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Move over SXSW: Snowcial is the new format for tech conferences — nonstop partying required

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22, Jayme, Snowcial, March 2013
Hours of shredding at Heavenly Mountain with some of the craziest and goofy folks in and around the industry is part of the charm of the conference. These attendees make their way up the mountain in a gondola. Photo courtesy of Heavenly
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Snowcial is a hybrid of networking opportunities, A-list speakers from some of the top companies in the world — plus copious amounts of partying, Photo courtesy of Heavenly
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The first official words that took place on the Snowcial stage were this: “Partying is part of the Heavenly brand,” said senior director of brand marketing for Heavenly, John Wagnon, to a room full of hungover VIP poker players, myself included. Photo courtesy of Heavenly
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Two Snowcial attendees and speaker Chris Heuer from Deloitte Digital. Photo courtesy of Heavenly
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Snowcial attendees on the mountain  Photo courtesy of Heavenly
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This is a real conference. Photo courtesy of Heavenly
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Zach Berman with Freeskier Magazine taking a break on the mountain Photo courtesy of Heavenly
22, Jayme, Snowcial, March 2013
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0393, Jayme, Snowcial, March 2013
6360, Jayme, Snowcial, March 2013
6364, Jayme, Snowcial, March 2013
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29, Jayme, Snowcial, March 2013
Jayme Lamm, head shot, column mug, January 2013

Lake Tahoe, Calif. — Move over SXSW, there’s a new tech conference whose main gist is a hybrid of networking opportunities, A-list speakers from some of the top companies in the world — plus copious amounts of partying, beers, and gambling, all by way of your conference lanyard.

And don’t forget the hours upon hours of shredding at Heavenly Mountain with some of the craziest and goofy folks in and around the industry who make it their business to know everything that happens on and off the mountains.

 As one participant says, the conference is “Silicon Valley meets the High Sierra, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ hangs with ‘The Hangover.’” 

I’m talking about a week known as Snowcial, a conference/unconference dedicated to all of the above and making our experiences and our customers more enjoyable, paving the way for ease and futuristic storytelling with case studies and presentations from companies like the competition-setting mountain app EpicMix, revolutionary products like GoPro and ever-evolving Facebook science and data directly from the industry leaders themselves.

And then the opportunity to grab a drink or a blackjack table and question them just moments later.  

Having just completed its fifth year, there’s no wonder why Snowcial is rolling on a high of success. As one participant and freelance writer, Jules Older explained in his “Friends in High Places” recap in the San Francisco Chronicle, the conference is “Silicon Valley meets the High Sierra, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ hangs with ‘The Hangover.’”

What a fitting description. Give me more.

First official words

The first official words that took place on the Snowcial stage were this: “Partying is part of the Heavenly brand,” coming straight from the mouth of the senior director of brand marketing for Heavenly, John Wagnon, to a room full of hungover VIP poker players, myself included.

If that doesn’t set the tone for this innovative and mountainous event, I don’t know what does. In those few words, Wagnon, along with his Helly Hansen’ed out team, methodically set the bar for the conference and delivered delightfully so, lifting all of our brands and potential, both personal and corporate, to incredible new heights.

Long gone are the days of boring conferences. Our jobs and our everyday lives have turned into this make people jealous mentality thanks in large part to social media and the ease of photo and video sharing. I’m on a mountain and you’re in a cubicle, be jealous.

“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right,” said Snowcial co-founder David LaPlante.

 Adding a few professional photos via EpicMix from the top of the beautiful snowcapped Heavenly Mountain with the lake in the background and cheese-ball smiles adorning your face, then a few more pictures of you at a step-and-repeat with a Heavenly Angel on each side and the jealousy virtually cues immediately.

Then tell your friends that your company paid for your trip because there is in fact tons of data to learn, analyze and discuss and various connections to be made.

But that’s the format conferences and the unique step-outside-the-box brains behind said events are creating, and they are the ones setting the tone for our corporate attention whether it be in the form of learning how to avoid or address potential PR nightmares, how to keep your blog content relevant and the online disruptions to a minimum or how to kick your competition’s ass without even taking their name.

Time is money and money is time. Snowcial captures that in one swift carve of the board and a swig of a Sierra Nevada. It’s natural and organic and timely and everything else we as entrepreneurs and creatives strive for.

A new intimacy

PowerPoint presentations are still in the mix, just not the kind you’re used to. Instead, videos and stories from customers of the brand were shown to tell the story of a risky Nestle sponsorship or a new Facebook data algorithm cueing laughter, questions, and hashtags from all 100+ attendees.

The Lightning Round consisted of timed presentations set to the tune of music where the slides changed automatically based on a predetermined computer timer keeping the presenters on their toes all while audience members were encouraged to heckle as if Tosh.0 were performing his latest bit on stage.

 PowerPoint presentations are still in the mix, just not the kind you’re used to.  

While I’m still a big fan of things that SXSW has created over the years and will continue to do, the intimacy of Snowcial is what really takes it to the top. The connections, the laughter and the photos (especially the ones that will never be shared) are all part of the event.

As David LaPlante, Snowcial co-founder, said, “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.”

I will spend the next three-hundred-and-sixty-some-days getting my brain, social media channels, terrain jumps, and not to mention my now-barely functioning liver back in tip-top shape. Until next year Snowcial, until next year…

Here’s a quick two-minute video from this year’s event created by the Heavenly Team to give you a bird’s eye view of what not to miss next year.

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