You don’t have to travel o/s for a full on snow fun park – Steve Belli’s innovative SnowstuffPark launched at Hotham last year has expanded to Falls and Dinner Plain. From free snowballs to kid’s snowmobiles, they got it!
Steve had been pondering what else can you do in the snow apart from ski and board for over a decade, after checking out the latest and greatest in snow activities at the ISPO Trade Fair in Munich. He founded Snow-Stuff with an aim to import cool snowplay type devices for Australian Retailers to make available. But the take up was underwhelming, so he realised he had to take a different route as the snowplay segment in Australia was very small, and only really based around tobogganing.
His idea was a snow fun park concept, and he initiated talks with various Resort Management Boards, Lift Companies, National Parks, Industry bodies and Insurance organisations. Of course there were many hurdles along the way and lots of people thought Steve was mad. Why would you get into such a niche field that the Australian snow scene didn’t have any real direction on?
Finally in 2010 traction started to happen when the Mt Hotham Resort Management Board listened to what he had to say and interest was sparked. Two years later, SnowStuffPark at Mt Hotham was born, much to the surprise of the Hotham snowgoer.
The Wire Plain area in the resort was perfect for snowplay, far enough away from the skifields to ensure that snowplay did not get mixed up with downhill skiers, but also conveniently located on the Hotham transport system for easy access.
Startup costs were quite significant, but Steve knew that he had to invest for the future. This year he won a tender with The Alpine Shire for operations at Dinner Plain. Shortly after Falls Creek was also interested in an operation for 2013.
“2013 is a pivotal year for SnowStuffPark. We have hired further staff to ensure that we add value to the resorts that we are present in. We want snowgoers to have the opportunity to expand on their skiin and boarding and have a go at something different” says Steve.
The 2012 experience was a learning curve, showing what people were actually looking for and also the market SnowStuffPark was addressing. They identified three specific segments for ‘snowplayers’ visiting the Hotham park —
1. The first time visitor – a lot of people came specifically for snowplay, not to ski or board but rather “chuck a snowball, ride a toboggan, slide on a scooter or build a snowman”. Some of these spent numerous days at the park, some even drove from Melbourne for a day trip (10 hours return). Some also said next time they come back they’ll be keen to get on a lift and try out skiing or boarding. So snowplay has a role encouraging first timers up the mountain, and is a definite precursor for some to progress to tryiing skiing.
2. Then there are plenty of people who just want to do a bit of snowplay and don’t want to (or can’t) ski or board. This was evident with some of the demographics that visited the park, including families with toddlers.
3. The skiing Mum or Dad – “I’m tired! Can’t we just take a day off? It’s windy up top and the lifts are on wind hold. Can you look after the kids whilst I go out and carve up a few blacks?” – Yep, this was the third big segment, a great option for when they, or the kids, want to.
In wrapping up, Steve says that he’s very aware of the competition between resorts to attract the Aussie ski dollar, and has ensured that each park has the core activities for snowplay – snowball throwing, snowman building etc, and also tobogganing – while at the same time having some unique activities at each of the three parks.
“Our vision is to make all the parks complementary to each other for a varied experience. Our ski resorts in Australia have a sense of uniqueness and we want to echo this at SnowStuffPark. We are also doing our bit to try to keep the Australian Snow Industry vibrant!”
They are doing that for sure – how cool is fun that starts free at the snow for the newcomers, and it’s a great option for the committed family skiers too. Bottom line for all of us is the more people at the snow the healthier our industry, so check out one or all of the parks.
All activities are listed at www.snowstuffpark.com.au and you can prebook activities like Kid’s Snowmobiling online.