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Announcement about EpicSki Academy

post #1 of 84
Thread Starter 

To the friends and fans of EpicSki Academy,

 

After several weeks of number-crunching, brain-storming and soul-searching, the organizers of EpicSki Academy have decided not to offer any events in the coming ski season. For the past 9 years our mission has been to provide world-class instruction at an affordable price to our community of dedicated skiers -- and we did it! We started strong: after our first outing at Brighton in January of 2003, which was very loosely organized but well-received, we went to Snowbird in 2004 and had a huge turnout, which was the pattern for the next several years. During that time we learned that we had to make our very part-time coaches employees and also to purchase liability insurance. With these obligations added to the organizational duties of putting on a first-class event, the administration of the clinics went from a small job to a big job. The price of the clinic also had to be increased commensurately to cover the added costs. We never added in the cost of administration, however, so the job continued to be a volunteer one, despite that fact that it had become very time-consuming and somewhat stressful, for the administrator has to manage cash flow while our customer base is accustomed to wait until the last minute to decide whether to attend. 

 

While there were many administrative difficulties, they could have been overcome if there had been adequate customer support, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, enrollments began declining in 2008. We are aware that other ski camps experienced a similar drop in business at the same time, so we can assume that external economic causes played a substantial role. We were able to hang on three more years, but the numbers didn't improve. Last year we suffered substantial losses that forced our hand. 

 

For the next several months ESA will be back on the drawing board, with the charge to its designers to bring us something that fits our community more perfectly and is sustainable. All of us who have been involved since its inception -- Weems, Bob Barnes, Cgeib and I -- believe that ESA's mission can be carried out in many creative ways that we just haven't thought of yet.

 

We hope you'll share your comments, suggestions, regrets, testimonials, rants, and words of wisdom here. This is not only an announcement but also an appeal for assistance from the community in the form of input, for example:

  • would you like us to provide a means for on-snow coaching with top-notch coaches--maybe embedding them in groups or as a formal offering at the main Gatherings? 
  • how about organizing a virtual ESA right here on EpicSki, with top-notch teachers leading classes in general and special topics? 
  • shall we sponsor regular blogs from recognized experts who would also answer submitted questions? 
  • what should ESA be?
  • etc.

 

As always, we appreciate your efforts to keep this discussion on the rails, with respect for all. 

 

Thank you!


Edited by nolo - 6/10/11 at 7:51am
post #2 of 84

I might be interested in this at next year's Tahoe gathering, for example.  I'm sure my technique has some flaws in need of correction.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post

  • would you like us to provide a means for on-snow coaching with top-notch coaches--maybe embedding them in groups or as a formal offering at the main Gatherings? 

 



 

post #3 of 84

Wow!  Sorry to see this happen Nolo.

 

Knowing a few of the people charged with putting these together and their absolute dedication to doing it right, I know the decision had to be tough.

 

I know basically zip about the inner workings of ski instruction and ski schools, but I'm sure the liability thing could rear it's ugly head and need to be addressed in almost any setting.

 

How about gauging interest in having a couple of top flight instructors show up at gatherings and be available for at the most two days and charging what is required of those attending and committed to utilizing said instructors to make it worth their while.  Of course the wildly differing ability levels and terrain interest might prove impractical.

 

No banquets, arranging of discount lodging, lifts or any of the rest of that.

 

Far from a complete thought or solution I know, but just throwing it out there.

post #4 of 84

Having attended several ESAs the one major hurdle is the choice we have to make between a family ski vacation or a solo clinic ski trip.  With ever increasing costs of travel. lift tics, etc. it becomes strictly a money issue for most of us.  With several members of my family who love to socially ski I get pressured into the family route.

If Epic could combine the benefits of ESA along with the great camaraderie of the Gatherings this could be a win/win for all concerned.  Offer a Western ESA at a different mountain every year.  Use the top instructor from that mountain's ski school allowing him/her to hand pick several other level IIIs from their school.  Example would be Nolo and say lil bear up in Bridger/ Big Sky.  Weems and Squatty in Aspen, Cglieb and Bob Barnes in Keystone...etc.  You would then have no outside instructors that will need extended coverage.  The mountain of choice will make a few negotiated dollars from their ski school.  Doing this will eventually get resorts to actively pursue Epic's ESA/Gatherings.

Instruction would be morning only.  Free/social skiing in the afternoon with friends and or family members.  Have at least one night where everyone could meet up for libations/food/raffle and a gaper review!  No charge for Gathering friends/family who do not participate in ESA.  This format would make it far easier to attract skiers interested in formal lessons that could kill two birds with one stone by integrating a morning clinic with family fun during the entire trip.

post #5 of 84
Thanks to all who put so much work into putting on these great events!

Thanks also to nolo for making this presumably difficult announcement so long before the season to help us in planning for next season.

I'd probably also be interested in bullet point #1 above.
post #6 of 84

Having never attended, I probably shouldn't say anything, but ragin' cajun's post above got me interested.  To extend it, I'd suggest quality instruction for the younger family members, down to age 3 with compatible hours, structure and continuity.

post #7 of 84

Sorry to hear this 

 

I'll echo what SKI-3PO said,

 

Thanks to all who put so much work into these great events, Thanks also to nolo for making this presumably difficult announcement so long before the season to help us in planning for next season.

 

I'd also be interested in point #1, embedded coaching at the gatherings.

post #8 of 84

 

Quote:
would you like us to provide a means for on-snow coaching with top-notch coaches--maybe embedding them in groups or as a formal offering at the main Gatherings?

 

Yes to formal offerings for say 2 days at the main Gatherings. Preferably early in the trip and possibly in advance of the main gathering. (Though Saturdays in Tahoe can be crowded.) For us East Coasters, travel to the West is limited (and travel costs $$), so tag teaming off the Gatherings works very well for me. It's tough to justify an extra set of plane fares, hotel nights, rental cars, etc.

 

I was lucky to ski with Bob Barnes and Cgeib at this past CO gathering. I learned a tremendous amount from both of them and they're both great people. I'd gladly pay for clinics with them or similar instructors. (I've also done the X-Team clinics at VT and Tahoe in the late 90's.) Edit: Saturday at Copper, Bob did an informal video session on the slopes and apres-ski video analysis, and I learned a loooooooooooooooooooooooot. I highly recommend the coaching for any Bear of any ability level.

 

I'm a definite yes for next year's Tahoe Gathering, and a yes if you decide to embed something during/before/after the Gathering. Cheers.


Edited by JohnL - 6/11/11 at 6:49pm
post #9 of 84

Liability-wise, if you need to segregate from the rest of the main group for on-slope activities during the Gathering (though apres can me more dangerous for some of us!), that would work for me. Still plenty of days to socialize/tear it up with the main group.

post #10 of 84

Padding my post count and tossing another idea out. Kirkwood or Sugar Bowl on the first weekend? Less crowded than the other areas? Not sure about SB, but suggested for the obvious reason.

post #11 of 84

hissyfit.gif

post #12 of 84

Why not offer a specialty type of clinic?  Instead of the broad-based "learn to be a better skier" type of ESA, do something for, say, extreme skiing?  Or a bump clinic?  Or something for steeps?  Hire a world class team of coaches for this specialty, limit the group size, and have a really intense learning experience?

 

My impression of having watched Uncle Louie organize and run 8 separate ski gathering/events over the last several years is that trying to put an instructional/optional/free/maybe charge for event within another event.... well, just trying to describe it let alone organize and structure it, sounds like a headache. Further, imposing something on everyone (embedding a coach in a group) is unfair and detracts from the spirit of the event. 

 

I'd leave the Gathering as a strictly fun/social event and if you want to do something instructional, go for a target audience (e.g. bumps, extreme, etc.) and pilot something.

 

 

post #13 of 84

Having also attended many of the ESA events, I must say that I am saddened, but unfortunately not surprised, by this news.  Saddened because of the many benefits that Marcia and I have gained from attending the events:  meeting and gaining many new friends that share our passion for skiing, having a superlative experience that we could look forward to for many months, and the elevation of our skiing to whole new levels of skill and enjoyment.  Not surprised, because, despite the rising cost of attending the clinics (and I always marveled at the value received), I was well aware that this rising tuition did not come close to covering the cost of running the event.

 

Like those above, I would like to add my appreciation for all who have tried to keep the current model afloat.  Hopefully you recognize that despite the countless hours, headaches, and (I am sure) occasional complaints from people, you have provided the gift of better skiing to so many of us. 

 

The only plus from this is that if a western ESA is out of the picture, then this will free up ski dollars to attend our first gathering.  Marcia and I certainly look forward to whatever ideas get implemented in the future so that we can continue getting the excellent coaching that we have had in the past.

post #14 of 84

I am not an ESA Veteran, but think that Cajuns' ideas sound pretty good to me.  Using the ski school at any given area has it's advantages.  If the coaches can be hand picked from the staff of a given mountain or a nearby mountain the reciprocates, then the issue of insurance liability and employees can be neatly sidestepped and the administration should be easier and more streamlined.  While maintaining a high instructional standard.  I am pretty sure that my SS would be very willing to work with a group to put on a custom camp type of experience if that group came to them with some decent student numbers.  I also think that there is a mechanism in place to use instructors from different mountains.  I know for example that with a few phone calls, that I could take students over to Targhee and teach legally.  The JH MSS has a full time guy that handles camps and another that handles corporate groups.  This could be little different and should be very doable with less headache for the Epic Staff.  The mountain uses it's in house F & B to cater camps in banquet rooms, so even that social aspect could be left in fairly easily.  I like the idea of offering a formally embedded type of specialty lesson or semi private group lesson during the gathering as well.  It should be doable through the areas SS without too much extra work on Louie's part.  I know that Louie talked with our camps director this winter and may have a take on it himself.  I would expect that most large western resorts would have similar opportunities.

post #15 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by tetonpwdrjunkie View Post

 It should be doable through the areas SS without too much extra work on Louie's part.

 

 

 

 I know that Louie talked with our camps director this winter and may have a take on it himself.  I would expect that most large western resorts would have similar opportunities.


#1)     Now this I can speak to.  I officially retired as the GM and the torch and EpicSki handle was been passed on to a new GM. (I'm finally just going skiing at one of these someday)

 

#2)    I did indeed talk with the JHMR camp director at length.  I thought the Women's Camp that SC attended was VERY well planned, organized and run using their own hand picked instructors from the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort staff, which was the main point of our conversation.  Group sizes were limited to 4 maximum,  students got discounts at lunch (in their own private dining area)  and various shops and services throughout  the area.  Campers got first tracks compliments of a lift ride up a half hour before the official lifts officially opened. The JHMR Women's camp rocked.

 

The issue you all should be concentrating on is.....you have The Gathering,  you have ESA......how do you handle the logistics of turning it into the "Gatherademy" ?

 

 

 

 


 

 

post #16 of 84

Ditto on Ragin's thoughts and issues.  My wife and I looked to try and hook up for the event at A basin in December, but our flights were already done and we were off by a day or so.  Also, my wife was not sure she wanted to commit for the balance of the the trip.  Maybe per diem pricing? 

 

Other times we are out west with the kids who get +/- 25 - 30 days on snow a year so they are pretty good, but would still have to be separately accommodated if I was on a family outing. 

post #17 of 84

Well, I am sorry I never got to go to an ESA.  By the time I realized what I was missing, money and time were getting tighter.

 

As for a path forward, what Cajun and TPJ are saying makes a lot of sense.  Cook up a deal with an organization that is in this business full time.  Either at one of the core coaches home mountains, or somewhere willing to work an employee exchange deal.  Presumably, that could reduce travel overhead some too.

 

Some concentrated instruction tacked onto a Gathering sounds interesting, but I have my doubts -- would it be long enough to be worth your coaches while or to get results for the students?

 

Did the early "tune ups" do better or worse than the full camps, or did everything lose money?

 

 

Edit - response to UL's JHMR camp comments.  I've been to two of their camps, and they are very well run.  One big thing missing that Epic could bring is a pre-existing connection to other campers.  At one camp, my group spent a lot of evening time hanging out together -- not just drinking, but going along when one went to see a bootfitter, etc.  At the other, the campers in my group didn't gel and we never really socialized (outside of the official apre ski events, anyway).  I think an Epic tie at an established camp, there or at another mountain, could be a big winner. (But then, I'm an engineer, not a marketeer.)

post #18 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdf View Post

Well, I am sorry I never got to go to an ESA.  By the time I realized what I was missing, money and time were getting tighter.

 

As for a path forward, what Cajun and TPJ are saying makes a lot of sense.  Cook up a deal with an organization that is in this business full time.  Either at one of the core coaches home mountains, or somewhere willing to work an employee exchange deal.  Presumably, that could reduce travel overhead some too.

 

Some concentrated instruction tacked onto a Gathering sounds interesting, but I have my doubts -- would it be long enough to be worth your coaches while or to get results for the students?

 

Did the early "tune ups" do better or worse than the full camps, or did everything lose money?

 

 

Edit - response to UL's JHMR camp comments.  I've been to two of their camps, and they are very well run.  One big thing missing that Epic could bring is a pre-existing connection to other campers.  At one camp, my group spent a lot of evening time hanging out together -- not just drinking, but going along when one went to see a bootfitter, etc.  At the other, the campers in my group didn't gel and we never really socialized (outside of the official apre ski events, anyway).  I think an Epic tie at an established camp, there or at another mountain, could be a big winner. (But then, I'm an engineer, not a marketeer.)

You would be surprised how much of that happens at ESA, both with past students who've attended several times and with new attendees who are eagerly embraced.

We've had tuning clinics put on by  Slidewright, which drew quite a social climate of students tuning and waxing skis together, as well as boot fitting discussion that drew a number of folks heading to the boot shop with a bottle of bourbon......etc.

ESA is like an onion with a lot of flavorful layers.

 

Meanwhile, I like some of the ideas being bounced around.


 

 

post #19 of 84

This is sad news...I've never been to an ESA, but I've been meaning to try to go for a couple of years now, and my partner & I were planning to do Stowe next year.  I hope the combination of gathering/academy works out, I'd still be interested, especially if they can be arranged around long weekends rather than vacation weeks (we can't pick ours).

 

post #20 of 84

As far as having an ESA at a Gathering...don't think we haven't talked about it and how the logistics can/could work, trust me the wheels were (are?) turning. But like SC and UL said, the amount of work that is needed to go JUST into The Gathering aspect is more than enough for a small troop to do...Gathermeister is more than just one person, but a team. 

 

 

post #21 of 84

Another victim of our awesome economy :-(

 

What you could do is line up just instructors at their home hills/areas for each Gathering. That cuts out travel expenses right there.

 

What I think would work well is hiring them more as a guide with some pointers along the way. Less structured "teaching" and more showing everybody the goods. We are always looking for local guides for Gatherings anyway so why not pay them? I would gladly pay for the guiding we have had! Groups could be bigger that way as well. You could get around the hiring/liability by having the Instructor/Guides pay Epic a percentage.

 

This would also give them opportunity to pick up privates or semi privates for non-guiding days of the Gathering. That way they could do that through their ski school or on their own, whatever arrangement works best for them (some people would probably get fired for not going through ski school).

 

Some people might think it will make the Gatherings too commercialized and cannibalize it. You could test it out by adding a day or 2 at either end of the Gatherings as Guide/Teaching/Camp days.

 

Just some random thoughts.

post #22 of 84

This is sad news. I attended two ESAs and learned so much. After my first ESA in Big Sky I gained so much confidence and new skills. A big thank you to everyone!!!

post #23 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattL View Post

Another victim of our awesome economy :-(

 

What you could do is line up just instructors at their home hills/areas for each Gathering. That cuts out travel expenses right there.

 

What I think would work well is hiring them more as a guide with some pointers along the way. Less structured "teaching" and more showing everybody the goods. We are always looking for local guides for Gatherings anyway so why not pay them? I would gladly pay for the guiding we have had! Groups could be bigger that way as well. You could get around the hiring/liability by having the Instructor/Guides pay Epic a percentage.

 

This would also give them opportunity to pick up privates or semi privates for non-guiding days of the Gathering. That way they could do that through their ski school or on their own, whatever arrangement works best for them (some people would probably get fired for not going through ski school).

 

Some people might think it will make the Gatherings too commercialized and cannibalize it. You could test it out by adding a day or 2 at either end of the Gatherings as Guide/Teaching/Camp days.

 

Just some random thoughts.


Speaking as an attendee of The Gathering, I would not want an instructor as a guide stopping as they would be expected to in a lesson as a guide. I hope that made the sense it did in my head. IF there is an ESA at The Gathering, it would be piggy backed at one end to separate the two yet still allow members to attend both events if they choose. 

 

Now, if members want to book an Instructor at their mountain that is surely an option. We have quite a few qualified Tahoe area Instructors that are regulars here that I am sure would love to take a private or semi private. 

 

post #24 of 84

Bummer.  I have only been around here a couple of years but an ESA was on my to-do list. Hope that you get an alternative worked out.

post #25 of 84

Wow! This really saddens me. I've been to every Stowe event since they began. Not only was it the perfect season opener (living in PA made it hard to find early December snow) but seeing this announcement brought back a flood of memories, from my first meeting with Stu Campbell, who persuaded me not to be too discouraged about my freshly-torn ACL, having breakthroughs with the likes of Robin Barnes and Sue Kramer and Weems, to social time with new friends at breakfast, the Octagon, and the bars. It's been a big part of my life.

 

But I certainly understand the reasons. We all owe a big debt of thanks to everyone who put in so much time so that we could have fun, from Nolo on down. I won't try to mention any other of the devoted organizers for fear of omitting someone.

 

We had been thinking about the Tahoe gathering for the coming season as a replacement for our family trek to NM and So. Col. and this is helping to push me in that direction ( I will be depending on Phil for local knowledge). I would especially like to see some coordination with local pros who've put up with us in the past, such as Robin, who's still at Heavenly, I think, since I'm always willing to try to learn. 

post #26 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post




Speaking as an attendee of The Gathering, I would not want an instructor as a guide stopping as they would be expected to in a lesson as a guide. I hope that made the sense it did in my head. IF there is an ESA at The Gathering, it would be piggy backed at one end to separate the two yet still allow members to attend both events if they choose. 

 

 

 

 SO, since I would prefer to book our flight for the Tahoe Gathering soon (I have some frequent flyer miles to use, and booking early will get me a better route), any preliminary thoughts on whether an ESA would be pre or post Gathering?
 

 

post #27 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by ragin' cajun' View Post

Having attended several ESAs the one major hurdle is the choice we have to make between a family ski vacation or a solo clinic ski trip.  With ever increasing costs of travel. lift tics, etc. it becomes strictly a money issue for most of us.  With several members of my family who love to socially ski I get pressured into the family route.

If Epic could combine the benefits of ESA along with the great camaraderie of the Gatherings this could be a win/win for all concerned.  Offer a Western ESA at a different mountain every year.  Use the top instructor from that mountain's ski school allowing him/her to hand pick several other level IIIs from their school.  Example would be Nolo and say lil bear up in Bridger/ Big Sky.  Weems and Squatty in Aspen, Cglieb and Bob Barnes in Keystone...etc.  You would then have no outside instructors that will need extended coverage.  The mountain of choice will make a few negotiated dollars from their ski school.  Doing this will eventually get resorts to actively pursue Epic's ESA/Gatherings.

Instruction would be morning only.  Free/social skiing in the afternoon with friends and or family members.  Have at least one night where everyone could meet up for libations/food/raffle and a gaper review!  No charge for Gathering friends/family who do not participate in ESA.  This format would make it far easier to attract skiers interested in formal lessons that could kill two birds with one stone by integrating a morning clinic with family fun during the entire trip.


Well with after the conversations I had with yall at Epic I told Ragin this was probaly goin to happen. I hate it but lets don't look at this as the end but rather as the begining of something great. I think the epic format that we had was great in its time but with the economy on the downturn and our sue happy enviroment the cost of insurance and trying to protect the coaches and administrators out of their own Ski resort  just isn't feesible anymore. 

 

So my buddy Ragin has addressed the liability and insurance factor. awsome Idea bud!!! I also love the idea of different mountains to see some different scenery. I know yall take it for granite but for 50 % of us this will probaly be the only or 1 of the 2 trips we ski all year.

 

I am sure if you went to some condo's ask them for a 20-25 %  discount for all bookings for the gathering and in exchange you would give them an add on epic ski forums. You could give out a password or something to keep it from being abused. Heck you might even call a resturant in the area and get a room for the libations/food /raffle ect... for free if you eat there and just make it dutch. I guess what I am saying is you have a powerful thing with this website use the advertising as a  tool  to promote  the gatherings and clinics.  I think you need to start gearing these gatherings more towards beginners to intermediate and not just more advanced skiers. Also I think you need to get the best kid teacher recomended by Epic forums at that particular mountain, best begginer teacher and so on.The main thing is get the cost back down to where it is a value and a priviledge for them to use the epic recomendations rather than just any instructor. That is what originally attracted me to epic to begin with.

 

Do a survey with all past epic attendees and see what attracted them and ask them why they didn't come back tell them to be honest not cordial. 

 

well thats my 2 cents hope it helps!!!!

 

 I have made some lifetime friendships and I certainly enjoyed and looked forward every year to this ski trip it would be a shame to let it go!!!!!!     

post #28 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by bbinder View Post



 SO, since I would prefer to book our flight for the Tahoe Gathering soon (I have some frequent flyer miles to use, and booking early will get me a better route), any preliminary thoughts on whether an ESA would be pre or post Gathering?
 

 


Just leave time on both ends - you can't lose!
post #29 of 84

 

Quote:
Just leave time on both ends - you can't lose!

 

Better yet, spend a whole month in Tahoe. smile.gif

post #30 of 84

Sounds like a plan...

 

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