After Montana’s record-breaking 2020-2021 Winter Season, it was evident that the continued sustainable promotion of the state was more important than ever. Like the way that the areas surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks saw disproportionate increases in visitation compared to the rest of the state in warmer months, the communities surrounding two of Montana's largest and most iconic ski areas—Whitefish Mountain Resort and Big Sky Resort—were undergoing increased pressure and demand in the winter. So for the 2021-2022 Winter Season, Visit Montana, in partnership with agency of record Hoffman York, strategically highlighted smaller "mom and pop" ski areas as well as niche activities to disperse visitors across the state with the goal of alleviating overcrowding.
Aligned with this strategy, the organic social team determined a video series would be the most engaging approach to inspire visitors to broaden their exploration of ski areas within the state and discover the meaningful connection Montana has to its mountains. By incorporating this project into Visit Montana's Influencer Program, the series authentically portrayed the visitor experience and gave visibility and credibility to the smaller ski areas.
Goals and objectives for the limited series included building organic awareness and familiarity with Montana's ski product outside of the large resorts, as well as creating more engaging content through intentional storytelling and centering diverse voices on Visit Montana's social channels.
This documentary-style limited video series, “Meaning in the Mountains,” brought viewers along on the journey of Montana local Vasu Sojitra as he learned the stories of five individuals on the slopes of Montana while in search of the heart and soul of skiing (and, of course, epic powder). The five episodes and short film capture the excitement, beauty, moments, and people that make the mountains of Montana special.
Visit Montana met with the Montana Ski Area Association (MSAA) to better understand the "mom and pop" product and hear directly from the 15 ski areas that make up the MSAA. It was during this time that Visit Montana learned Showdown Montana was celebrating 85 years in business, which exemplified how those conversations directly influenced some of the storylines in “Meaning in the Mountains.” In Episode Two viewers met Avery Patrick, third-generation owner of Showdown and MSAA president, and her family.
As ski season drew closer, another conversation was growing among the ski and outdoors industries. Was skiing becoming elitist? Higher lift tickets and resort prices directly affect who can afford to spend a day on the slopes, threatening to make the sport less diverse and even more exclusive. This community concern steered the creative and content development for the series by influencing not only which smaller ski areas to feature but whose stories to highlight as well—starting with Vasu Sojitra.
When Vasu was only nine months old, he was diagnosed with septicemia, resulting in the amputation of his right leg. Since then, in addition to calling Montana home, Vasu continues to challenge the biases that come with being a person of color with a disability through his intersectional work as a professional skier and outspoken advocate within the outdoors industry. In partnership, Visit Montana and Vasu worked with local production partner Happy Okay to identify who Vasu would meet on the slopes.
The limited video series highlighted:
Both Vasu and Visit Montana posted the series across multiple social channels, including Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Success would be measured by views, reach, and engagement absent of any paid promotion.
The entire budget was dedicated to the production and owned distribution through Visit Montana and Vasu Sojitra’s channels. As a purely organic effort, “Meaning in the Mountains” was highly successful in generating awareness (views and reach) and audience engagement.
The series achieved:
As made evident by the quantifiable organic results, “Meaning in the Mountains” confirmed that intentional storytelling resonated with Visit Montana’s online audiences. The soul of skiing is alive and well at these "mom and pop" ski areas. As the series shows, what makes Montana unique is more than the breathtaking views. It's the dedicated communities that call Montana home, putting in the hard work and care purely for the joy of skiing, that make Montana special.