Wachusett Mountain Ski Area, Mass., is the winner of the 2016 National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) Conversion Cup Challenge, sponsored by HEAD Wintersports. This annual award recognizes resorts across the country that have developed outstanding programs to convert new skiers and snowboarders into lifelong enthusiasts.

Wachusett was selected among a strong field of ski areas from across the U.S. The other two finalists were Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort, Wash., and Stevens Pass, Wash.

NSAA launched the initiative in 2010 as a way to pique competition among member ski areas and recognize those who make significant strides to boost conversion rates. The winner is chosen based upon proven results, creative ideas, consistent execution, and long-term commitment to the conversion effort. Several key metrics are used in the judging process, including beginner lesson volumes; quantifiable success of beginner lesson packages; season-to-date sales and repeat sales data collection; and marketing ingenuity and use of new media. 

Wachusett won the honor based on creative ideas, a logical learning progression-beyond the initial package offer-measurable results, solid execution, and long-term commitment to the conversion effort. Wachusett has been converting new skiers/riders for decades, taking advantage of the large population centers of Boston, Providence, and Worcester that are in the ski area's backyard. "We see it as our job to create future skiers and riders for the industry," said Carolyn Stimpson, Wachusett's vice president of resort services.

Using customer data and analytics, Wachusett has designed various beginner programs that are targeted to specific audiences-augmented with follow-up emails-to help ensure they return. The two primary learn-to programs are the one-day Learn-To-Turn package (lesson, rental, and lift ticket for $99), and a three-day package (lesson, rental, and lift ticket for $199). Those who finish either program receive upgrade offers and coupons to continue their journey to becoming a lifelong skier or snowboarder. Messages with those deals are delivered via email 24 hours later or, for those who do not provide an email address, by direct mail. The number of upgrades from the one-day package to the three-day package is up 65 percent from last season, even in a year when skier visits were down on the East Coast.

Wachusett also has other promotions to bring more newcomers to snowsports: incentives for existing customers to bring a friend; for secondary school students; for those riding public transportation; and other programs to make it easier for people to learn. 

The Conversion Cup Award, a large silver trophy based on a Stanley Cup prototype, is a traveling award. Wachusett claims ownership of the Cup for one year, until the next winner is announced at next year's NSAA National Convention May 5-8, 2017, in Scottsdale, Arizona.