The David vs. Goliath of Skiing: How Indy Pass Took on the Giants

“Innovation is born out of necessity and limitations.” – David and Goliath

In 2018, Doug Fish and agency president Nate Parr first conceived of Indy Pass amid the mega pass boom, when large corporations were buying up resorts and creating a monopoly in the ski industry. Recognizing that independent resorts faced a major challenge in competing with corporate giants, Doug and Nate pooled their collective marketing power to create a product to fight the wave, highlighting these resorts’ most distinctive asset – their independent spirit. 

Fish Marketing became an incubator for the Indy Pass, a product that took a new approach to multi-pass skiing, making it easy for people to explore independent resorts all over the world. With extensive research on and off the slopes, Fish found there was a silent majority of skiers wanting to ski a handful of days a year without waiting in big lines or breaking the bank. They were hungry for a product like Indy Pass. And as skiers and snowboarders ourselves, with a trove of resort clients, the mission of Indy Pass matched our own. That’s why Fish decided to put the power of our full-service agency behind Indy Pass, pro bono. This wasn’t just client work; it was a partnership built on shared values and a vision for the future.


“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker

The Beginning

The pass began as a scrappy, boots-on-the-ground operation with a few computers and a 4Runner. Doug hit the road with the plan in hand, kicking back beers with mom-and-pop owners to pitch the idea of one community united in their fight to stay independent. He returned with 34 resorts on board. 

But creating the pass and getting resorts onboard wouldn’t be enough—this new product would need a community invested in its mission to compete. 

Fish got to work on a marketing strategy, advertising materials, naming the pass, creating merchandise, and preparing a campaign. 

Utilizing a data-driven, multi-pronged approach that targeted the cost-conscious skier, Fish Marketing led Indy Pass to explosive growth: 880% revenue increase in just one year. 

880% revenue increase text

Learning from a misstep:

Early marketing attempts explored various channels, like partnering with Costco to reach cost-conscious skiers. However, with limited brand awareness, only a handful of passes sold. This highlighted the key challenge: breaking through the noise to attract new customers.

Building the Foundation:

The solution? Building a foundation of awareness across multiple platforms. Leveraging partnerships and engaging contests brought in email leads, while a strategic media plan with digital ads, search, email marketing, and SEO optimization ignited brand awareness and conversions. 

Indy Revolution hashtag with skiers

Organic Growth: Fostering a Thriving Community:

Organic marketing became the Fish Indy Team’s secret weapon. A strategic hashtag and a vibrant Facebook group (boasting 14,200+ members) fueled brand awareness and repeat sales. This wasn’t just marketing; it was community building. Passholders became brand ambassadors, touting the pass, sharing experiences, planning trips, and asking for advice on resorts. Skiers used the group to try to get dates to the mountain, families asked the best spot to teach their kids and group members worked together to plan road trips. It has become acommunity of thousands of like-minded ski enthusiasts ready to go to bat for the brand.

Indy pass emails on mobile devices

Email Marketing: The Power of Targeted Communication

Fish recognized the importance of using email marketing to connect to the Indy Pass base, but not without a strategic approach. Segmentation is key to ensuring your marketing budget doesn’t go to waste. Content was targeted to consumers based on purchase history and locations, maximizing impact. For example, we highlighted Saddleback, a resort in Rangeley, Maine that features the Kennebago Steeps (one of the largest advanced and expert steep skiing zones in the East) in an email to passholders in that region. The current standard for email open rates is around 21%. This email had a 67% open rate.  

67% open rate quote with image of an email sent highlighting Saddleback Maine

Digital Marketing: Optimizing for Maximum Impact:

The digital team at Fish constantly fine-tuned campaigns, maximizing their return on investment. They moved beyond high-volume keywords to target those with higher conversion rates. At first, digital ads were divided equally around the country, but once they established 5 high-performing markets with better conversion rates, budgets shifted accordingly. 

Recognizing that year over year, 65-70% of sales happened 10 days before a pricing deadline, we pivoted Indy Pass’s approach, focusing on brand-based advertising and targeted re-marketing, coupled with data-driven search optimization. This meticulous approach resulted in a 6.32x return on ad spend, demonstrating the power of data-driven strategies and a flexible digital team. 

By the 2022 season, Indy Pass served over 120 resorts, competing with the big players.

Indy Pass ad

From David to Goliath: A Global Force Emerges

From the 2021-22 season to the 2022-23 season, Indy Pass saw revenue skyrocket by 88%, transactions increase by 66%, and conversion rates jump by 57%. Now, Indy holds the title of “fastest-growing multi-mountain pass,” shaking up the landscape for good with 180+ resorts and tens of thousands of passholders around the globe. This is twice as many resorts than the next multi-mountain pass.

Image of mobile phones with Indy Pass emails

With a thriving 80,000-strong email community and regular national media coverage, Indy Pass has established itself as a major player in the market. Read about Indy’s new ownership and journey in Outside Magazine. This past season, the collective of independent resorts limited pass sales after just 10 days of unprecedented demand to preserve the passholder experience. 

As Indy Pass demonstrates, disrupting an industry requires a dedicated team. Fish Marketing’s comprehensive approach, from conceptualizing the pass, designing the brand, and building a website, to executing highly successful digital campaigns, has helped to solidify Indy Pass as a global force. We are so proud of the role we played in helping Indy Pass reach and surpass every goal they set to go from underdog to powerhouse in the world of multi-pass skiing.

Indy RFD card with Doug Fish

Ready to break the mold? If you’re dreaming of shaking up your industry or just want to launch a new digital campaign, our full-service agency can guide you through every step, from conception to execution, helping you achieve your goals, however ambitious.

If you’d like to do just one or all of these things for your business, give us a call or email Nate Parr. We’d be happy to help.