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Social networking hits the slopes

Mount Snow uses foursquare to reach a new audience

DOVER—Devotees of Foursquare, a location-based city guide and social network, have new badges to unlock and locations to explore. Mount Snow Ski Resort has joined 14 other ski areas selected by foursquare.

“Foursquare is part friend-finder, part city guide. We want to make cities more fun and interesting to explore,” said Jonathan Crowley, Foursquare’s director of business development.

According to Vinnie Lewis, Mount Snow communications director, the resort became the first ski resort in the country to launch a foursquare page and badge campaign.

“By about 15 minutes,” he joked.

The popular site allows businesses to post promotions and deals for followers “checking in” to their venue. 

The friend-finder city guide also rewards users with digital “badges” and other perks for checking in, said Crowley. For instance, he just “unlocked” the Gym Rat badge by working out at the gym 10 times in 30 days.

Crowley describes the badges as “digital candy” that users store in their virtual trophy cases.

The challenge of unlocking the Gym Rat badge motivated Crowley to get off the couch, brave the winter cold, and get to the gym.

Encouraging users to dig in and mine all their cities have to offer is a major difference between foursquare and other social networks like Facebook.

“Check in here” signs have popped up across the resort from Carinthia Park, to the Base Lodge, to the Station Tap Room restaurant.

Within 24 hours of launching foursquare at the mountain on Jan. 20, Mount Snow had 4,500 followers, said Lewis.

Three weeks later, the number has grown to 8,744.

Followers of Mount Snow have left tips suggesting fellow foursquarers stick around Cuzzins Bar & Grill for Saturday night music, where to get the best hot buttered rum, and where to find secret seats during the busy lunch hour.

“My brother [foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley] and I have been visiting Mount Snow for years, so we’re especially excited to see our home mountain putting so much effort behind their foursquare tips, Specials and badge promotion,” said Crowley.

The Crowleys are Mount Snow season pass holders and have skied the mountain for six years. They selected ski resorts to partner with Foursquare as a side project to their regular work with the company.

“We know Mount Snow like the back of our hands,” said Crowley, who feels Foursquare is a great avenue to share the best of Mount Snow with other skiers.

Mount Snow’s related promotions range from coupons, free beverages to a reserved parking spot for the mountain’s “mayor” a title reserved for the person checking into a location the most.

“It’s the best [parking] space at the entire mountain,” said Crowley.

Lewis said the promotions at the resort will continue to evolve and change. “We don’t want it to become stale,” he said.

He recommends independent businesses sign up for foursquare. “I have a hard time believing it [Foursquare] won’t help everyone in the area,” Lewis said.

Rewards and promotions can help businesses attract new customers and reward loyal ones, said Crowley.

Crowley, who lists his location as New York, N.Y., said that he never checks a restaurant’s menu when he and his wife go out for dinner. Instead, he reads tips left by other followers on his mobile phone.

According to Crowley, more and more vendors around Mount Snow sign up with the company every day.

Foursquare is not a data dump. A location’s bells and whistles are only revealed to people at the location.

Access to foursquare, which works on any smart phone and via SMS (texting), has had issues. According to Lewis, the cell signal at the mountain’s base can be “spotty.” Dover, like many areas in Windham County, has gaping holes in its cellular coverage.

Lewis said Mount Snow installed a cell tower on its summit to accommodate guests from areas accustomed to a 21st century connection. But even with a cell tower beaming a signal over the mountain, the topography gets in the way. 

“It’s a great opportunity. We’re very thankful that they [Foursquare] thought of us this way,” said Lewis.

Co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai launched foursquare in March 2009 at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas. The two met in New York City in 2007. According to the company’s website, the they started building the first version of foursquare at Dennis’ kitchen table in New York’s East Village.

According to Crowley, the program hit the ground running in large cities like New York and Austin then moved into the suburbs. The company has built media partnerships with other the likes of Bravo and events like the National Football League’s Super Bowl.

To date, 6.5 million people are signed up for foursquare. To follow Mount Snow, visit www.foursquare.com/mountsnow.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #89 (Wednesday, February 23, 2011).

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