Arc’teryx brings backcountry skiing to life

How the retailer built its winter campaign around an immersive in-store VR experience.
Vancouver Portrait Photographer

Whether you are actually brave enough to hit the slopes or not, Arc’teryx is hoping to give its customers the feeling of skiing in the backcountry through a new in-store VR experience.

Launching today during the re-opening of Arc’teryx’s redesigned Montreal location, “Hut Magic” was created in partnership with Destination BC and the Northern BC Tourism Association and places shoppers in a remote, backcountry ski cabin in British Columbia.

Inspired by the German word “gemütlichkeit” (which describes the peaceful feeling one gets from being in a secluded, natural environment), viewers not only get to virtually ski down a mountain, but also experience the feeling inside the cabin, doing things like gathering water from a nearby stream, cooking on a woodfire oven and relaxing with friends at night.

Jurgen Watts, global digital marketing manager at Arc’teryx, says the company’s marketing over the years has been based heavily on storytelling content around backcountry skiing, an activity that’s at the core of its brand. However, the videos and photo essays it’s been publishing keep its consumer somewhat removed, as they tell the stories of a different person or a skiing location.

An immersive setting gives its customer the closest possible way to experience backcountry skiing for themselves, especially for those who might not get to experience being on the mountain.

“This is the best way for us to bring that feeling to people in the urban settings where our stores are located,” Watts says. “As a brand, we know what we want to stand for. Backcountry skiing might not be for everybody, but we think stories like this can communicate what our brand is about, and maybe it can be an inspiration to people to get outside and finally do it for themselves.”

Hut Magic will be expanding to 17 more stores across Canada next week. Shot using Google’s Jump VR filming solution, Watts says the idea to bring Hut Magic in-store didn’t come until after the marketing team had seen the footage and experienced the VR version for themselves.

“A digital version would be cool and people would watch it on their phones, but the true experience that captures the feeling we are going for is actually when you put on the set,” Watts says. “We know we don’t have the massive adoption yet in terms of people having VR in their home, so we had to look at other ways to bring it to people.”

Now, Arc’teryx has built its entire winter campaign around Hut Magic and will bring the backcountry skiing experience to life in other ways in-store. Modular huts that serve as a more artistic interpretation of the backcountry cabin will house the VR experience, but each location will be hosting its own unique experiences, such as community skiing events and bringing in local food vendors.

“The content drove the inspiration internally as a marketing and retail team to figure out how to make it a full experience,” Watts says. “People can not only experience the video in true VR fashion the way it is intended, but also get people exposed to other events that are going on in store. The idea is that we can keep the spirit of that campaign going even after you’ve seen the video.”