Behind the List with Jeff Zellner of Bear Creek Mountain Resort

Believing in a strong network of community business

The Greater Lehigh Valley offers a panoply of entertainment sources.

From casinos and concert venues to ski resorts and wineries, the opportunities for adventure seem endless.

One company that’s been expanding its services and growing year-over-year is Bear Creek Mountain Resort in Longswamp Township.

Here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions and talk about the resort’s growth is Jeff Zellner, marketing and public relations manager at Bear Creek Mountain Resort.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Bear Creek Mountain Resort been operating in the region and what are its primary services?

Jeff Zellner: In 1967, Doe Mountain Ski Area opened at 101 Doe Mountain Lane in Macungie. The property began as a very small operation with a single surface lift and some one-story buildings. Doe Mountain Ski Area operated until the year 1999.

Throughout its history, Doe Mountain was a ski-only facility that relied solely upon winter sports to generate revenue. Over time, the property began to deteriorate and was in much need of an infrastructure upgrade.

Bear Creek was born in 1999. Slowly, the company began to improve with the needed upgrades.

Fast forward to 2004. The original buildings were demolished and a major property expansion began. The 53-room Hotel at Bear Creek, as well as a new lodge, restaurant, rental shop, banquet space and more were constructed and opened just in time for the 2004-2005 winter season.

In 2007, the property again expanded with the construction of a second hotel tower, The Spa at Bear Creek, Trails End Café and additional banquet space.

With the property now having 118 hotel rooms, two restaurants, 26,000 square feet of banquet space as well as modern winter amenities, the resort has become a year-round destination.

The resort’s main business segment has evolved over the years, as well. In the past, winter sports were the primary focus of the property. Today, our focus is balanced between weddings, corporate events, restaurant business, spa business and winter sports.

This rounded approach helps insulate the company from weather dependency and assures better overall health for the business.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Bear Creek Mountain Resort has encountered throughout its years in business?

Zellner: The single biggest challenge that Bear Creek has faced in its years of operation has been the move away from weather-dependent business. The winter sports community is a very loyal community and is a segment of the population that has been very supportive to the company.

As our need to expand our year-round segments has increased, building awareness has become our largest challenge.

Bear Creek is located in an area that is very close to major population bases, but is not on a busy road or in the middle of a downtown. The company has to work very hard to acquire new customers and visually share the beauty of the property as a destination.

Many people have viewed Bear Creek as a winter-only location. Our goal and focus over the past few years has been to reposition the company as a year-round destination resort that offers much more than winter sports.

We have taken many steps to make this designation and it has by far been our biggest challenge, which thankfully we are overcoming.

LVB: The Greater Lehigh Valley has other tourist attractions that accommodate visitors year-round. What strategies and offerings does Bear Creek Mountain Resort implement to attract visitors to the resort?

Zellner: At Bear Creek, we took a great deal of time and effort in determining our value proposition.

We tried to identify what would make a person visit the resort when there are so many other great options throughout the Lehigh Valley. Our conclusion was that Bear Creek can offer the feeling of being removed without the far drive.

We are located on 330 wooded acres that are very serene, beautiful and quiet. We leveraged the assets that were available to us to create Bear Creek as a relaxation destination.

With great options such as Dorney Park, The Lehigh Valley IronPigs, The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, as well as water parks throughout the Poconos, we tried to identify this as a place to get away and relax, rather than compete for leisure activity business.

As a company, we have leveraged these local options for visitors to “play there, and relax here.” The relaxation messaging has worked effectively across numerous resort segments such as weddings, corporate events, the spa, dining, hotel and skiing.

The resort offers a series of events, such as spring and harvest wine festival, promotions, such as lobster week and music under the stars, and very visual marketing to attract interest and raise the level of awareness for the resort in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.

In addition, our wedding business has been a great feeder business for us, as well. Bear Creek has a very strong wedding business based upon the resort being a “one-stop shop” with lodging, indoor and outdoor ceremony sites, dining, spa and reception space all at one location.

The strength and growth of this segment have exposed the property to thousands of guests throughout the years that were not participants in winter sports.

LVB: How does Bear Creek Mountain Resort stimulate the local economy? How does it get involved with the local community?

Zellner: Bear Creek is a proud supporter of many local businesses as vendors of the company.

We are happy to support local Lehigh Valley businesses whenever possible. As a company, we believe in a strong network of community business that is both supportive and active.

The company has been involved with, and supportive of, numerous business organizations, including the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, AAF [American Advertising Federation] Lehigh Valley, Discover Lehigh Valley, Go Greater Reading [Pennsylvania’s Americana Region – Reading, Berks County], The Main Line Chamber of Commerce, MPI [Meeting Professionals International] Middle Pennsylvania and more.

As a company, we feel that having a strong, supportive voice within the community will help to elevate both the company as well as the community. We very much value local business, and it is a priority to support local business in any way possible.

It is the people who own and work for these local businesses that are our customer base, and we try to find opportunities to pay that back.

LVB: What does the future look like for Bear Creek Mountain Resort? Does it have plans for growth?

Zellner: The future is very bright at Bear Creek. Bear Creek will continue to offer premium experiences for all of its guests, whether a wedding guest, a winter guest, a dining guest or a spa guest.

We are going to continue to develop the resort as a destination to get away from daily life. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the guest experience and to offer the escape many of our guest’s desire.

Our future plans revolve around expanding our existing business segments to offer more of what our guests want. We will be adding dining promotions, events and organized activities to give our local customers a reason to come see us.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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