Eldora Mountain Resort is a popular ski area that is particularly cherished by locals in Boulder County. In December of 2018, they discovered the power of customer reviews.
At Marketing 360®, we talk about the impact of reviews and reputation management all the time. We work with clients to help them improve their online reputations, and we know from experience how impactful reviews can be on a business.
However, the dynamic of the business reputation is not always easy to quantify. With something that’s this opinion-based, there’s usually a grey area where you have to make assumptions.
But every once in a while something occurs where the impact of customers reviews is crystal clear. Just such an event happened to the Eldora ski area located near Boulder, Colorado.
Eldora faces a problem many ski areas in Colorado have, a problem that is only getting worse. In short, resort skiing is a victim of its own popularity.
Anyone who drives up I-70 on a mid-winter weekend morning knows what we’re talking about. It can be an unparalleled bumper-to-bumper nightmare.
In fact, Eldora’s location has long offered a solution to the I-70 quagmire. They had the motto “Friends don’t let friends drive I-70”. Their current tagline is “Closer to you.”
But the traffic demon has ensnared Eldora. In the last few years, they’ve become part of the multi-mountain Ikon Pass, which means that far more people have a season pass to Eldora. The result is not just heavy traffic, but a completely full parking lot. On weekends and holidays, skiers are being turned away from the resort.
So they tried to do something about it by implementing a paid parking policy. In short, anyone coming up with less than 3 people in their car would pay $20 to park. There were allowances for people who had Eldora only season passes and they made busing arrangements from Boulder, but news of this policy did not go over well.
When the new parking policy was announced, customers inundated Eldora’s online assets with negative reviews. Here is a sample from their Facebook page:
“Why punish the people who actually wake up in time to get parking? Parking has always been a challenge because Eldora is a small mountain. I’m furious! My son’s on a team and we go up together every weekend (early morning). Thanks Eldora for ruining our father-son tradition. This sure feels like a money grab. More people crowding the slopes, more money in POWDERS POCKETS.”
“Eldora, this is a chicken s—t move. I’ve had 3 kids race there for 4 years. This year, 2 can’t (1 aged out and 1 broken), so after I’ve sent all kinds of people to Eldora, bringing tins of business, you’re CHARGING ME for PARKING! (I’ll only have my racer with me most mornings.) you said you were going to capitalize on your “local mountain” reputation. Well, local mountains don’t screw over their loyal locals. Get a grip and figure out a different solution. This only alienates us and makes me want to ditch you next year.”
“It is only me and my husband, we go up at least one if not twice a weekend, and thought Ikon was an awesome option to explore another mountain once or twice this year, if we felt up to the traffic. Had I known this up front, I would have saved $150 back in April (per person) and avoided this headache…I can also say the $25 I spend on drinks and food on the mornings I am too tired to pack a lunch will never be spent at Eldora. If I’m paying for parking (or picking up the hundreds of hitchhikers I’m sure Nederland will start seeing), I’m sure as hell not going to let Eldora get one more cent of revenue off of me. I’d rather stay hungry until I get back to Boulder!”
This tone goes on through dozens of reviews on Facebook alone.
To their credit, Eldora was paying attention. They announced the new parking policy on December 7, 2018. Five days later, on December 11, they made this announcement:
Today the resort announced it will change course. “We heard our guests’ impassioned feedback loudly and we’re changing course,” says Brent Tregaskis, Eldora’s president and general manager. “As a community partner, Eldora is committed to embracing input and adapting accordingly. We will not introduce paid parking at this time because we did not give our guests sufficient notice.”
The vital takeaway here is realizing that it’s unlikely Eldora would have “changed course” were it not for online reviews. But with the terrible PR and reputation management repercussions they immediately experienced, they had little choice.
And let’s face it, they got called out on this one. The timing of this announcement, after everyone already committed to buying their season pass, was unfair. While they framed it – with legitimate points – as an environmental initiative and way to alleviate the parking problem, the timing of the policy made it look like a hidden fee.
Today there can be no doubt. Online reviews carry weight and impact business decisions. And of course, they also impact consumer decisions. Eldora’s management must have immediately started to sweat when they read comments with people specifically describing how they wouldn’t spend money at the resort. That’s not the kind of thing you want prospective customers reading about your business.
Lesson learned. Beware the wrath of the customer scorned.
Perhaps additional reviews and feedback will help them craft a solution to the problem that is equitable for the local community and all their guests. The best businesses learn from critical reviews and improve their processes.
We wish them well as they tackle the problem of traffic and overcrowding at their resort. Many of our employees have enjoyed fine days at Eldora, and hope to do so for years to come.