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In a perfect world, the perfect ski school - Page 3

post #61 of 141
I"m sure glad that the businessmen have taken over and taught us non-businesspeople how to approach this.

pussycat and medmark, like Milken & Boesky -- made for each other.
post #62 of 141
Are you painting me with that same broad brush, Gonz?
post #63 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco
1.) If you refused to ski at any area that doesn't leverage non-skiing activities to fund operations, where would you ski? Is there enough terrain there to keep avid skiers challenged?

2.) If you couldn't find a suitable area, do you know of a way to open a ski area or buy an existing one so that it can be run only on low cost lift ticket revenue?

I personally know of nowhere\no one to raise that kind of capital that doesn't want market rate returns and a chief executive with successful resort management experience. One option might be to pool money from all of the serious skiers in the country and see if it is enough. But from your earlier post, die-hard skiers don't seek wealth, so how much could really be put together.

What is your proposal and how does it work?
Short answer: get a passport and come to Europe.
  • The ski resort is just a town, it's not owned by any company.
  • There is no "resort management" to whittle away the funds on their pointless salaries
  • The legal fees are minimal. You ski, it's your risk, and your responsibility.
  • The hotels are privately run, as are the restaurants and shops. (we call this a "free market", I doubt it will catch on in restricted practise countries)
  • The lift ticket covers the cost of the lifts.
  • The ski schools are independent. (again, "free market")
  • Oh, and as for terrain, let's not start that argument...
post #64 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco
Maybe farming the ski school out to an outside vendor(s) and taking a percentage would come out ahead on the SS line for the ski area.
This is how Hunter mountain's ski school was arranged until about '95(ish) when Hunter got fired the farmed out ski school and hired Ron Hawkes (PSIA-E examiner and prior SSD at Whitetail and Assist Dir for Portillo Chilie for many years - the best SSD I ever worked for).

I have no idea whether the new situation is better or worse for the instructors or for Hunter Mtn. They do however, have a good ski school there these days (because of Ron). I know the instructors are treated well, but I don't know the pay levels.

Any long term (or short term) Huntah people here?
post #65 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by HarvardTiger
3. Video like (as I perceive it) was suggested herein. You go to the top of a slope...pay a couple of $$ (but your 'ski like a pro' pass lets you go for free)...ski down the slope while being taped...and look at it at the bottom. Great way to compare improvement over the hours and days. Keep it simple; nothing to take home, no long analysis, just a quick session so you can see how you're improving.

Thanks for your thoughts...
That is "video shooting" not a REVIEW.... if you say it is a review somebody better be there to review it... & that needs MA skills....

I went to a ski improvement course in Whistler... they did a video review.... we spent a heap of time getting to the right spot on the hill & being told to ski a certain way in a certain section of a run & the instructor chatting to the cameraman etc etc etc....
The "review" was dodgy at best.... at that point I was little more than an high intermediate skier & what I came out of the review with was "Oh look you get early edge engagement" ummmm Duuurrrr freddy - my regular instructor had spent the previous season with me teaching me to get early edge engagement....

I felt totally ripped off by that video review - waste of my skiing time!

Generally I hate being on camera but love being video taped - because my instructor gives me such great feedback....

If the MA is lacking then you cannot "see how you are improving" nor can you "see what you need to do"
post #66 of 141
SSH, you bring up a good point about an area like Mt. Bohemia. It is the kind of ski area that advanced skiers enjoy, but would be rather unejoyable for a new skier/rider.

A ski school geared towards advanced riders could do well here, but until you get to that point what do you do? Mt. Bohemia could not exist without the progressive terrain offered by other resorts, as if all ski areas were like this the injury and retention rates for skiing would likely be dismal.

It is outside the realm of the topic of a perfect ski school. In fact, adding a ski school to this area, could quite possibly be a bad idea. Either the Ski School would have to charge enough to cover the capital costs of grooming equipment, snowmaking, and ski school facilities/personal, or that cost would have to be born by general lift ticket sales. Skiers comming to this mountain aren't probably going to be interested in paying more for their ticket for services they don't benefit from. The Ski School itself would thus have to offer more expensive lessons, and they would have to be of fantastic quality to make that expense justified. That's quite an order anyway you slice it.

The ideal learning experience would be one in an environment like Keystone provides. Terrain suited to learning new skills, without the interference of other skiers. Qualified/Experienced Instructors. Sure this would likely cost more because of the added upkeep of a special area, and the consumer would have to shoulder that cost in the lesson prices. However, if that area actually produced better skiers, it would have no shortage of demand I think. I don't think anyone can come up with a reasonable argument against effective ski instruction that produces long term skiers being good for the industry.

I think I am a perfectly obvious example of this. My skiing has improved from taking lessons with Arcmeister. Because I enjoy skiing more, I continue to take lessons with him. Because he teaches at Sunburst, Sunburst gets my lift ticket and concessions money. If he didn't, they wouldn't, because I make a special effort to go there even though it is farther away than many others. They wouldn't have gotten any of the money from the friends I bring along either. Local ski stores wouldn't have gotten the money from my equipment and servicing purchases.

I wish I could have said all that in less words...
post #67 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat
Short answer: get a passport and come to Europe.
  • The ski resort is just a town, it's not owned by any company.
  • There is no "resort management" to whittle away the funds on their pointless salaries
  • The legal fees are minimal. You ski, it's your risk, and your responsibility.
  • The hotels are privately run, as are the restaurants and shops. (we call this a "free market", I doubt it will catch on in restricted practise countries)
  • The lift ticket covers the cost of the lifts.
  • The ski schools are independent. (again, "free market")
  • Oh, and as for terrain, let's not start that argument...
Sounds good to me.... & I believe the instructors make a decent cut of the lesson fees as well...
post #68 of 141
Point well taken, disski.

It may not work well at all. I'm just throwing out ideas and considering the integration of others' ideas. My enthusiasm for skiing and wanting to spread the joy gets the best of me sometimes.

A ski area, to survive, must sell me what I want to buy--not just what they want to sell me. Different skiers are looking for different things. Serving all the needs equally well at once is difficult, I'm sure.

But I learned that it's a lot easier to sell--and stay in business--if you sell folks what they are looking to buy rather than argue with them about what they should be buying. I see that a lot (a whole lot) in technology.

At one end of the spectrum of the market you will have a handful of people who are as smart as you (think you are) and will buy exactly what you are selling. You know, that really great stuff that would be wildly successful if only the rest of the world was smart enough to just see it. But those tiny customer groups are often way too small to be sustainable.

It doesn't help to have the best ski school on the planet that can teach far better than anyone else...if only a few hundred out of millions cares to learn at that level. And if you can't create the demand for it, well, you're out of business.

Of the seven of us who went skiing recently, only two of us care to invest more in ski instruction beyond the beginner stage. Only two of seven. But all seven paid for lodging, lift tickets, food, airlines, rentals, etc., etc.

You can, however, offer products packaged in ways that serve what people want to buy and deliver extra value to them. If you can deliver those in unique ways, and in such way that is different from your competition so the value is visible, you stand a great chance of being successful.



Quote:
Originally Posted by disski
That is "video shooting" not a REVIEW.... if you say it is a review somebody better be there to review it... & that needs MA skills....

I went to a ski improvement course in Whistler... they did a video review.... we spent a heap of time getting to the right spot on the hill & being told to ski a certain way in a certain section of a run & the instructor chatting to the cameraman etc etc etc....
The "review" was dodgy at best.... at that point I was little more than an high intermediate skier & what I came out of the review with was "Oh look you get early edge engagement" ummmm Duuurrrr freddy - my regular instructor had spent the previous season with me teaching me to get early edge engagement....

I felt totally ripped off by that video review - waste of my skiing time!

Generally I hate being on camera but love being video taped - because my instructor gives me such great feedback....

If the MA is lacking then you cannot "see how you are improving" nor can you "see what you need to do"
post #69 of 141
Ok HT - I would say this is how I would offer video...

1) If you video & charge a small amount so they can watch it fine - but do not market as a "review"...

2) You would be surprised how many want to take it away - SELL them a CD of the damn thing (at extra cost of course)

3) If they want "review" then sell them that too.... "Just take your CD to location xxxx at time zzzz"

a) This allows them to buy what they wish to purchase
b) They may purchase 1) the first time but then think 2) or 3) might be nice the next - ie you give them a chance to become bigger consumers
c) You can schedule the 3) to be a time of day when instructor demand is low (say the afternoon) & so improve the usage of your most expensive component(labour)

but what would I know - I'm in the medical are not the business/marketing one
post #70 of 141
disski:

Sorry - I hope you didn't think my post was directed at you! Not at all.

I like and appreciate your suggestions perfectly. My comments about "sell them what they want to buy" are centered around ski instruction in general--not the video idea.

I can certainly see where on-site video analysis would create quite an overhead and be very difficult to pull off and be profitable or even beneficial to the skier. You really can't have an instructor or two sitting by a video monitor on the off chance that a skier might happen by and want to plunk down a few dollars for a quick analysis. I'm in total agreement.

Sorry if I wrote in such a way that made you think I was begin critical of your assessment. You're a skier...your perceptions and opinions are every bit as valuable as anyone else's.

- HT




Quote:
Originally Posted by disski
Ok HT - I would say this is how I would offer video...

1) If you video & charge a small amount so they can watch it fine - but do not market as a "review"...

2) You would be surprised how many want to take it away - SELL them a CD of the damn thing (at extra cost of course)

3) If they want "review" then sell them that too.... "Just take your CD to location xxxx at time zzzz"

a) This allows them to buy what they wish to purchase
b) They may purchase 1) the first time but then think 2) or 3) might be nice the next - ie you give them a chance to become bigger consumers
c) You can schedule the 3) to be a time of day when instructor demand is low (say the afternoon) & so improve the usage of your most expensive component(labour)

but what would I know - I'm in the medical are not the business/marketing one
post #71 of 141
I've got it! Take the video and post it on EpicSki for MA!
post #72 of 141
You do not need an instructor sitting around under my video plan- any video operator will suffice - they just need to be taught how to shoot the skiing to be useful...

Instrcutors who are "hurt" or "not needed" can be used for MA at a suitable time to ski school (even after slopes are closed)
post #73 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh
I've got it! Take the video and post it on EpicSki for MA!
YES!

you can get great MA without having a heap of instructors sitting around all day - just use them after hours....

set up an "extra" business doing online MA - diversify... just not into real estate
post #74 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by HarvardTiger
You know, this presents a real opportunity for the maga-player, Vail Resorts. Opportunity for others as well, I'm sure, but the congolmerate comes to mind.

...

At the other end of the spectrum are the guys and gals who are experienced skiers (maybe level 4 to 7) and represent a perfect market for improving their skiing and the enjoyment they get from going skiing. And this, I suspect, is an underserved market. EpicSki is a perfect example of one great way to serve this market. I'd argue that turning over the level 4-7 skier to those who can put together the EpicSki experience would be quite a success.

Your thoughts? medmarkco? bud?
HT,
The "flat" market isn't a new phenomenon- it's been pretty consistent for a couple of decades (maybe more- I'd have to look back). A lot of talented people have tried to address it- both those in it for the money and those in it for love of the sport. Both species have been equally clobbered.

I think you've zeroed in on the prospects most likely to benefit from a "coaching" program- those returning with some regularity. However, they are also a challenge to reach because once they have some proficiency and find a way to make it down their target trails, the majority don't seem to desire continuing formal instruction. The young people I've encountered through the years (myself included) have a misinformed perception of "lessons". Most youth aspire to ski like a race star, or more recently to shoot "sic" lines down ever more difficult terrain. And can't forget park\freestyle. Carving symmetrical, perfectly controlled turns using perfect form doesn't seem to score high on their radar. The mis-perception is that PSIA instruction is all about "form" like a figure skater, when in fact the process is about building skills and fundamentals. A PSIA tag line is "you'll know when you're doing it". When you become actively involved in PSIA your antennae go up and you definitely know who's doing it and who isn't. The general public isn't so attuned, nor do they necessarily care. Kind of focuses on the feature and not the benefit. The benefit is learning all the "rules" so you can break them. Like a master chef learning the details so he/she can put the cookbooks away and "play". Rather than learning one way to ski, advanced instruction makes it possible to blend skills and confidently "play" on any terrain, in any conditions. A little higher up the age brackets (late 20's through the 30's) seems to be a "hot bed"- spouse-motivated lessons or ski with friends... help me keep up, or help me ski steeper.... Too much older and it becomes, "I am what I am". Of course, these are generalizations and don't apply universally.

Personally I would focus on a "non-destination" area model first, because even Vail, Aspen, Tahoe, etc. are "local" for a large population center. I grew up in Denver and to me Vail was just another ski area... more trails and variety than most, but in the end just another mountain. However, even proximity to mountains does not mean a majority of the population skis. Figure out how to bring in the locals and you've pretty much figured out how to bring 'em in from thousands of miles away. With limitations of course... if you've got a 1,000 vert drop and 10 runs, you have to be realistic about how many people you can put on the mountain and how much $$ people are willing to pay for that experience.

From my perspective, the market demographics basically break out in 6 segments:

1. People who never tried skiing and have no interest

2. People who tried skiing and didn't like it

3. People who have interest but never tried because they think it's too... (dangerous, expensive, etc.)

4. People who tried skiing, liked it, but don't continue because of cost

5. People who tried skiing and enjoy it regularly

6. People who want to ski everything in sight

The bulk of the population falls in segment 1. My experience is that a very low percentage of people who attempt to ski actually walk away hating it. For most the experience is entertaining and "something different", but they feel no burning desire to ski frequently... in some cases never again. Investing money and resources to target these individuals would produce some return, but unless the other segments are fully explored, resources are better deployed.

A lot of ski school energy seems to go into segments 3&4, but it isn't very well targeted. It tends to be the result of ski area's general "community marketing" program- newspapers, radio spots, etc.- and the message is clear- "have I got a deal for you- ski cheap!" I call it getting bodies to the mountain. Most management teams seem to be happy if the ski school is successful in getting the "bodies" proficient enough to be repeat customers who purchase lift tickets, food, and lodging. If the bodies continue lessons- that's cool. The ski school, however, wants these customers back in their grasp! Repeat customers kind of burn out on the group lesson thing and get a little shell shocked at the higher prices of private and semi-private. Unless they become segment 5&6 skiers.

In terms of percentages, I suspect the numbers are low for five and sixers who are dedicated lesson takers. However, those that do can get very serious about it. Ski schools know these folks well and fight over them... probably more figuratively than actively. I doubt a published list exists that one can buy from a list broker to target market these individuals. The school "owning" such a customer goes out of their way not to lose him/her.

"Destination" schools have extra advantages because they can possibly provide access to a greater variety of terrain than "back home", or different conditions (e.g.. powder). Securing repeats can be a challenge because destination\vacation skiers don't always like to go back to the same place. However, in other cases a strong bond forms and the school\instructor becomes the holy grail for the person.

As a "weekend skier" most all of my life, I see oversights on the part of many ski areas. The copy in brochures, the on-site satisfaction surveys, etc don't capture the avid weekend skier's world. Skiers like me are there almost every weekend, but the area's focus is on the week-long vacationers. Bigger short term pop, but over the course of the season there's a lot more opportunity with the weekender. I was invited to a first tracks and breakfast with my home area's GM and his senior staff a few days ago. When they discovered that I already had almost 40 days in on my cheap seasons pass, I could see the blood draining from their faces. "Jeez, at least buy a hamburger or something today would ya? Going to have to send you a bill for being over quota.", they said in jest. Their gut reaction was to assume no lodging revenue, no food revenue... just a guy who is burning up their slopes. Not the outcome they had in mind when the passes were structured. During the three years I've been regularly coming to the mountain, the ski school has never actively contacted me about any of their programs. I have property here- the general office has my name and address, and so does the season's pass office.

This is all wildly simplistic and generalized, but basically the way I see the industry today.
post #75 of 141
Good call on the industry, Breckenridge close to Denver really has captured the local bissiness. Again my hat is off to Breck. for $139.00 unlimited local lessons marketed to front range. Only drawback is the volume of bussiness, will it subtract from the destination lesson takers?
post #76 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by lwren
Good call on the industry, Breckenridge close to Denver really has captured the local bissiness. Again my hat is off to Breck. for $139.00 unlimited local lessons marketed to front range. Only drawback is the volume of bussiness, will it subtract from the destination lesson takers?
Hopefully that turns out to be a good "feeder" system for more specialized coaching. Not sure what the effect would be on destination business, but if the whole front range takes them up on the unlimited part, it will put a lot of pressure on the SS for not a lot of per student revenue. I'd be interested to know if Breck (especially the SS) considers it a success at the end of the season.
post #77 of 141
yawn.

the technospeakbureaucratbusinessmen have won. novelty? only within the present narrow stupid paradigm.

business. not pleasure. not personal. business.

therein lies the problem.
post #78 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
business. not pleasure. not personal. business.

therein lies the problem.
I don't consider myself intellectually dull, but I'm really trying to understand what you're trying to communicate by this. How are you suggesting creating a self-supporting entity that doesn't apply at least some business controls to assure continuity over time? I don't give a 1975 Dynastar Freestyle for profit beyond what's required to maintain the entity and help it to grow necessarily over time. But, doesn't that require some business mindedness? Doesn't even Bridger need to bring in sufficient revenue to fund the capital improvements, etc.?
post #79 of 141
I can't help but think that the skiing marketplace might be best segmented by skier expectations.

Never-evers have a certain set of expectations...even if they can't describe them in terms of skiing proficiency. Paying attention to the small group of never-evers who went with me recently, they generally talked about, 1) having fun, 2) not embarrassing themselves, and 3) being able to ski around easy slopes comfortably and safely to get a taste of the skiing experience.

The expectations of those with some degree of experience and competence are likely very different. And obviously, experienced skiers can be further segmented.

But, just keeping within these two general groups, what kind of feedback mechanisms are in place to see what services (ski areas are service businesses) skiers want to buy and if their expectations are being met? Seems like little or none.

I can say with 100% accuracy that Breckenridge doesn't know anything about the experiences or perceived value or expectation fulfilment of the three never-evers who spent a week there with me. I suspect that the only way Breck knows there were three new skiers are the fact that they signed up for a beginner class. How does Breck know if they'll return or not? How does Breck know what that group expects--and wants to buy--on their next trip?

The feedback loop for more experienced skiers is easier to divine; but, it still seems seriously lacking. It appears that the most accurate data about skiers and their interests in general is revealed in the equipment they buy, the type of resorts they visit and the instruction they take. These indicators are certainly descriptive; but they seem to lack the certainty of a more direct feedback mechanism.

Having said all that, it seems apparant to me that ski schools themselves would offer the best opportunity to gather feedback for both the school and the ski area. The school is clearly the greatest customer "touch point" opportunity for the ski mountain. And a far better source for direct ski related assessment than any other customer touch point.

I'd say that ski schools may be more undervalued and underutilized than just the arguments for broader instructor participation suggest. They may be the single greatest opportunity to enhance the skiing experience (if boredom is the # 1 reason for experienced skiers leaving the sport) and spot important trends early enough to develop adequate programs to meet evolving demand (example: the void that ESA is clearly filling).

What's the best way to find out what the customers want to buy? Ask them!
post #80 of 141
The perfect ski school is the one that teaches people how to ski - unconditionally.

Who cares about capital improvements? So what if the resort goes broke? So what if the beginner I teach today never comes back again?

Maybe the ski "industry" is not the cash cow corporate America thought it was. Rest assured, that even without "resorts", there will still be mountains, therefore there will be skiing. Before we step "outside the box", maybe we need to have a better look inside it and refresh our memories as to what things we really need to make skiing happen, and what things we're willing to let go of in order to call ourselves skiers.
post #81 of 141
niceturns, good comments, unfortunately, the two main posters on this thread seem to have ignored my post, I guess the simple solution is not what they want, but the most profitable.

Oh, and as for Vail being a mega resort, I guess it is to those who think small.
post #82 of 141
HT,

At my resort, we track the number of people in each lesson and handout discount coupons (for a return visit) to every level 1 student. These coupons also have a comment section for those who choose not to redeem the coupon. Last year we got about 5% redemption on the coupons (they must be used the same day as the lesson to get the full discount).
post #83 of 141
WTFH,

Of course, Europe has pushy people in the lift queues, too many T bars and lousy grooming too. Maybe we can just ship them our forest service and all the lawyers and resort management instead?
post #84 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by niceturns
Maybe the ski "industry" is not the cash cow corporate America thought it was. Rest assured, that even without "resorts", there will still be mountains, therefore there will be skiing.
"Corporate America" has no belief in the ski industry. I think you'd find it virtually impossible to get a loan to start even the most simple mountain with nothing but lifts and the basics to keep it open. History has shown that operating a ski mountain is an easy way to lose a lot of money.

I totally agree with you about there still being mountains. Resorts are nothing but ski areas with a lot of privately owned development around them. At the heart of the area or resort is just the mountain. If the money dries up, all areas go bankrupt, and the lifts stop turning... there will still be skiing. Just not as many people will participate.
post #85 of 141
I guess it's "lousy grooming" if you only want to ski on corduroy - making the sport challenging/fun is about having more natural conditions.

As for shipping lawyers/management/forestry service over here, no thanks (oh, and "forestry" would have little to do - most of our skiing is above the tree line )

T-bars are great, they seperate the men from the boys (and the boarders ), but yes, it would be nice to have fewer of them.
post #86 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by HarvardTiger
I can say with 100% accuracy that Breckenridge doesn't know anything about the experiences or perceived value or expectation fulfilment of the three never-evers who spent a week there with me. I suspect that the only way Breck knows there were three new skiers are the fact that they signed up for a beginner class. How does Breck know if they'll return or not? How does Breck know what that group expects--and wants to buy--on their next trip?
How can you say that? If their instructor(s) didn't discern these expectations and the experience that they had, there is a problem with the approach to the lesson(s). I would be surprised if the instructor(s) didn't understand this.
post #87 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco
"Corporate America" has no belief in the ski industry. I think you'd find it virtually impossible to get a loan to start even the most simple mountain with nothing but lifts and the basics to keep it open. History has shown that operating a ski mountain is an easy way to lose a lot of money.
If this is true, then why are we bothering to include their perspective in this conversation? Let's worry about sustainable skiing not the response of the capital markets to this business. Let them fund WalMart.
post #88 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
Of course, Europe has pushy people in the lift queues, too many T bars and lousy grooming too.
How much of this is cultural and how much is a function of the organization that Fox mentions?
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty
Maybe we can just ship them our forest service and all the lawyers and resort management instead?
Now, there is a great idea!
post #89 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco
"Corporate America" has no belief in the ski industry. I think you'd find it virtually impossible to get a loan to start even the most simple mountain with nothing but lifts and the basics to keep it open. History has shown that operating a ski mountain is an easy way to lose a lot of money.

I totally agree with you about there still being mountains. Resorts are nothing but ski areas with a lot of privately owned development around them. At the heart of the area or resort is just the mountain. If the money dries up, all areas go bankrupt, and the lifts stop turning... there will still be skiing. Just not as many people will participate.
what a tool.

"corporate america" includes me and my business, which is incorporated.

you are SO lost, Markco. SO VERY LOST.
post #90 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh
I don't consider myself intellectually dull, but I'm really trying to understand what you're trying to communicate by this. How are you suggesting creating a self-supporting entity that doesn't apply at least some business controls to assure continuity over time? I don't give a 1975 Dynastar Freestyle for profit beyond what's required to maintain the entity and help it to grow necessarily over time. But, doesn't that require some business mindedness? Doesn't even Bridger need to bring in sufficient revenue to fund the capital improvements, etc.?
WTF are you talking about?

this perspective is proof of the problem with those who see business as distinct from pleasure or personal.

stop thinking of "business" as some exalted pursuit to be left only to the "businessmen"

try the LITERAL MEANING rather than the colloquial AMERICAN meaning.
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