Should PSIA develop a certification program for ski schools? This article is intended to be a working document to flesh out details to be used in a program proposal.
Is the quality of a ski school important? How do you measure the quality of a ski school? This document is a proposal for development of a ski school certification process. The intent of the process is to provide a road map for ski schools to use to measure and improve the quality of the school with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of a ski school in delivering instruction and simultaneously contributing direct and indirect positive impact to resort profitability. The school certification process will work similar to instructor certification in many ways. First, the preparation for the exam should be far more valuable than the certification itself. Secondly, certification levels are only milestones on the road to continuous improvements. Third, certification status can be used by lesson takers to help choose who they take lessons from. Finally, resorts can use certification status to attract additional business.
This process will also be different from instructor certification in many ways.
Since much of the certification process will be data collection and review, and some of the data will be proprietary to the resort, the confidentiality of the data must be guaranteed. However one of the main goals of this process is to share anonymous and aggregated data among the participants so they can determine where they rank among their peers. Schools will be asked to volunteer sharing of policies and procedures so that best practices can be shared and economies can be achieved. Exams will be conducted over an extended period of time. The interview portion of the exam will be part auditing of submitted data, part feedback on metric scoring, part consulting on where to go next and part candidate feedback on the exam process. At level 3, the exam will include onsite observation of the ski school in action.
Definition of Certification Levels
Level 1 - Ski School net promoter score above 6. First timer conversion rate over 17%. Lesson products comply with PSIA teaching and skiing concepts. >50% of training staff is PSIA certified level 2 or higher. Exam score over 50.
Level 2 - Ski School net promoter score above 7.5. First timer conversion rate over 20%. Lesson products exceed PSIA minimum standards. >75% of training staff is PSIA certified level 2 or higher. 1% of staff is PSIA education staff (min 1). Exam score over 65.
Level 3 - Ski school net promoter score above 9. First timer conversion rate over 25%. Lesson products are used as examples for other PSIA member schools. 100% of training staff is PSIA certified level 2 or higher. 2% of staff is PSIA education staff (min 2). Current or former PSIA demo team member on staff. Exam score over 80.
Customer satisfaction scores
Customer complaint scores
Injury rates - students
Injury rates - staff
Staff experience levels
Lawsuits (count and won/loss)
Student teacher ratios
First timer conversion ratios
Private lesson request percentage
Staff to trainer/PISA staff/ PSIA examiner/Demo team member(current+former) ratio
Hours worked to training ratio
Hours worked to total training ratio (including offsite PSIA clinics, etc.)
Repeat customer metric
Lesson to skier visit ratio
Staff satisfaction scores
Exam pass rates
First time lessons
Events (e.g. women's day, competitions)
-Programs (e.g. season long training)
Lesson time flexibility
Lesson time vs ticket timing
price relative to region
price to satisfaction ratio
price to staff experience/certification level
Suitability of beginner terrain
Crowding of beginner terrain
Snow quality of beginner terrain
Integration with rentals
breadth of Clinic offerings
volume of clinics taught
quality of clinic offerings
External clinicians brought onsite
Clarity of product offerings
Web site pages
Mentions in external media
foreign language support
availability of certified instructors
Scheduling tools (i.e. software)
Exam request signoff process
Inter department cooperation (e.g. coordinating/cross staffing with grooming, terrain park design/maintenance, lifts, patrol)
Employee communication (meetings, newsletter, social media, radio contact, phone access, instructor website)
Third party instruction policy (e.g. are groups allowed to use their own instructors? Is a person who is not on staff allowed to teach for profit? Is there a visiting instructor policy)
Security - physical and computer
Budgeting process and tools
Rules for pay increases
Customer facing (e.g. lesson desk)
Cleanliness/Attractiveness/Functional rating/ Green (environmental) rating
Indirect - pull through revenue, cooperation with other departments
Average vs marginal
Low Hanging Fruit
This is a temporary section to identify the highest priority areas to evaluate for lower level cert candidates. These areas should be the easiest to fix and generate the biggest returns in quality and resort profitability. One goal here is to minimize the level of effort required to achieve level 1 cert while maximizing the return for the expense invested. The second goal of level 1 low hanging fruit is to tease about the possibilities of going for level 2 cert.
Profitability decision tree (ask a series of questions starting with is ski school outside the range of desirable profitability [too high or too low])
Back office efficiency
First timer "flow" evaluation (build scenarios from decision to try skiing to return trip home and determine road blocks to first time skier satisfaction)
Rental Gear selection - evaluate how rental gear type and set up influences how lessons are taught with an either an eye toward changing the rental gear or the teaching methods.
Line up procedures - How does student and staff flow at lineups? Does the lesson timing match the lesson demand? How does lesson timing impact staffing needs?
Product rationalization - are you meeting customer needs - can they understand the product choice
Compensation rationalization - what do you reward staff for doing vs what you want them to do
Problem solving methodology
Staff recruiting tactics (active recruiting from upper level lessons, local colleges, parents of kids in programs, referral bonuses)
Integration with group sales - do you get #'s that help you forecast lesson volume?
Does your school have a negative reputation?
Percent of gear renters taking lessons/percent of tickets sold
Schools can get volunteer help to do the data collecting/exam submissions from students working on school projects?
How to estimate the marketing value of school ratings?
An exam guide will be published.
A forum will be established to facilitate the discussion of policies/procedures/programs/best practices/answering questions/solving problems.
A database will be created to hold statistical data, support queries and generate reports.
Spreadsheet modeling tools to facilitate financial planning.
Decision tree software - profitability decision tree
Accounting module - how to determine ROI and prepare investment proposals
Prep clinics can either be done as adjuncts to the Snow Sports Management seminars, optional parts of multi day events, or off season workshops. The concepts of a basic prep clinic are:
-Introduce the exam process/level set expectations
-Develop an exam prep plan
-Introduce management tools
-Solve a problem
-Develop one idea to improve customer satisfaction
-Develop one idea to generate more profit
Clinic#2 - accounting 101 with a ski school focus
When to use marginal costs vs average cost for decision making
Clinic#3 - metrics gathering
How to conduct customer surveys
The examiner team should one representative from the following categories:
-ski school/ ski area management (retired/ not active?)
-L3 certified line instructor
It is presumed that the initial examiners will be volunteers, but that over time a dev team and testing process will be developed to qualify additional examiners.
Scoring will be weighted among the different categories and weighted on each exam element in relation to a benchmark.
Measurements get more detailed as certification level increases. Higher scores will be granted to metrics maintained over longer time periods. Bonus scores will be awarded to metrics that are trending positive over time (e.g. 1/2 the value of what next years score would be if the trend held).
Most of the exam will be occur through review of submitted data. Part of the exam will be interview oriented. The highest level of certification will eventually onsite inspection and mystery customer scoring. Certification maintenance requirements will include 5 year reviews, ongoing training and submission of school management articles in the divisional newsletter/national publication.
Info about the school certification program should be posted on the public portion of the PSIA web site explaining the value of the program to the public. Information for school to participate in the process should be placed behind the member access permissions. A presentation should be developed for discussion with NSAA to solicit SAM buy in to the program estimating costs and benefits and explaining how the process works.
It is envisioned that the exam process will initially start purely as a data collection effort to prototype collection methods and establish baselines. Examiners will initially be all volunteer and unofficial practice exams will be conducted to validate the concept. As data builds up and the value of the concept gets validated, pricing for the examination process will be ramped up to cover compensation to examiners and cover overhead costs to the organization.
How much money would it take to get this implemented? The intent is to start as an all volunteer effort.
The ideas in this document need review, expansion of breadth and expansion of detail. A lot of the bullets above need expansion into question lists that go in multiple directions. For example, Security should cover things from how to get into a locked pro room, to who has keys to what, to who is allowed access to what, to how confidential information is securely maintained, to procedures for handling staff reports of lost or stolen equipment, etc. When there is enough detail to this plan it should be "shopped" to either a resort or to a PSIA ski school management committee for feedback on the viability of the idea. After that it can be turned into a formal proposal to a PSIA division for consideration as an official program.
By performing a comprehensive review of ski school operations and comparing the results against industry averages, ski schools will be able to use the school certification process as a road map to improved product quality (i.e. lesson effectiveness and customer satisfaction) and increased resort profitability. The identification of standardized operational metrics and data collection methods will allow resorts to perform an apples to apples comparison of metrics with their peers without sacrificing competitive secrets.