Last weekend I attended Tahoe Snowcial. I had a blast last year, so I was super excited for the 2011 edition. Being kind of a small-town chick, I don’t travel much for other conferences, so it’s always exciting to meet and snowcialize with tons of bright, interesting and sometimes quirky people from the technology, snowsports and travel worlds. It’s a unique blend of people from various industries that you don’t see all that often, making it all the more of an experience. Beyond the socializing (and there was plenty of that), the event featured a conference, skiing at Heavenly and plenty of entertainment courtesy of Harrahs & Harvey’s.
Calling Snowcial intense is a bit like calling a cougar an elderly woman. With that in mind, and to ensure this is a post of reasonable length, I thought I’d share tidbits of what I came away with this year.
Skiing & social media aren’t all that different – According to Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, both foster a similar energy, excitement and creativity. Skier & snowboarders are passionate about what they do, and more often than not, define themselves as that, as opposed to ‘people who like skiing’. Not surprisingly, social media fosters a similar passion and self-definition, though you’d be surprised how many people attach the word ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ to this moniker. Katz spoke extensively about Vail’s new EpicMix app, which is linked to the RFID technology found in its season passes, and how it’s intended to further add to the overall skiing and riding experience by encouraging people to share their passion. Snowcial attendees got a first-hand look at it at the event, and even if this blonde didn’t fully understand how to earn the various pins, it’s clear the app has potential.
Emotion is logical – I know my boyfriend will disagree with me on this one (who, me, emotional?), but according to Dr. J Duncan Berry, an expert in neuromarketing, emotions precede reason, and help us appraise and ultimately make purchase decisions. No matter how rational or reasonable you may think you are, it’s really your emotions driving the bus. My favorite quote? “Consumers are predictably irrational.” Yup, that pretty much sums things up for me right there.
MC Hammer is still the best way to kick off an event – For all his high-profile celebrity, MC Hammer is a musician and investor who does walk the social media walk. He returned to open Snowcial 2011, ensuring the event began with a bang. During the Q&A session, he shared his thoughts on tweeting (nobody should outsource them, except maybe the President), what smart phone he uses (he has 4 phones he uses to monitor the web), and whether TSA still can’t touch this (apparently it can).
It’s about the experience – A number of presenters emphasized this, including Josh Williams of Gowalla and Dave Morin of Path. Williams talked about memories by telling a story of his mother’s charm bracelet and how each charm would bring back a clear and specific memory or story. It was a touching way explain why Gowalla is less about the game mechanics, badges and annoying check-in alerts, and more about making things memorable. Morin, a skier long before he co-invented Facebook Connect, covered numerous interesting ideas in his presentation, including happiness. He spoke about two important sides to this emotion – experiencing happiness and remembering it later. The experiencing part is all that happens in life, and most social tools cater to that. The remembering part, or that which is about life, is harder to find online, though it seems that Path and Gowalla are trying to provide that. (Admittedly my biggest hurdle will be whether I can remember to use these tools to remember my happiness!)
Live music is still way better than the Internet – For all their creative videos, OK Go was even better on stage. Their concert on the last night of Snowcial capped off a fantastic weekend. Confetti, 3D glasses, and furry guitars that shot lasers helped make the music, and yes, the experience, even more memorable and entertaining. Same too with the MC Hammer concert on Friday night, which once again included audience participation, with the crowd invited onstage for the last song or two. This year I made sure I didn’t miss that hilarity, since I was too tentative/slow to react last year.
Heavenly & Harrahs can throw a party – It’s no easy feat to organize a conference, especially one that includes as many moving parts as Snowcial. As an occasional conference planner, I appreciated all the behind-the-scenes efforts, which clearly worked, because the whole weekend ran very smoothly. Kudos to One to One Interactive & Blue Sky Events, who also had big roles in this event. And thanks to all for my awesome Patagonia EpicMix jacket, a gift I won for something I’m not entirely sure about (definitely not highest vertical skied) at the awards ceremony.
So there you have it. Don’t take my word for it though, as there were plenty of other people there with their own story and take on the weekend. One thing for certain, I’m already looking forward to Snowcial 2012.