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87% of beginners FAIL! - Page 5

post #121 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post

I think you've hit on something significant. Forget all the gimmicky promotional schemes. If they love the experience they will come back. Concentrate on the beginning skier's environment and the quality of the experience. Work to make that experience not a grim, scary and possibly humiliating one but an appealing one. Doesn't sound like rocket science but how many ski areas have suitable beginner terrain or terrain for beginners that doesn't have more advanced skiers skiing through it, or places for them to ski that do not invite the (imagined) scorn of experienced skiers? Very few ski areas seem to have large amounts of beginner terrain. All too often that terrain is where they decided to build the parking lot. It's almost as if they didn't want that segment of the business

 

Agreed. I'm not in the business, but my sense is that areas around here very much want beginners and their money. Indeed, I suspect they make the least money from hard-core regulars, who demand extensive terrain and lift systems, take a lot of chair rides, ski-off a lot of snow, buy season passes or otherwise discounted tickets, and bring their lunches in paper bags. I see areas creating a lot of programs to attract beginners, kids, and kids' families. For example, my favorite area offers full-on season passes for low money to any kid with good grades.

 

As far as the extent of beginner areas, I think resorts make the calculation that beginners don't need a lot of terrain by pure numbers, and that novices may even feel more comfortable not having to make too many navigation choices. However, your point about the quality of that terrain and the aesthetics of the experience is extremely well taken. Not to sound too evangelistic, but Saddleback is a model for this in my opinion, and I think it has been an effective strategy for them. The beginner area is on the opposite side of the base area from everything else (you start by skiing, not by riding a lift), it has nothing but easy green terrain, views are great, and it offers a relatively long run. They emphasize the non-skiing satisfactions of the experience by consistently calling attention to the remoteness of the setting and the long tradition of fishing and other wilderness activities. That perspective is underlined by the design of the lodge, the tone of their advertising, etc.

post #122 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post

 

Agreed. I'm not in the business, but my sense is that areas around here very much want beginners and their money. Indeed, I suspect they make the least money from hard-core regulars, who demand extensive terrain and lift systems, take a lot of chair rides, ski-off a lot of snow, buy season passes or otherwise discounted tickets, and bring their lunches in paper bags. I see areas creating a lot of programs to attract beginners, kids, and kids' families. For example, my favorite area offers full-on season passes for low money to any kid with good grades.

 

As far as the extent of beginner areas, I think resorts make the calculation that beginners don't need a lot of terrain by pure numbers, and that novices may even feel more comfortable not having to make too many navigation choices. However, your point about the quality of that terrain and the aesthetics of the experience is extremely well taken. Not to sound too evangelistic, but Saddleback is a model for this in my opinion, and I think it has been an effective strategy for them. The beginner area is on the opposite side of the base area from everything else (you start by skiing, not by riding a lift), it has nothing but easy green terrain, views are great, and it offers a relatively long run. They emphasize the non-skiing satisfactions of the experience by consistently calling attention to the remoteness of the setting and the long tradition of fishing and other wilderness activities. That perspective is underlined by the design of the lodge, the tone of their advertising, etc.

Qcanoe

 

I've never skied Saddleback, driven by it in the summer though, beautiful area. I'll have to try it. My recollection is that there seemed to be a huge amount of potential terrain below the base lodge.

 

I'm not saying ski areas do not want beginner business exactly. I'm sure they would all say that they do. The area where I used to teach had all sorts of programs: a very low cost introductory ski package, a passport program which rewarded return visits and so on. What I did not see, however, was any evidence that ski area management had made any effort to see the beginner experience through the eyes of someone who was coming there  for the first time to learn to ski. The ski area never made any effort to create expanded or even suitable beginner terrain. The best terrain for teaching "never evers" was an area that was unfortunately also used by many skiers coming down off the mountain to reach the base lodge facilities and it was often off limits to us for teaching for that reason.  Inquiries as to where we should teach were usually met with bizarre suggestions. One supervisor recommended we teach beneath a chairlift just beyond the loading area, definitely unacceptable. I actually found a decent place behind a lift shack but it happened to be on the path that maintenance personnel used to traverse in their snowmobiles on the way to their maintenance shed and I was harangued for this when one of these guys drove his snowmobile over my student's skis. The beginner ski lift, used after the initial phase of a beginner lesson happened to be on the runout for an expert trail and skiers would often cut through there, to the consternation of those who were skiing for the first time. At the bottom of this area was a usually icy place where numerous ski racks were placed and a terrain drop off to the base lodge. You can imagine how intimidating this was for them, knowing that if they lost control or fell they would slide into these racks or off the edge. These things did in fact happen. The base of the beginner lift had a drop off that lead to the service access for delivery trucks. I can recall racing down this trying to prevent a kid from ending up under the wheels of a semi trailer. I could go on........ Believe it or not this place was better than most with respect to early learning terrain. I think people new to the sport appreciate a variety of terrain options just as advanced skiers do by the way but there is often no comfortable place to develop skills.  My point is that if the ski area were really for them, as well as the advanced skiers, there would be a place or places for them. Instead the experience fosters a general perception, I think, that they are visiting a place where they do not quite belong as yet. No wonder its those who have the support of friends who ski that are most likely to return. As I've said, it shouldn't be rocket science, but there seem to be, nonetheless, serious obstacles in ski area management.

post #123 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post

I think you've hit on something significant. Forget all the gimmicky promotional schemes. If they love the experience they will come back. Concentrate on the beginning skier's environment and the quality of the experience.

 

Part and parcel of the experience is how friends and family help you enjoy the inintial experiences (I do mean multiple).  Resorts, while the main benifactor, I think are trying to do the right things, but ultimately it comes down to personal one on one expereince.  If you enjoy, they enjoy.

 

Most skiers do not go skiing alone (there are exceptions, I'll take what ever I can get, but I do enjoy skiing with others (better or worse skiers) as it lets me improve easier either by teaching or by following....Win Win.

 

One other issue is skier/boarder manners.  Most the recent skiers that I have been unfortunate enough to meet, are self centered.  No concerns about the skier/boarder they are passing.  I know there are other threads about this, but that in its self is a very negative experience.

 

Wish I knew what the magic bullet is to solve this one, but I think that its a more complex issue.

post #124 of 134

I've struggled with this issue over properly planned nursery slopes with our grooming squad. They get it for a bit and then go back to old ways.  My concern was shaping the early teaching area into a bit of a bowl to have the shape draw people back towards the middle instead of out the sides. To help them learn early parallel and wedges by using very flat skis and teaching turning with the feet first but there is little momentum control without much edging . It's helpful to have shaped terrain that keeps them safe by funneling them from the edges .  They learn turn to control line and momentum almost intuitively by the ease which the ski can be steered. They are more confidant because of less tension without the fears of heading into the parking lot or any other dangers 

 

I think people see green slopes indicated by the signs but not the shapes of the slopes, how the fall lines are working  to keep people off of the edges and out of the trees or whatever lines your slopes in the beginner areas. There is a bit of disconnect in understanding how to use a bit of grooming to shape the terrain to work better for early skiers. 

 

Maybe that translates in how beginners are perceived, we want their business, need their business, depend on their business but don't make enough of an effort to truly care for their needs as beginners to think a bit more deeply about their needs.

 

The target clientele is the mid range beginner/intermediates. They get around OK, don't need to be fished out of the creeks, pylons, trees as often as true beginners . They make their way around and seem to having a pretty good time. The beginners see and feel all of these obstacles as a threat to their safety and often seem drawn to them as if by magnetism. Some of it is imagination but it becomes reality when they fixate on it too much. Tension kills movement and fear closes the mind.

 

Ski areas want their business but wanting in one thing and making it evident is another.  Some places do a better job of separating the beginners from the flocks like Mt Bachelor which has a fenced in area  but i even  it's  too narrow to allow for  much early parallel which keep some there to work on wedges even if they aren't helping them learn . Some folks just don't dig the opposing edges thing and when I feel that I skip that and work on matching from the beginning 

 

 

In the 70's Mt Spokane had a learning area across the road from the uphill side and shaped a big wide area and used rope tows to bring the people up. After they got moving nicely then they graduated to the rest of the mountain slopes.  The place was jammed with newbees.  This is the best solution for making the first time experience; segregation from the fast movers and all the threats that we understand are normal at any ski area.

 

If we really want to get more people to stick to this sport we need to think of them as a segment all their own .  To be marketed at with safety,a good learning environment and inspired teaching as job 1.  What more can you do ?

post #125 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by GarryZ View Post

I'vet sruggled with this issue over properly planned nursery slopes with our grooming squad.................................

Everything you say rings true but it is kind of silly to be land forming the slopes with groomers don't you think? Around here they do that with machine made snow. That is essentially just manufacturing your fill every season at great expense when a few hours with a bulldozer might accomplish the same thing.

post #126 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post

Everything you say rings true but it is kind of silly to be land forming the slopes with groomers don't you think? Around here they do that with machine made snow. That is essentially just manufacturing your fill every season at great expense when a few hours with a bulldozer might accomplish the same thing.

We're in a state park and it's hard to make changes of terrain. What gets placed upon it is another matter. So grooming after enough snowfall can shape the nursery area .

post #127 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRusty View Post

The reason NSAA is so hung up on the 13% retention is that they have modeled the industry and done some demographic analysis. They've run the numbers going forward and what came out was a net decline in skier visits at a rate that spelled big trouble for the industry. So they developed a "model for growth" that had 2 main aspects for changing decline into growth: increasing the "conversion rate" of first time skiers into skiers and improving the retention rate of existing skiers. These are relatively easy numbers to acquire with close enough statistical accuracy. But this is an overly simplistic "yardstick" view of what the model is. Inside the guts of the model is a demographic breakdown by age, sex, ethnicity, etc; a process breakdown and ordering of all the "obstacles" that cause people to either give up the sport or participate less often and a comparison to competing entertainment options. The model includes specific suggestions for improvements that resorts can make to do their part to increase skier conversion and retention. These suggestions are directly tied to the demographics and the obstacles. As one could surmise from the previous 3 pages of discussion here, there is a long list of specific suggestions. When the model for growth was first announced, the retention rate was measured at 15% industry wide (i.e. out of 100 first time skiers, 15 people would return to ski at least 3 days per season - I think I have that definition right).  I had heard that the number had risen to about 16.5 after a few years. I'm surprised the latest number is now down to 13%. If you want to know why these kinds of demographics are important, look at what has happened to the ski industry in Japan since 1990 or racquetball in the US since the 80s. Not only were there dramatic downturns in participation, but in both cases the industry was caught flat footed by the declines and by the time they tried to do something about it, it was too late to stop the carnage.

Rusty,

 

That is very similar to the research the golf industry has done that generated the Golf 2.0 program.

 

I bolded one part of your post to highlight that the ultimate initiatives must be taken by the end providers-the ski resorts or green grass golf facilities in my world. Look at some of our golf initiatives such as Play Golf America, Get Golf Ready (5 group lessons-ususally 1 hour each- with an on course experience too at a very nominal price, $99 at my course including equipment if needed), Tee it Forward to encourage players to quit trying to experience all the real estate we offer and make the course more compatable/enjoyable with their skill level. Family golf nights-we have selected nights where kids 5-13 can play free with their parents on a 5 hole loop and the adults pay a very nominal fee. Also more and more courses are recognizing the time constraints in todays world and offering shorter rounds e.g., maybe just 6 holes.

 

Each industry has unique challenges but they are not insurmountable with creative, out of the box thinking.

post #128 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

Seems to me lots of resorts have special packages and prices for beginners, both kids and adults.  For example, see this thread.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/112437/colorado-or-utah-lift-ticket-restricted-to-beginners-lifts#post_1464126

 

Of course, few places help with the fact that having appropriate clothing can be an issue for some newbies.  Even in the southeast with lots of folks from places where they never need a jacket for anything under 40 degrees, few places rent outerware.  Wearing rental books with basic athletic socks is not likely to result in comfortable feet.  Or worse yet, two pairs of socks.  I find it interesting that the snowmobile outfits at Yellowstone all have rental snowboots, gloves, etc. available at a pretty reasonable price as an add-on for their day trips.

 

 

A newbie needs to know how to dress properly to ski in New England.  But of course they don't.  How could they?  It can be unbearably cold.  

 

So I've collected ski clothes in all kinds of sizes from thirft shops.  I have quite a collection in my house.

 

Any time I am able to convince someone to try skiing, I bring them to my house and we have a fitting; I lend them socks, pants, liners, tops (multi-layered), neck gaiters, goggles, ski gloves, and a helmet.  If they know me they don't have to buy this stuff just to try the sport.  Buying all this for a first time ski experience is prohibitive, and showing up with jeans and regular coat, knit cap, and knit gloves guarantees a very cold and uncomfortable first day on snow.

 

Marznc, you are right.  Ski areas should rent this stuff inexpensively along with that first lesson.

post #129 of 134

There are all kinds of gimmickry used by the ski industry to try to snare beginners but they tend to miss the point. People may not take up skiing because of the cost but the reason some do become infatuated with the sport is not economic. My ski area (maybe 17 years ago) had a passport program which, in addition to providing very low cost rental and instruction packages, offered rewards to those who returned 8 or 9 times (I forget) during the season. You had your passport signed each time you returned and when it was full you got a pass and ski equipment (something like that). I was told we sold around 4700 beginner lessons that year. How many do you suppose actually completed their passports? Three! (There is some suspicion that these were people who had actually skied before who were clever enough to game the program for the rewards)

 

Support and advice from friends who already ski is usually associated with newbies sticking with the sport. This should tell us something about what is lacking for all those who do not.

post #130 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by GarryZ View Post

We're in a state park and it's hard to make changes of terrain. What gets placed upon it is another matter. So grooming after enough snowfall can shape the nursery area .

 

- Do you shape this on a scale sufficient to give begints a sense of playful self-guided exploration?

 

- Is it structured so that regular mountain users are intrigued, maybe to the point of having respectful interest in what the begints are up to or have achieved?

 

I guess my questions are mostly directed to reducing the "I'm bored here- and that other hill is SO MUCH bigger" response from begints, and possibly reducing the small fish/big sea shock of moving to the regular mountain.

post #131 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet View Post

 

 

A newbie needs to know how to dress properly to ski in New England.  But of course they don't.  How could they?  It can be unbearably cold.  

 

So I've collected ski clothes in all kinds of sizes from thirft shops.  I have quite a collection in my house.

 

Any time I am able to convince someone to try skiing, I bring them to my house and we have a fitting; I lend them socks, pants, liners, tops (multi-layered), neck gaiters, goggles, ski gloves, and a helmet.  If they know me they don't have to buy this stuff just to try the sport.  Buying all this for a first time ski experience is prohibitive, and showing up with jeans and regular coat, knit cap, and knit gloves guarantees a very cold and uncomfortable first day on snow.

 

Marznc, you are right.  Ski areas should rent this stuff inexpensively along with that first lesson.

 

Hehe.   I do this with socks, skis, poles, insoles, midlayers and most especially gaiters, gloves and glove liners.   The coats and pants they're on their own for.

post #132 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantunamunch View Post

 

- Do you shape this on a scale sufficient to give begints a sense of playful self-guided exploration?

 

- Is it structured so that regular mountain users are intrigued, maybe to the point of having respectful interest in what the begints are up to or have achieved?

 

I guess my questions are mostly directed to reducing the "I'm bored here- and that other hill is SO MUCH bigger" response from begints, and possibly reducing the small fish/big sea shock of moving to the regular mountain.

A bowl shape with a center area of even grade. The bowl can be slight ,just enough to get a flat ski to move down the hill moving them back towards the middle some instead of out the the edge. Beginners often end up all around the edges of your learning area. they follow the skis where they take them unless there is another force that offers a bit of safety when they have yet to learn their own control.

 

For my true beginner area it would just take a groomer to add slope on the edges to keep them from hazards and  also to keep them from drifting into a nearby green terrain lift. Softly sloped edges are  a great learning tool for teaching steering early. A little help at first until the light bulb in their minds light , It will happen and if we can make them feel safe by having it be safer they will commit to new expectations that they place upon themselves 

 

 

The big fish , little fish analogy is a nice one. The segregated areas that we had in the past did just that. They learn basic skills  in relative safety then can go play in the bigger park with the bigger fish. You know what happens to little fish when they get caught in the open, in skiing you see often what happens , especially on cat tracks where people of all skill levels converge. The little guys and the slow folks get intimidated and become even more erratic because they are rising their fear factors in their minds.  

A little time to get their game on  out of the big pond was good for them.

 

Reality for me is to influence a bit of shaping.  .Adapt and do our best 

post #133 of 134
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post

 

Agreed. I'm not in the business, but my sense is that areas around here very much want beginners and their money. Indeed, I suspect they make the least money from hard-core regulars, who demand extensive terrain and lift systems, take a lot of chair rides, ski-off a lot of snow, buy season passes or otherwise discounted tickets, and bring their lunches in paper bags. I see areas creating a lot of programs to attract beginners, kids, and kids' families. For example, my favorite area offers full-on season passes for low money to any kid with good grades.

 

As far as the extent of beginner areas, I think resorts make the calculation that beginners don't need a lot of terrain by pure numbers, and that novices may even feel more comfortable not having to make too many navigation choices. However, your point about the quality of that terrain and the aesthetics of the experience is extremely well taken. Not to sound too evangelistic, but Saddleback is a model for this in my opinion, and I think it has been an effective strategy for them. The beginner area is on the opposite side of the base area from everything else (you start by skiing, not by riding a lift), it has nothing but easy green terrain, views are great, and it offers a relatively long run. They emphasize the non-skiing satisfactions of the experience by consistently calling attention to the remoteness of the setting and the long tradition of fishing and other wilderness activities. That perspective is underlined by the design of the lodge, the tone of their advertising, etc.

Your comment about a relatively long run made me think of what I saw at Big Sky.  There is a long, long green run from mid-mountain.  My friend on her first trip out west enjoyed it.  Also, a relatively easy blue run that lets intermediates see the tram to the top of of Lone Peak.  They can even ride the tram round trip.  I noticed a sign near the base that said "Beginners Only" off one green that takes people back.  There is an area on the backside of Andesite with just a few decent length green runs that probably never gets crowded.  Big Sky is a Boyne resort.  Boyne started in Michigan.  I wonder if the experience in the midwest helps Boyne understand what beginners like on big mountains.

post #134 of 134
Quote:
Any time I am able to convince someone to try skiing, I bring them to my house and we have a fitting; I lend them socks, pants, liners, tops (multi-layered), neck gaiters, goggles, ski gloves, and a helmet.  If they know me they don't have to buy this stuff just to try the sport. 

 

Just flashed to a day back in the '80s in Big Bear. A group of folks had come up from the flatlands after seeing an advert for an "all-in beginner's package" - which we all know is ski/boot/pole rentals + a group lesson + bunny hill lift ticket. They had unfortunately assumed it included clothes and gloves as well. This being So-Cal they were wearing sandals and Hawaiian type shirts. They were extremely irate and I'm sure have never returned.

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