As young passionate snowboarders fed up with the convoluted process of hitting the slopes, SnowSearch’s co-founders Bryan Dunn & Luke Zirngibl set out last winter to modernize how the US ski industry engages with the millennial generation. The outcome of this? A cross-country adventure and one seriously cool product. Here is their story, as told by Dunn:
The Lay of the Land
As of last season, nearly 70% of skiers and boarders in the United States were 34 or younger. With baby boomers finally giving way to millennials, a long-standing sense of resort loyalty has been replaced by a deep desire to explore. Back in ‘08/’09, Vail created the Epic Pass to cater to this trend by delivering the sense of optionality that existing season pass products lacked. Last season, the company sold an estimated 740,000 units. Competitors have taken note, and products like the Max Pass, Mountain Collective and Rocky Mountain Super Pass have since risen to compete.
As current and former pass holders, we can attest to the fact that these products are awesome for the engaged skier or rider. That said, for each trip we found ourselves needing to search from an array of other disparately located items online, from transportation and hotels, to vacation rentals and gear. Further, since our parents raised us going to the same places over and over, we were only familiar with a few resorts, and struggled to find good, unbiased information about places we could suddenly go.
With this in mind, we set out to streamline this crazy convoluted process on a mission to make it easier for our generation to explore and book snow sports trips!
Our Team’s Journey
Fast forward to summer: we left our corporate jobs in Boston, sublet our downtown apartment and purchased an RV, embarking on a cross-country trip to gain a better understanding of the lay of the land in the industry.
It was one hell of a journey – highlights included impromptu meet ups with friends new and old, nights spent in beautiful places from the Green Mountains to the Wasatch and late-summer turns off Teton Pass. As with any journey, there were low points abound. For us, these included a couple blown tires (at the same time), a 2-day stint at a truck stop in Ohio (broken throttle cable) and cold wet nights across the Mountain West! It was all worth it in the end, though. Living in an RV gave our team the flexibility to spend as much time as we needed in major winter sports hubs with little incremental cost required. This meant sitting in Jackson till we met TGR, Utah till we got in front of USSA and in Denver till we engaged with OpenSnow.
This December, we launched SnowSearch as the first true “one-spot-shop” designed to make it easier to explore and book winter trips! Here are a few of the site’s coolest features so far:
- The widest-ever array of aggregated booking for nearly 400 ski resorts across the US, Canada and Japan
- Helpful travel content written by unbiased local experts, from pro athletes to gear shops and foodie bloggers to powder hounds
- Event calendars featuring everything from USASA competitions to live music for hundreds of local mountain towns
- Special filters to explore based on your multi-resort pass
- Interactive NOAA weather maps
As social media has blown up in recent years and given people platforms to share their adventures, we’ve been inspired by individuals across the globe out there doing what they love. The resulting sense of wanderlust has inspired our generation to visit and explore new places. Unfortunately, those people generally lack any opportunity to share in the upside of travel spend that their original content drives. Until now.
SnowSearch is employing a first-ever model in the snow sports industry whereby we share travel commissions with passionate locals who contribute to our site. By giving people a beautifully designed platform to share their knowledge – and fully aligning interests with those Ambassadors – SnowSearch will grow into the most comprehensive snow sports resource on the web. Most importantly, we’ll have the opportunity to redirect a portion of consumer spend to the people who make mountain towns the incredibly special places they are.
SnowSearch is growing! The team is in the process of looping in Ambassadors from across the globe, from pro athletes to powder hounds and foodie bloggers to weekend warriors. In the near-term, we have our sights set on expanding within existing regions to include helpful information on awesome activates such as cat-skiing and heli-skiing. Looking into the future, SnowSearch will expand its geographic reach to become the most comprehensive and trusted resource for snow sports knowledge on the web. All as part of our vision to help make snow sports more accessible to younger generations looking to hit the slopes worldwide.
SnowSearch is a proud partner of US Ski & Snowboard, US Snowboard & Freeski Association, Burton Snowboards, Expedia, HomeAway, VRBO, VacationRentals, GetSkiTickets, SkiButlers and ShipSkis.