’t we making snow today, or why are we making snow. We roll with what we have. This season we had a powder day that was like, it was like being in Colorado. Three days of powder because of a storm that we got. It was fantastic, and my challenge with something like that is trying to get the media down. To understand how epic a day, when you’re skiing powder past your knees in New York, that’s an unbelievably epic day. Our parking lot was full. People were skipping work, people were bringing their laptops into the lodges, taking two runs and coming back and sending out emails. Taking another two runs, coming back so their bosses wouldn’t know they were skipping work.
When I called the local media, just to invite them down, and a lot of them will. The nice thing about local media is a lot of them, if I send them the video, they’ll put it on the air. I have a great relationship with the media when they do that. But unfortunately, their job during that time of a situation, where that much snow is not always great for driving, they’re out doing safety weather reports. So for something like that, that was a fantastic weather day that we’re pushing out, and our guests understand it’s important. But we’re also trying to communicate to the public, why it’s so important to us to have a day like that that we can celebrate.
I do talk constantly with the weather forecasters. It’s funny, when my daughter was in, I think she was in elementary school, probably middle school, it was right before we were starting to make snow, and she was sitting in my bed one night, and we were watching the news and Kevin Williams, the local meteorologist, was on the TV talking about the weather and I turned to my daughter, I said, “Do you want to see, would you like to see something really cool?” She said, “Sure Mom.” And so I picked up the phone, I called the station, because I had just found out we were gonna start making snow that night. I called the station, I said, “Could you please let Kevin Williams know that at Bristol Mountain we’ve just started making snow?” Well, he came back from a commercial break, and all of a sudden he says, “Hey, I just received a call from Drew Broderick at Bristol Mountain, they’re starting to make snow.” And I laughed, I turned to my daughter, I said, “Can the other mommies do that?” and she just looked at me like I was out of my mind.
The nice thing about that is that I do have that relationship with the local stations, that when we do have compelling news that we want to get out to their viewers, who a lot of them are in the snow sports, are snow sports enthusiasts, they really are positive to get that information out. The same with, you mentioned that we have six kids that are on the U.S. ski team, which we’re so proud about and they worked so hard from the time they grew up in our program to the other training that they received on the U.S. ski team.
We’re very excited about that. The next Winter Olympics is in February of 2018. I’ve been talking about this potential of hopefully some of these athletes getting onto the team for well over a year now. Because a lot of people don’t understand the behind-the-scenes of how hard they worked to get to where they are and what that means to our community. If we have one or more from the Olympics, that’s huge. It’s great they’re from, they grew up skiing Bristol Mountain, but that’s a huge implication to our community and how much attention our community could get with some stories.
We’ve already had some national press on a few of these. Two of the athletes are brothers, so they’ve already been interviewed about what’s it like to be two brothers on the U.S. ski team, but they’re also competing and doing phenomenally well, in that this last season, one of them was named, he won the worlds. It’s basically called Freestyle Worlds. He is the world champion of freestyles. That’s pretty impressive. We have one that was named the Rookie of the Year for the U.S. freestyle team, and we have one that won a world cup event, and she medalled in another one. When these athletes are on TV competing, the commentators are now talking about them. They’re using them as the gold standard to compare other athletes, so it’ll be huge if and when, because I know they’ll make it at some point, when they make it onto an Olympic team.
That’s really awesome. A couple of things I want to just point out, make sure our listeners didn’t miss it because you did just provide so many really great nuggets of information. First of all is the relationships that you have with the media and even though you do have year-round attractions, your attractions maybe aren’t as weather-dependent as someone might think. You mentioned rain or shine for three of them. But having those relationships with the meteorologists in particular and how close you are with them. And what a cool thing for your daughter to see her mom make a phone call, whether she’ll admit it or not because I know you can’t admit moms are cool. But I think that’s pretty cool. Those relationships become so important and I think they really help you with a weather… I don’t want to use the word weather-dependent because it’s really not based on how you just described it, but where weather has such an impact on people’s impressions of what the experience might be. I think that’s really cool.
I also want to point out, you keep coming back to this so I just want to point this out again because it’s a really good theme for our conversation, and that’s this whole idea of behind the scenes. You talked about behind-the-scenes with your snowmaker, you talked about behind-the-scenes with your guest services and what you’re doing on social, and then you just talked about the behind-the-scenes stories with these Olympic athletes. And it really is getting to that behind-the-scenes and educating and getting those stories out there I think that are gonna make a difference. And I think those are just really great pieces of information I wanted to make sure everybody caught them the way I did.
So Drew, before we move on to collaboration, I just wanted to ask you, is there a project that you’re working on now or maybe that’s coming in the future that you’re really excited about that you’d like to share with our listeners?
Well, we have projects going on at all of our attractions. For example, the summer, people tend to think we kind of shut down for the summer at Bristol Mountain. Well, our mountain operation team is always working on updating, we’re highly regulated with things like chair lifts and so they’re always doing inspections. This year we’re widening one of our trails, so that’s a pretty big undertaking and that’s a project that’s more of an outdoor, it’s an improvement basically to one of our trails that we just feel would provide our guests a better experience if we widen it and reshape it a little bit. That’s one thing that they’re working on.
We’re always working with our summer attractions at Roseland Waterpark. Again I mentioned earlier, our really goal is to get people out and be active. And one group that we see a lot of at the waterpark and now the cable wake park are parks and recreation groups. We’re always trying to expand our nets, so this is more of a marketing project, but we’re trying to expand our net to get those groups in. Information is power and we do have some new attractions, so again, it’s an ongoing project in the tourism realm, educating people on what a cable wake park is. Roseland Wake Park is the only cable wakeboarding park in the northeast. That’s a pretty impressive asset. And so we are trying to get people to understand that we don’t expect you to come in the doors of the cable wake park and really already know how to wakeboard. Much like we did with skiing back in the early 1960’s, no one really knew how to ski in upstate New York back then. Lessons were such a huge part of growing the ski industry and growing tourism around that.
So we’re doing the same thing with the cable wake park and with the aerial park and zip-lining because those are attractions that aren’t readily available. Like wineries are popping up everywhere so you have all these wine tours. People understand that. But with adventure attractions, and I’ll have to say, I’ve traveled all over the world. I’ve never been in a community that has so much as we have right here in the Finger Lakes. When you look in a 15 minute radius, you have the ability to snow ski or snowboard, you have the ability to zip-line, you have an aerial adventure park that’s 15 minutes from the largest waterpark in the Finger Lakes, which is right next door to the only cable wakeboarding park in the northeast. Then you have beautiful Canandaigua Lake and you’ve got Seneca Lake, and then you’ve got Honeoye, and you have all the wineries, and you have the wine and culinary center, fantastic restaurants, and a community of people who, the residents alone are so engaging.“No community has so much as we have in the Finger Lakes.” – Drew Broderick #WhyCollaborate #Podcast Click To Tweet
And at any given time, a tourist can walk down Main Street Canandaigua and sometimes that tourist doesn’t have to speak that they have a question or they might be lost. I’ve seen situations where people just will walk up to somebody who’s kind of scratching their head and say, “Hey, I live here, can I help you find something?” So we’re this fantastic community, and like I said, I’ve never seen anything like this, that’s laid out like this in all of my travels. And so we’re constantly not only educating people about our attractions, but we’re educating them about the Finger Lakes region, the lifestyle here, what to expect when they come into our community.
Again, you’re taking a community that is relatively, and what might be in off-season, is a pretty low population. Then now in the summertime, and we’re trying to change this because we are year-round, trying to educate people that you can come to the Finger Lakes area spring, summer, winter, fall. Trying to educate folks of what we have here. It’s just not brick and mortar attractions, or wineries. It’s the community of people that live here. That’s part of the experience.
Yeah, I think that’s a really cool point. That it does make a difference when you visit a place, is to how the locals treat you right? And how friendly they are and how much you’re gonna want to be able to come back. But then also to really truly experience and understand what it’s like in that destination, I like how you used the word lifestyle. That’s come up with guests on past interviews and how that lifestyle element really does play into tourism which I think is really awesome. Drew, I wanted to kind of, as we segue into just a few questions on collaboration, for our listeners sake, talk a little bit about the Adventure Attractions and how this kind of family of attractions has come about. Because you didn’t have all of these attractions when you started eight years ago.
No, we didn’t. In fact, we opened, as I mentioned earlier, Bristol Mountain opened in 1964, and at the time, what still amazes me is that we were a leader back then. We opened with snowmaking. A lot of people think snowmaking just has happened in the last 10 years, 20 years. Snowmaking- we were lucky enough to have a gentleman here who’s actually kind of termed the father of snowmaking, Ron Ratnik, who went on to have a company that produces snow guns or snowmaking equipment- but we opened with snowmaking, which again put you, in New York State, put you ahead of the curve at that time because even back then you weren’t guaranteed winters like they get out in Colorado. So the fact that we opened with that. The other fact is that we opened with lighting, and to be a ski area that had night skiing, that was cutting-edge back then. So the innovation of Bristol Mountain and our founders is very motivating to me, that they were way ahead of the game way back in 1964.
Transition to about 15 years ago, at that point it was just Bristol Mountain, and then we had Fall Sky Rides in the fall. So it was that, that 15 years ago, we purchased Roseland Waterpark in Canandaigua. The very brief story there was that it was a waterpark owned by somebody else and unfortunately things didn’t work out for them, and the community felt that it was something that we needed, that should remain. My owner was approached and really saw the value in having a waterpark in the Finger Lakes, so with a very short amount of time they were able to turn that around and make sure that something that was so popular didn’t leave.
Roseland was actually named after the Roseland attraction that was here for many many many years that people are still so fond of. Canandaigua, the north side of Canandaigua Lake, had a variety of different attractions and a lot of entertainment venues. There’s a lot of history that goes with having the name and the logo of the former Roseland Waterpark that is really important for us to respect and to make sure that in our marketing… again, that guest experience, so many people have such wonderful memories of growing up at the original Roseland, that we want them to have that same experience at Roseland Waterpark.
Part of doing that is that it is “Disney clean”, meaning that when you walk into the waterpark, no matter whether you’ve come at when we open at 11, or you’re there at 6 in the evening, the water sparkles and you don’t see one piece of paper on the ground. Everyone’s charged with making sure that that is an epic experience for those guests, and we cater to the youngest guest. One of my favorite attractions to visit because I’ll go right to the Splash Factory which is for kids that are under 48 inches tall. I love to hang out there and just see how much fun that they’re having. It’s like a waterpark inside a waterpark.
When you look at that rich history with the Roseland brand and then bringing in Roseland Wake Park, this is the third season. When we brought the wake park in, again, it was key with the naming of it and the experience that it’s a very hands-on experience. Our reviews talk more about our employees than the actual physical structure of the attractions. That is what is creating that memory for our guests. The same with the Aerial Adventure Park, and let me touch back again regarding the Cable Wake Park. This is a very unique venue in that part of the land of Roseland Waterpark had a man-made lake on it. Very small lake. And several years ago, we did some research on cable wake parks and decided this was actually the prime property to have a cable wakeboarding park.
For those that don’t know what that is, basically nine people can ride a cable, so instead of having a boat to ski or wakeboard or kneeboard behind, we have a cable system that goes the perimeter of this lake. And nine people go off individually off a starting platform and can ski around this lake or wakeboard around this lake. Floating in the lake are jumps, different sized jumps, a rail, boxes, different features that you can choose to ride up on, or you can choose not to. We also have a learning center. Much like with teaching people to snow ski, we have a learning center there that we teach for $49, that includes the ticket, the rental, the lesson, everything. You really walk in with a bathing suit and we will teach you how to wakeboard or water ski or kneeboard right there, right next to the main cable.
It’s a very unique experience. We have a young lady who started coming on opening day. She was nine when she first started coming to the wake park. Her parents would drive her four hours to come to the wake park. Four-hour one-way drive so this young lady could ride a wakeboard and learn how to wakeboard. To this day, she now, her family now has a place in Canandaigua. So either the parents will stay here with her or her grandparents will stay with her. But this young lady spends most of her summer in Canandaigua wakeboarding. She’s also, as an aside, a very good snowboarder. So that’s just the power of this attraction.
The Aerial Adventure Park, that we’re going into our fourth season for it, and it’s fantastic. A lot of aerial adventure parks are kind of in a base area. We intentionally put ours at the top of the mountain, because it’s just beautiful. You’ve got these fantastic views of Bristol Valley, and our Aerial Adventure Park is a series of tree to tree elements. In the canopy at the top of the mountain, and because right now we’re in spring, the trees are different than they’ll look in three weeks and they’ll look in a month after that. In the fall, all the colors change in the trees, so again, you can come three or four times in a summer and the Aerial Adventure Park, you’ll have a totally different experience based on where we are with the foliage in the treetops.
For example, you can ride a snowboard from one tree to the next tree platform. You can swing on a Tarzan rope from a platform into a cargo net. You can, we have a flat wall. One of my favorite elements is this flat wall that is connected between two trees. All there are, are a top hand-hole, a hole for your hand, and a hole for your feet at the bottom. You scale this wall from one tree to the next, followed by a trapeze bar that you swing to the next tree. Everyone is securely harnessed and connected to the cable system. At no time for our seven main courses, at no time can you just unclip. You are always secure from the time you get onto that course to the time you zip-line to the ground and walk back to the two-story treehouse hub that all the attractions are connected to.
We like to focus on kids of all ages, and we don’t like to leave the young kids. So at the Aerial Adventure Park, we have a kid’s park, and it’s specifically geared to ages four to seven. They also harness in, and once they’re attached to the cable, as they’re going from their tree to tree elements, they’re securely harnessed in. The great thing about the kid’s park is that it is set at a level that parents will actually follow their kids around on the ground. So the kids are at a height of about eight feet off the ground, and the parents walk around and they take pictures and have a great time. So that’s available.
We also have a community outreach program with the Aerial Adventure Park where we have a mobile park that we take. It’s about a 25 by 30-foot footprint, and right now, this week, it’s at the Lilac Festival for the entire run of the Lilac Festival. Kids can actually come and get a little sneak peek of what it’s like to come to the main aerial park by these community outreach events that we do. We have a temporary exhibit coming up in June, the mobile park will be a temporary exhibit in the Strong Museum of Play. So this is a repeat performance for that, we did the same thing last year. So we’re very excited about that. Again, it’s engaging kids to become active and do something that’s healthy and along the fitness lines for that.
The zip-lining we added — this was our second winter with zip-lining, and it’s the most incredible zip-line course, again, it’s at the top of the mountain. We take guests in these very cool military-style vehicles from the summit center where they get harnessed. We take them over to the zip-line course in the back of these military trucks, which is very cool. Then they have this zip experience that’s a guided experience. The Aerial Adventure Park is self-guided, although we have guides in the park to give people clues on how to get through the different elements. But with the zip-line tours, solely a guided experience with two guides. They’re relatively small groups, anywhere from eight to ten people. One guide in the front and one in the back. At every platform we recheck all the harnesses and it’s really, it’s a nice adventure because the guests, there’s nothing that they really have to do.
We do all the breaking when they’re coming into the platform, we start out with a very gentle 250-foot zip right across the ground at about a 10 foot level off the ground. And then we go right, the next zip you go right over a gorge. Then you continue to zip seven, it’s a seven zip tour. Zip seven is a 1,500-foot long zip through the valley, over a gorge, and you can get up to about 50 miles an hour on it. It’s the most freeing experience you can imagine. In between, right before zip seven, there’s two suspension bridges that are swaying, so you get a little bit of an adventure trying to cross this 300-foot gorge, cross over it on these swaying bridges.
So it’s just, again, I’m so lucky that we have such fantastic and unique outdoor adventures. We get people who really are not, if you asked them on a survey if they consider themselves to be athletes, they would say no. We get people who maybe have reservations, but by the time they leave they are so happy they did this. Our testimonials that we take of guests are so much fun to take because they are real-time testimonials and you can just hear the excitement in their voice when they’re talking about what they just spent the last three hours doing.
I can imagine. It sounds exhilarating, it really does. It sounds incredible. Well I think that’s, I mean you’re just such a great storyteller, and your description of all of the attractions just makes them… you know, the detail you give when you’re describing them just really helps illustrate exactly what the experience is all about. It really sounds awesome. I like what you mentioned about the community outreach that you do, and you mentioned the Lilac Festival, which is a family-oriented festival in Rochester, New York. You mentioned the Strong Museum of Play, which is a huge family attraction in the Finger Lakes region. I’d like to hear about any other types of collaborations that you have done that you think our listeners can benefit from knowing about and how you went about doing that.
Well, I think, again, we’re all here selling tourism in New York and collaboration really starts at a state level. So we’re very active with Empire State Tourism and I Love New York. We’ve been very lucky over the past few years to be featured in their winter campaign with Bristol Mountain and their summer campaign with Roseland Wake Park. We often are entertaining travel writers to help them get the word out about what there is to do in the Finger Lakes region. So we start kind of at a high level of collaboration with them and we participate in state tourism conferences. Which again, it’s all about… I’ve never gone to a meeting yet where it’s been about my my my attraction. It’s always everyone talking about and sharing ideas about how we help promote this great state and our great region to grow tourism and to get folks, whether they’re from a border state or whether they’re from a different country, to get them to come to the area.“Collaboration really starts at a state level.” – Drew Broderick #WhyCollaborate #Podcast Click To Tweet
As we drill down a bit, then we work on a real intense level with our local tourism agency partners. We’re constantly working with them and helping to provide again, when we invest in tourism or invest in photo and video assets, we share that. We do that with the intent to share those with the community and with those agencies. One area that we work so hard along with everyone else is to continue to foster a very positive relationship with our guests that come from Canada. The last couple of years they’ve had a pretty rough go of it with the exchange rate being so much. So we try to work with local businesses and other attractions to just say, “You know, when they’re coming to the area to ski, let’s kind of roll out the red carpet for them, let’s show them we know they’re here.”
So we worked with the community of Canandaigua to make sure… there’s some key holiday times for Canadians, and so when those times are taking place, we’ll put a Canadian flag right next to our American flag that we have on the median downtown Canandaigua right down Main Street. We have a couple of years ago, our graphics designer designed a very cool logo that is the Canadian flag in the shape of a heart, and we’ve used that on a lot of our Canadian collateral material and our ads. But we have said, we’ve reached out to the community through the chamber and through some of these other tourism agencies and said, “You know what, we’ve paid to design this but here — use it. Let’s make sure everybody is sending out a Canadian flag in the shape of a heart to show that we love Canadians and we like them to come visit our community.”
Again, from the tourism partners, we work with the downtown Canandaigua Merchants Association, we deal with its local chamber. I’m actually on a committee with the Canandaigua Chamber of Commerce. They have a tourism committee and there’s a marketing sub-committee of that. I co-chair the marketing sub-committee. In those meetings, we’re always talking about what’s good for the community and what’s good for our visitors. How do we work together and collaborate to make sure that one, the biggest collaboration is we’re open and we are open as a community 12 months a year. Knowing that, everyone has to understand that we can grow, there’s always room to grow and open up our attractions and shops and restaurants for guests to come at the holiday times.
We have to give them a reason to come, and maybe it’s not a holiday time, it’s just a weekend and they want to get out of Canada or they want to get out of Pennsylvania or they want to get out of Massachusetts. We want to always let them know that we’re open for business 12 months out of the year, and so a lot of our collaboration especially in the recent years is really paying off for people seeing that it is a wonderful community. We’re just not a summertime area, and we’re not just a ski area. There’s so much things, so many other things that guests can do year-round here. And so that wouldn’t be possible without these strands of collaboration between all of these different groups that I can see.
Yeah, I think that’s a really great illustration of how you work, not only from the state level, then down to the local level with your local tourism offices, and then your chamber, the Merchants Association. You mentioned getting involved at the committee level, those all sound like really great perspectives in how to collaborate. And then using the Canadian outreach, and something as simple as just putting up a Canadian flag or including a Canadian flag in the shape of a heart in your marketing materials and how far that can go if everyone shows that we really do like our Canadian neighbors and we want you to come visit. I think those are just fantastic examples.
So, Drew, I’ve really appreciated everything that you’ve shared on this interview today, there’s so many things actually, and we’ll get them all summarized into our show notes. But I know that our listeners are gonna really enjoy hearing all of this. Is there anything that you would like to share with us as any last parting words before we sign off for today?
Well, I think just again, that being open-minded to maybe thinking about partnering with someone or an organization you haven’t thought about partnering with before. It doesn’t require a lot. Sometimes the simplest initiatives are the easiest to do. On that line, thinking that… you know, we all have our marketing plans, we have our five-year plans, our 10-year plans, but the key is flexibility. The key is understanding, and we’re lucky with digital marketing, you can turn on a dime with some of your initiatives. So not setting a campaign and being so emotionally invested that you don’t see that you need to maybe take a step back and make a change. Again, we have these opportunities all the time because we’re weather-dependent, and so we’re constantly pushing out content based on what Mother Nature has decided she’s gonna serve up for the day.“Partnering doesn't require a lot. Sometimes the simplest initiatives are the easiest to do.” – Drew Broderick Click To Tweet
But real briefly, I had an opportunity several years ago to do a campaign, we called it the Ski Tee Campaign. Basically, we decided to- in the spring it was gonna be, I think it was like almost 80 degrees one spring for a day, it was a quick kind of like a fluke with the weather. And so I had some extra Bristol Mountain t-shirts and we just put it out there, “Hey, if you come buy a lift ticket on this day we’ll give you a free t-shirt and we’re all gonna have a Tee Ski. And the word got out, we’re having a Tee Ski, a Tee Ski, so everyone was skiing in t-shirts that day. I remember a media person calling me about it and saying, “Oh, what a fantastic idea. How many months have you been mulling over this idea?” And I couldn’t say it, it was literally like two hours before, and we decided, “What are we gonna do? It’s gonna be eighty degrees. We want people to still come and buy lift tickets.” So being open to… again, having social media is the perfect way to push these initiatives out. Being open, that “You know what? Today we think we’re going in this direction, tomorrow we may need to tweak it and go in a different direction.” Just being open to that.
Yeah, that’s great. Those are really great points that you just made. Being open-minded, remaining flexible, and being open to changing course as needed. And that t-shirt example is just really cool, and how fun. How fun is that, to ski in the middle of March in a t-shirt? What an experience.
It is. Spring skiing is a lot of fun.
That’s right. Well Drew, thank you very much for taking time out to share all of this with us today, and I’ll look forward to talking with you again and thanks for being here.
It’s my pleasure.