10 ski resorts that keep their branding cool

Alex Bigman

While we often cover design trends on a larger scale, it’s always fun to dig deeper into particular industries. In the past we’ve explored airlines and famous museums, for example. Now, in the spirit of the season – at least in the Northern Hemisphere – we’re turning a creative eye to ski resort branding.

Like many services, ski resorts are 20th (or even 19th) century institutions, tasked with adapting to the marketing requirements of the new millennium. They also tend to occupy a luxury market, with a lot of status to maintain or prove. This leads to a strong emphasis on design and some truly sleek, innovative websites have emerged as a result.

We combed through quite a lot and came up with a tentative top 10. As always, we begin with the best.

1. St. Anton Arlberg, Austria

st. anton

A gorgeous color palette and clean design, complemented by smart typefaces. The icons look great and are a sensible choice for a site with international traffic, though we must say, it is not always clear what they mean. The cookie notice up top is an elegant and much-appreciated decision.

2. Squaw Valley, California, USA

squaw valley

An extremely clean, modern-looking (read: flat) design that clearly took a page from the latest iOS handbook. The page is bright, legible, and inviting. The logo is elegant but nothing special. The site’s only real danger is that it comes perhaps too close to the corporate appearance of, say, an airline.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 10.22.37 PM

In any case, it makes up for it with nicely chosen photographs and sleek icons. We’d get on their jet.

3. Cortina Dolomiti, Italy

Cortina Dolomiti

Clearly a bold departure from the usual formula. The site uses strong typeface and striking colors, beautiful icons and a timelessly retro logo. The image is perhaps more entertainment than sporting-oriented, but in any case it is a refreshing bit of fun that—excuse the term—pops against the stark black background.

4. Zermatt Matterhorn, Switzerland

zermatt

At first glance, the site is pretty straightforward. The logo could use an update and some of the icons bear a similarly hokey, dated look. Once you start scrolling, however, the design really kicks into gear.

zermatt2

Appropriately enough, the site uses a “snowfall” approach to reveal a cascade of striking, intelligently paired images like the ones shown above.

5. Telluride, Colorado, USA

telluride

The logo here also leaves something to be desired. The typeface used elsewhere on the site is of a substantially higher grade, and the earthy brown tones bring the opulent destination back down to earth. The site was also the only one we encountered to incorporate video—an impressive high-definition montage that would give anyone the urge to hit the slopes.

6. Carinthia Mount Snow, Vermont, USA

carinthia

The site has its issues: the grey palette is a bit dark, causing the overcast skies in the framed photographs to appear more bleak than sporting. There is also a weird hover zoom feature. The site gets a lot of points, however, for being clean and simple, using good typefaces and, above all, sporting a unique look. This is a small resort that was probably on a budget, and they did a lot with it.

7. Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, USA

aspen snowmass

The use of color is cheerful and dynamic, if somewhat of an odd match for the industry. The logo employs a nice typeface, but one that is perhaps too bold for the rather effeminate symbol.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 7.45.39 PM

The resort gets a special nod for its “Our Story” page, which sports pared-down elegance and definitely deserves a spot in the Top 10.

8. Deer Valley, Utah, USA

deer valley

A straightforward logo, but nicely done. The “book now” widget looks good, despite its use of faux wood grain. The site’s background gains texture through the use of a subtle wave pattern. Perhaps the site’s smartest element, however, is its set of custom weather icons.

9. Arapahoe, Colorado, USA

Arapahoe Basin

This logo will likely appear timeless to some, conservative to others. To be sure, the angular, monochrome symbol would be very much at home in the 1960s or 70s—but that’s not to say it’s out of date. The website itself is not particularly exciting, but it is clean and effective.

10. Copper Mountain, Colorado, USA

Copper Mountain

This logo’s symbol is pretty funky, but we think it works. The typeface, however, does not. The website as a whole is somewhat cluttered and unwieldy, but it has an ace in the hole…

sherpa

Namely, the resort gets points for being the only one we looked at that developed an app, called Sherpa, to help guide visitors while they are on the mountain. The app itself is beautiful and would serve as a great example for the website itself.

What do you think is important in ski resort branding? Share in the comments!

The author

Alex Bigman
Alex Bigman

Alex contributes from New York City on topics ranging from branding and typography to the history of design.

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