The Meeting 8 kicks off with NEPSA awards, Sundeck party and panel discussions

Comments by Henrik Lampert/

The 8th annual edition of The Meeting kicked off yesterday in Aspen, bringing together industry insiders, athletes, filmmakers, media, and skiing enthusiasts for a weekend full of films, forums, concerts, parties, go-karting and more. The leaves are turning and the air is brisk; the anticipation of the coming winter is strong and there’s hardly a better way to fuel the skiers’ stoke than to assemble a large group of friends in one of the world’s greatest mountain towns, and lettin’em loose.

Nice to see you again, Aspen. Photo by Jeremy Swanson. Courtesy Aspen Ski Co.

As per usual, The Meeting opened with the annual NEPSA Awards—this year marks the 10th edition of the locals’ favorite film competition. Nine short-films were submitted, each adhering to one of the following themes: Before Aspen, First Chair or Duct Tape to Diamonds. The films screened before a sold out crowd at the historic Wheeler Opera House.

Packed house, Wheeler Opera House. Photos by Jeremy Swanson. Courtesy Aspen Ski Co.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be the host of the awards show for the last 10 years, and I think that last night was far and away the highest caliber group of submissions we’ve had over the years,” said ski mountaineer extraordinaire, and Aspen local, Chris Davenport. “There was a bunch of grass skiing shots, some roller blading… some solid comedy. I was pretty much in stitches all last night. It was a great way to kick off The Meeting 8, and a good chance for me to put on my suit, which I hadn’t done in about a year… I was feeling good up on stage, and I look forward to doing it again.”

Hosts Travis McLain and Chris DavenportPhoto by Jeremy Swanson. Courtesy Aspen Ski Co.

The locals go absolutely nuts for the duration of the awards show, cheering in support of their friends’ productions. After deliberation by the judges, the results of the 2012 NEPSA awards are as follows:

  • 1st – “Erste Stuhl: 2012” by Howie Kuhn and Kendall Reiley taking home $2,000.
  • 2nd – “Before Aspen” by Geoff Stump winning $1,000.
  • 3rd – “Circle of Corduroy” by Derrin Carelli taking home $500.

Carelli, whose film showcased what it’s like to be a snowcat driver on Aspen Mountain, also took home a $500 Target gift card for winning “Crowd Favorite,” which was based on a text-in vote. The videos from NEPSA are all live at: youtube.com/aspensnowmass.

Following the NEPSA Awards the masses headed towards Aspen’s Silver Queen Gondola, which began shuttling people to the summit of Aspen Mountain. While security guards were patting everyone down prior to entering the gondola, confiscating any sort of alcoholic beverages that partygoers may have been carrying, many managed to sneak bottles of champagne past the checkpoint. How? The secrets cannot be revealed, but the bottom line is this: For many, the gondola ride to the top was awesome.

En route to the top. Photo by Jeremy Swanson. Courtesy Aspen Ski Co.

Awaiting us at the top was the fancy Sundeck Lodge, retrofitted this particular eve’ to screen Level 1′s Sunny. While watching ski films is great, watching them atop Aspen Mountain at night certainly lends some flavor to the experience. Add a full-service bar to the mix, and you’re really talking. The Sundeck screening at The Meeting is always a highlight, and last night was no exception. The crowd was captivated by Level 1′s flick, which was awarded Best North American Film of 2012 at iF3.

Sundeck party. Photos by Jeremy Swanson. Courtesy Aspen Ski Co.

The morning, not surprisingly, comes as a rude awakening for most. Thankfully, The Meeting staffers hadn’t scheduled anything until 10:00 a.m. today (they’ve done this before…) allowing us to catch a few extra hours of beauty rest. And beauty rest we sure did need, because come 10:00, it was time to put our game faces on and head to the Limelight Hotel for a series of panel discussions.

While the panel discussions have always been a big draw of The Meeting, this year’s installment generated serious buzz. For the first time, The Meeting tapped many individuals outside of the skiing and snowboarding realm to appear; it was a great opportunity to take some insight from the greater business world at large, and to apply some of that knowledge to our own sport, and to our own jobs. On the docket for the day were three topics of conversation: Content Distribution, Branding and How to Grow Your Audience.

The Content Distribution discussion was moderated by photographer Chase Jarvis, and featured panelists Nick Hamilton, Content Manager with Transworld Snowboarding; Danny Grant, General Manager of The Orchard Sports; Brendan Gahan, Director of Social Media at Mekanism and Greg Jacobs, Head of Distribution at Red Bull Media House North America. The group spoke for an hour, touching on some key concepts that people and brands could focus on to effectively distribute content.

Some of the ideas discussed included:

  • -Explore who is relevant to your brand, study how that group consumes content, and target those outlets.
  • -Build a piece of content with the end in mind; know how you’re going to push your message. Avoid the classic case of, “Here’s what we did, now what should we do with it?”
  • -When looking to sell content, or to partner with someone to share your content, be aware of the following: How are you getting paid? Who owns the content? Where is it going? How long is it going to be there? What format is it going to be in? Is it going to be exclusive content? This empowers you to negotiate a deal in the best possible manner.
  • -Everyone wants their content to be viral. There’s no formula for this. Understand your objective. Do you want short-form content that will reach tons of eyeballs, or do you want premium, quality content that will reach less people, but has a lasting effect on those people? There is a depth of engagement to be aware of. Hamilton noted that YouTube recently changed its algorithms, taking into account the length of time people spend viewing a video, and not just the total number of views. This change speaks to the importence of content quality.
  • -When you build something, it’s not done. Much time goes into making something beautiful, and the same amount of time must go into getting that product out into the world.
  • -How do you measure the quality of a piece of content? It’s not always measured in metrics and numbers. Gauge how people are talking about your content. Gauge the sentiment. Are they commenting on your website? Are they sharing the content with their friends?
  • -The importance of timing is huge. There are so many aspects that go into launching a product, or an idea. Without thought as to how to effectively push a message, a great thing can fall flat.
  • -A mistake people and/or brands make is to pay for big shoots and trips, and the content that is produced resides only on their site or on YouTube. For a little more money, that content can be packed into a bigger feature that will live in peoples’ minds for a long time to come. Do people remember a webisode from three years ago? Hardly. Do they remember the movies and big projects from three years ago? Yes, and those projects can continue to make money in the form of royalties.

While these are just a few of the many points discussed, the lasting takeaway from the first panel was that it’s a damn cool time to be in the business of snowsports and action sports. We’re undergoing somewhat of a media renaissance, with an ever-increasing means of pushing messages, and sharing content. Embrace the change.

After a short break, the second panel took to the stage to discuss branding. Panelists included Jill Kinney, Director of Gatorade Branded Entertainment & Influencer Marketing; Greg Lucia, Director of Brand Integration at Saatchi & Saatchi and Scott Mellin, Founder and CEO of Factory Design Labs. The three discussed how brands like Gatorade, Toyota and The North Face work to understand their consumers, and to create authentic messaging that resonates with that audience. Each brand presented unique, and creative ways of approaching the challenge; it was interesting to hear first hand how some of the biggest brands in the world target individuals today.

A lasting takeaway from the panel was how much these brands rely on athletes to push a message. Mellin noted, “Athletes play a critical role because they provide the humanity behind the brand message.” Lucia, who works a great deal with Toyota, also pointed out that Toyota has 16 athlete representatives in total, six of which are action sports athletes. Think action sports is important to Toyota? You bet. The discussion revolved around how these brands leverage the athletes to share brand stories, and to influence purchasing decisions (sometimes years down the road) and to educate and entertain. ‘Twas another eye-opening conversation, indeed.

An hour lunch break segued into the third and final panel discussion, focusing on building an audience. Former Freeskier Publisher and Editor-at-Large, Christopher Jerard, acted as moderator for panelists Chase Jarvis, photographer, director and fine artist; Robert Scoble, one of the web’s most influential gear and technology bloggers; Gary Arndt one of the web’s most influential independent travel writers and Alex Hillinger, an internet sensation with a goal of making positive change in the world, via collaborating with designers, artists, filmmakers, scientists and entrepreneurs.

The group discussed topics including:

  • -Do you want your followers to be treated like an audience, or a part of a community?
  • -Tell stories. Focus first on providing a value to someone, not on your follower count.
  • -Pay attention to others. Like what other people are doing, share their stuff, and they’ll be drawn to you in turn.
  • -Punch through the noise.
  • -Have stamina. Can you fall and get back up? “Can you be relevant for a long [expletive] time?” Not seeing an immediate return on what you’re doing? Don’t give up.
  • -Don’t do dumb stuff to make a buck.
  • -Have negative feedback from someone? Talk to them, don’t ignore them. Appreciate that they’re giving you feedback for a reason.

The lasting takeaway from the third and final panel discussion was, as quoted by Chase Jarvis, “You have to give a shit about something, and then tell the world about it.” Tell a story, know what you’re talking about, and be authentic. Good things are built from passion, and people recognize that passion, and want to engage with that passion.

After all of the panel discussions, I left the room feeling motivated. I asked myself, “Am I kicking butt as hard as I can be when it comes to my job?” I certainly walked away with some new ideas, and I extend big thanks to all the panelists for joining us, and sharing their thoughts with us today.

TGR athlete Griffin Post was among many professional skiers in the audience. Post said about the afternoon, “It’s super cool coming to The Meeting, it’s so well organized and so well put together, these panel discussions provide such an awesome insight into the industry. It’s a great mix of endemic and non-endemic people, offering insights to the ski industry and the greater marketing world at large. It’s a great way to start off the weekend for me.”

And what does the rest of the weekend entail? You can see the schedule for yourself right here. Films, concerts, group activities and more. We’ll continue to bring you updates throughout the weekend, and for the latest, be sure to stay on top of the hashtag #TheMeeting8 on Twitter and Instagram.

Related: The Meeting 8 wraps up with film screenings, concerts and go-cart madness

The Meeting 8 recap video.