Case Study: Afton Alps

Putting these ski slopes on the Midwest maps.

The Challenge:

The Midwest isn’t exactly known for its mountainous terrain. But Afton is the closest thing Minnesotans have to our own “Alps” – at least that’s been the local resort’s claim over its 50+ year history. Ski hills in this area are something of a parity product, so OWL needed to create an aura about the park —playing on its history, size (18 lifts!) and attitude — to make Afton the first go-to for all media looking to do any kind of snow story.

What we did:

Create buzz in the media with special events before the snow even starts: in the fall we kick off the season with media pitching to talk about ski fashion for the year and our annual equipment swap. After that we move into opening, fun on the slopes (pushing various on- the-hill as well as slopeside events throughout the winter) and then wrap things up at the end of the season with a spring fling. The ski season in Minnesota is a short one in the best of years; it requires both long- and short-lead efforts to keep the slopes top of mind.

How we did it:

Our advertising focused on the under-tapped over-30 crowd. Basically we wanted to convince former skiers to revisit their former glory. Even a former casual skier has good memories of a youthful day on the slopes — now those memories can be recreated with one’s kids. Our radio campaign implored: “the slopes want you back, baby.” And to tie in the renaissance of Après Ski culture, our collateral materials touted the place, “Where the skiing is cool and the toddys are hot.”

PR worked hand-in-ski-glove with the advertising. Afton partnered with a radio station on a kids event, “Rock the Slopes,” and partnered with a local magazine to reach young hipsters. We also pitched stories about strapping on skis after a long absence.

The formula is working: we’ve built a strong influencer following, inviting guests out for a day on the slopes with their family or friends so they can experience first hand the Afton experience— newspaper writers, bloggers, weather reporters, radio hosts, TV producers and anchors— anyone and everyone.


    Our approach caught some serious air, with coverage piled high (some of it admittedly, man-made) and lift ticket sales soaring.