Liftopia Raises $1.3 Million to Expand Lift Ticket and Mountain Activity E-Commerce Platform
October 19, 2011
Round Led by First Round Capital with Participation from Angels Chris Sacca, Dave Morin and Existing Investors
Liftopia, Inc., the largest online retailer of lift tickets and mountain resort activities, today announced it has raised $1.3 million in a round led by First Round Capital. New investors Dave Morin and Chris Sacca also participated, along with existing investors and travel technology veterans Erik Blachford and Sam Shank. This brings Liftopia’s total capital raised to nearly $3 million.
Liftopia, founded in 2006, is a complete ski and resort activity marketplace, working directly with more than 150 mountain resorts across North America. The Liftopia platform enables resorts to sell lift tickets and a variety of resort activities in advance, including date-specific, non-refundable and non-transferable tickets, which translates to consumer savings of up to 80 percent off walk-up rates. The company continues to expand its range of products and services, offering ski lessons, rentals, dining credits and VIP mountain experiences such as Fast Tracks, First Tracks, and even private ski mountain rentals. In addition to direct to consumer sales, Liftopia’s e-commerce and technology platform helps resorts better manage inventory and revenue by enabling intelligent variable pricing through advanced sales and demand pattern analytics.
Liftopia's ski-travel niche could be replicated in other markets. Country inns, local restaurants and golf courses might all lend themselves to the same approach. All it takes to build a business around any of these niches is the legwork to band together a group of related leisure businesses, plus a healthy dose of web-savvy. Imagine an avid golfer, for instance, surveying the list of prices at nearby links, then checking out each course's webcam to see how long the wait time would be at the first hole. (On a side note: Eye Spy Golf is mapping golf courses in the United States using Google Maps so that golfers can get a close look at links in any state.)
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The financing will help the company expand its technology platform and deliver more tools and services to its resort partners, enabling dynamic pricing and revenue management driven by robust business intelligence. By helping resorts actively control pricing and drive sales weeks and months in advance, Liftopia helps resorts insulate themselves from arrival risks such as weather, snow conditions and even hangovers. Much like advance purchase pricing strategies seen in the airline, hotel and car rental industries, lift tickets purchased on Liftopia more than two weeks in advance allow consumers to save on average one-third off walk-up rates. As a result of these deals, Liftopia is shifting consumer mindset to advance versus same-day purchase and customers report they are skiing more days and trying more resorts.
"Recreational skiing and snowboarding is a massive global business. Liftopia is modernizing ticket purchase behavior by allowing lift ticket sales to happen online and in advance. The same shift that OpenTable enabled in the restaurant industry is being driven by Liftopia in the ski industry,” said Kent Goldman of First Round Capital, who is also assuming a new seat on the Liftopia board of directors. “The Liftopia founders and team have built an incredible platform. It's helping resorts manage their business more profitably while giving skiers and riders mountain experiences at great prices.”
“Nearly three in four Liftopia customers skied more last season because of the deals they found on our site. By working with resorts to manage their pricing dynamically, consumers are able to stretch their dollars to ski more,” said Evan Reece, co-founder and CEO of Liftopia. “We’re excited to add First Round Capital, Chris Sacca and Dave Morin to our impressive roster of investors, all of whom are as passionate about helping the ski industry as we are and have deep experience identifying and running innovative businesses.”
Liftopia was founded by Evan Reece and Ron Schneidermann, who worked together at Hotwire.com. The idea sparked as they recognized the ski industry could benefit from some of the same pricing strategies and revenue management principles adopted by airlines, hotels and rental car companies. In each of the past five years, year-over-year transaction volume and revenue have grown in the triple digits.
Ski resorts participate in Liftopia for free, offering no-risk marketing and distribution that delivers incremental sales and revenue. For each transaction through Liftopia, the company retains a portion of revenue. In the past year, transaction volume and revenue have grown in the triple digits.
Liftopia recently kicked off its pre-season sale with more than 60,000 deals, some of which were 90 percent off. Deals are updated regularly and current examples include 50 percent off at Colorado’s Copper Mountain with lift tickets starting at $49.99; and, a two out of seven day pass at The Canyons in Park City, Utah for $99.99, a savings of nearly 40 percent. This season, Liftopia has added Stratton, Alta and Aspen to its growing selection of resorts. The company also expects to add more mountain-related activities during the summer to drive year-round transactions and revenue.
Liftopia also offers detailed information on mountain resorts, including services, amenities, run difficulty and the ability to browse user reviews to help skiers and boarders research and choose the best resort for their needs. Participating resorts include major resorts in California, Colorado, Utah, New York, New England, British Columbia and Quebec, such as Park City, Winter Park, Aspen, Deer Valley, Snowbird, Mammoth, Kirkwood, Stowe, Sun Valley, Taos, Snowshoe, Mont Tremblant, Killington, Sunday River, Banff, and Whiteface.