Winter Trails Day overhauls website, outreach programs

With its budget reduced by 40 percent, Winter Trails Day has overhauled its website and outreach programs to cut costs, operate more efficiently and increase participation. SNEWS takes a look at what it’s done to stay viable.
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Winter Trails Day organizers said they have improved the website and adjusted outreach programs to reduce operating costs and increase awareness of the 16-year-old event. The day promotes snowshoeing and cross-country skiing through free outdoor demos for the public at various resorts and parks.

“In these last couple of years of economic uncertainty, sponsor dollars have been cut, and that has changed our outreach strategy,” said Reese Brown, administrator for Winter Trails Day (www.wintertrails.org). He told SNEWS® that the amount of money invested in Winter Trails Day has decreased by 40 percent over the last five years. “We’ve had to look at our budgets and allocate our dollars where we can,” he said.

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Due to budget cuts, Brown can no longer do mass mailings to promote Winter Trails Day and attract potential sponsors and partners. Instead, he and other organizers of the event are mining the SnowSports Industries America database of retailers and manufacturers to target potential supporters and expand the number of companies involved in Winter Trails Day.

Brown said he especially wants to get more retailers on board. “We need them to tell our story and reach out to the people,” said Brown. “They’re out there talking to people all the time about a variety of different sports and activities, and they can really carry the message.”

While Winter Trails Day has less money for mailings, it also has fewer funds to supply retailers, Nordic centers and other partners with printed materials such as posters. “We used to print a lot of collateral, do mailings to retailers and sponsors. We can’t do that anymore,” said Brown. “We’re now developing web addresses where people can download posters and other promotional materials to print them.”

Winter Trails Day is also relying more on the Internet to attract new participants. “I made updating the website a priority,” said Brown. “People are surfing from their couches on a Thursday night after work to decide what they’re going to do on the weekend. So it’s really important to speak to those people in a functional and understandable way, and I don’t think our old website was doing that.”

Brown said the new site is less cluttered. “We’ve reduced the volume of information, and made the information there easier to quickly see and understand,” he said. “The date is more visible, and it’s easier to find an event location.”

The updated website also has new tools to aid the Nordic centers and other sites hosting Winter Trails Day events. Brown said the online registration process is far more streamlined, and employees at event sites can put in a password to see who has signed up for their event. 

With the changes to the website and outreach methods, Brown said he hopes that this year’s Winter Trails Day, scheduled for Jan. 8, 2011, will attract more people than ever. Each year, the event takes place at about 100 sites and draws roughly 11,000 people. “We hope to break 11,000 this year,” he added.

Despite the budget cuts, Brown said he’s optimistic about the future.

“We have drastically reduced our cost of operations, but we’ve stabilized now,” said Brown. “We’re in a very good fiscal situation.”

--Marcus Woolf

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