For over three decades, the simple yet bold red and white sticker has become iconic. In an age when ski area marketing efforts constantly change the “Ski it If You Can” campaign has stood the test of time and remains Mad River Glen’s calling card. The bumper sticker has become a badge of honor for skiers everywhere. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the campaign is its ridiculously low cost and distribution method. Mad River Glen spends only about $1,000 each year to purchase the stickers. The stickers are only available in the base lodge where there is an honor box. Skiers are asked to contribute $1 for the sticker to help support the Mad River Glen Volunteer Ski Patrol. In fact the “Ski It If You Can” campaign is also unique in that it creates far more revenue than what it costs.
The “Ski It If You Can” bumper sticker has been spotted all over the globe (and above it!), a fact that certainly contributes to its fame. Skiers relaxing in Mad River Glen’s General Stark’s Pub after a day of skiing will notice a collage of bumper sticker photos from throughout the world (see a gallery of Wall of Fame images) . The photos range from shots of a sticker on the canopy of a US Air Force F-16 to the tram (both the new one and the old one) at Jackson Hole. Other highlights include photos from the World Elephant Polo Championships in Nepal, the Great Wall of China, on the DMZ in Korea, the Galapagos Islands, the gates of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin, the Tower of London, various South Pacific and Caribbean islands, bars in Vietnam and Kosovo, the summits of Mt. Kilimanjaro (there’s more than one there) and Mt. McKinley, and dozens from ski areas from New Zealand to New Jersey. The coups de grace is without a doubt the photo from inside the space shuttle of astronaut Cady Coleman.
The key to the success of the campaign is the loyalty of Mad River Glen’s skiers and the “organically viral” nature of the sticker campaign. It really is a crazy phenomenon. We receive photos via email and in the mail constantly. We also get calls all the time from skiers who are taking a trip or have bought a new car and want a sticker. Everyone wants their photo be added to the collection in the bar.
The bumper sticker was the brainchild of Gerald Muro, the principal of an advertising agency in New York, who developed it in 1984 as part of an overall plan to refocus Mad River Glen’s marketing efforts. Muro first met Mad River’s previous owner Betsy Pratt riding on the lift. After their chance meeting, they began to collaborate on an innovative marketing plan for Mad River Glen. “We wanted to create the first specialty ski area in the United States if not the world,” said Muro. Instead of trying to be all things to all skiers, they decided to cater to above average skiers taking advantage of the mountains legendary and often intimidating terrain.. Clearly, Mad River Glen’s chosen course has been instrumental in clearly defining the unique niche Mad River Glen enjoys today.
Pratt sold the ski area to a group of skiers in 1995 and Mad River Glen became America’s only cooperatively owned, not for profit ski area. By this time “Ski It If You Can” had become entrenched in the lore of Mad River Glen and the fledgling Co-op knew enough not to mess with a good thing. The Mad River Glen Cooperative decided to forge ahead with the “campaign” by continuing to print “Ski It If You Can” stickers and to use the image on its collateral materials. Since its inception the only real change to the “campaign” has been to change the types of “Ski It If You Can” stickers that are available. In the beginning there was only the traditional large bumper sticker. Today Mad River Glen loyalists can also get “Ski It If You Can” stickers in a more diminutive version, as a window decal, helmet size, a mini version and even as a temporary tattoo.
In fact, a survey of 10,000 skiers by the National Ski Areas Association revealed that due to the sticker, Mad River Glen had a “higher unaided recall” than any other ski resort marketing campaign. Winning an NSAA Marketing Award would be tantamount to a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for “Ski It If You Can. According to the NSAA studies in 2006 and again in 2008 the “Ski It If You Can” sticker campaign has given Mad River Glen “higher unaided recall than any other ski resort marketing campaign. “We also noticed something really odd in the verbatim comments in the study”, notes James Chung of Reach Advisors. “It’s may be the only time we’ve seen that a non-family ski campaign resonated to the extent it did with more women than men. We suspect that the “Ski It If You Can” message gave a cluster of women their own brand identity that they felt helped them say that that they ski, they rock, and they kick butt. It’s easy to envision my five-year-old daughter wanting to slap one of those stickers on her helmet in a few years.” Both studies found that Mad River Glen “popped” out more than any other ski area in the 2006 marketing study as well as in the more gender focused study in 2008. While “Ski It If You Can” has certainly scared off our fair share of novice and intermediate skiers we know for sure that many, many more have been turned on to Mad River Glen’s unique ski experience promoted by the ubiquitous sticker over the years.
Learn About the Genesis of the Bumper Sticker from its Creator