Snowcial conference unites snow sports and social media in South Lake Tahoe
#Snowcial: A rockin' conference on the state of social media and social media marketing in the world of snowsports—plus a tramload of skiing and also wild partying for those who feel so inclined to boogie. If that doesn't sound like a heck of a great time to you then we'd be damned.
Having heard about the conference from fellow co-workers who had attended Snowcial in years past, the aforementioned synopsis is what I envisioned last Wednesday at 30,000 ft. while stuffing my face with peanuts and pretzels en route from Denver to Reno.
Upon arriving at Harvey's Hotel and Casino in South Lake, Tahoe I knew we were in for a fun week. Something about the allure of a massive hotel-casino just makes you feel lucky—like maybe this is the week when I'll win $1,000,000 via slot machine. Maybe that's just me.
Either way, the show officially kicked off with a quick meet-and-greet over cocktails and hor devours. More than 100 influencers from the realms of snowsports and social media were on hand. Representatives from a handful of ski areas—including Heavenly (our host), other Vail Resorts, Mountain High, Aspen/Snowmass, Mammoth Mountain, Canyons, Stevens Pass, Northstar, Keystone and many more—were in attendance, along with countless celebrities from the social world and many media maestros, too.
The gathering then segued into a full-fledged poker night (we used play chips—but that's neither here nor there). The opening affairs were a great chance to shake some hands, exchange some business cards and familiarize ourselves with the faces and people that we'd be spending time with for the next four days. And an exciting four days they were…
Thursday began bright and early with a group ski session at Heavenly Resort (of course, those who preferred to sleep in were allowed to do so). The snow was sparse, but that didn't stop the gang from charging hard. Having skied off some of the toxins which entered the body the night prior (for some in the form of various alcohols, for others in the form of Fat Burger—a fine food establishment conveniently located inside of Harrah's Casino, just an underground tunnel away from Harvey's) the group made its way back to the hotel's conference center. On the afternoon docket: keynote speakers.
Between noon and 5:30 pm, Snowcialites enjoyed a handful of panel presentations, each hosted by snow sports icons and/or social media experts. Thursday's roster included talks by Joe Fernandez, CEO and Co-Founder of Klout—Jonathan Crowley, Director of Business Development for Foursquare—Rob Katz, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Vail Resorts—and many others. The room—full of knowledge-hungry individuals—bustled with the sound of aggressive note-taking. Meanwhile, a giant projector screen showcased in real time the many Tweets that were being sent out into the cyberworld that included the #Snowcial hashtag. For the most part, the tweets contained bits of valuable information that people were learning, and instantly sharing with their social audience. Occasionally, the screen would highlight a random joke or an immature comment. Not sure who was responsible for those happenings—certainly none of the Freeskier staff.
Inside the conference room. Photo courtesy Snowcial.
After a dinner break, Freeskier co-hosted a fun-filled evening along with Microsoft. The festivities began with the famed Snowcial Lightning Round (which is more or less an Ignite talk, but we can't call it an Ignite talk for copyright infringement reasons). Nine individuals presented on a variety of topics ranging from, "Shit Designers Say" to mustaches, to "How to do a Presentation With Two Days Notice and Not Suck." Following the presentations—which were very well done—Jonathan Glass of Snowboard Magazine hosted a Video Awards, of sorts. The presentation centralized around the utilization of the powerful personalities within the ski and snowboard industries to make successful web videos, as opposed to relying on a massive budget to achieve the same end. For many, this seems fairly standard, but for most in the room 'twas an enlightening experience. Following the Video Awards, DJ Harvitronix took to the stage and inspired the masses to dance, while others made for the open bar.
With Friday came another morning of skiing at Heavenly, and an afternoon of panel discussions. Friday's list of speakers included Roy Tuscany, Founder of High Fives Foundation—pro skiers Daron Rahlves and Michelle Parker—Hope Frank, CMO of Webtrends—Porter Gale, social media expert and entrepreneur—Bryan Crowley, CMO of Pabst Brewing Company—and many more. Crowley made a name for himself as he arranged for PBRs to be distributed to all attendees during his presentation.
Roy Tuscany, Michelle Parker, Mark Erwin and Daron Rahlves. Photo courtesy Snowcial.
Friday night saw an Improv comedy show at Harvey's, and an afterparty at the Vex nightclub at Harrah's Casino across the way. Whilst the music blared and the go-go dancers danced, partygoers streamed from the dance floor, to the private booths complete with bottle service, to the Craps tables, to the Roulette tables, to the slot machines, to Fat Burger, and so on.
With Saturday came snow—and more skiing at Heavenly. Even those who hurt the most from the cumulation of multiple go-go-go days managed to get out and enjoy the fresh goods. A team lunch at noon at the base lodge ultimately led to the construction of massive PBR-can towers, and the afternoon ski session thus had slightly fewer participants.
Saturday evening, Vail Resorts hosted the Epic Mix Awards. Originally, the awards should have gone to the winners of an Epic Mix scavenger hunt that was slated as the on-hill activity for the day. Unfortunately, technical issues rendered the hunt a scratch, and as a result the Awards were altered last minute. Keeping in the spirit of Snowcial fun, the first award went to the "Most Bromantic Moment of Snowcial," which was won by yours truly and Mr. Glass of Snowboard Mag. Evidently, our act of taking a knee together side-by-side on stage during the Lightning Round to complete an "Icing" was enough to take the win. Countless other awards were dished out—some more serious, like the award to the best networker at 2012 Snowcial—and a kick-ass dinner later transitioned into a Young the Giant concert at Vex.
Post concert, our crew retreated to the casino for some more gambling action. Ultimately, we capped things off watching Dennis Crowley, Founder and CEO of Foursquare, along with his brother Jonathan and Foursquare staffer Jake Furst absolutely dominate a game of Craps. Well done, team.
Do we lose credit as a brand if we call this photo "cute?" Photo via Epic Mix
On Sunday evening, as I sat at 30,000 ft. stuffing my face with peanuts and pretzels en route from Reno to Denver, I reminisced on the exciting week. Just as I expected, we learned a great deal via the panels and presentations, we enjoyed great skiing at Heavenly, and we partied. What I hadn't anticipated, but what was foremost on my mind, was the amount of great networking we'd done. Snowcial is set up in such a way that it maximizes the opportunity to meet people. And meet people we did. We befriended many wonderful people, each with unique talents and skill sets. We shared ideas, we talked the talk, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't walk away from Snowcial with some great ideas to push the Freeskier brand forward in the future.
The memories of an alleged slap-fight in the wee morning hours at an alleged afterparty in room 1039, 12-year-old girls accosting a certain boss of mine for cigarettes in the hotel lobby, a certain someone falling asleep with a girl whilst making out—those things were all on my mind too, but those are the things that only those fortunate enough to attend Snowcial will ever know about. One thing is for sure: I'm very much looking forward to Snowcial 2013.
Huge thanks goes out to the Snowcial team—especially Dave LaPlante for being the man—Harrah's and Harvey's, Vail Resorts and the folks at Heavenly—notably Liz Batman and Russ Pecoraro—for having us, and for organizing yet another snowtally awesome event.
For additional photos from the event, click here.