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SS Directors: Pros & Cons of Independent Ski Camps

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm working on a piece for a new industry publication about independent ski camps. Since the article will be geared for people inside the industry, not for consumers, I need opinons about the pros and cons of independent camps. According to my editor, many camps apply, but few are actually accepted. What determines your choice in which organizations are allowed to hold camps at your ski area? What effect, negative or positive, does it have on the image of your ski school?

Thanks!
post #2 of 16
Considering that ESA and the Eastern Weekend (which is actually the Eastern Tune-Up) depend on ski area acceptance - and considering the awful first experience of ESA at Solitude (nice area, tough owner) - this should be interesting.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Very interesting indeed! The idea came out of my querying about an article about The Academy, but the editor wanted a broader perspective about why a ski accepts, or does not accept a specific ski camp. I'm hoping that ski area management is willing to talk with me and give honest answers. Could be very enlightening.
post #4 of 16
LM, you might want to speak with Rob at Eldora, too. I think he was the sponsor for the Front Range Fall Workshop last year (right, Rusty?).
post #5 of 16
I'm not a director but have worked with/for independant camps and gone through the process of setting up camps.

Pros: Can often offer a product the regular ski school is not set up for (ie: racing, off piste, terrain park, big air)

Can bring in high profile people the ski school could not otherwise afford offering marketing opportunities.

Can attract clients that may not otherwise have come ( see above 2 points)

Reduce payroll burden while offering services.

Reduce staffing hassles ( housing, hiring, injury claims that may impact workers comp rates) Really just off loading these problems but it can be easier on human resources. In the case of high risk activities such as terrain park, big air and off piste prone to injuring instructors anything from keeping the companies rates from rising. Not sure if it works like that in the states but in Canada workers comp rates go up a lot as your history of claims goes up. Offloading 6-20 high risk guys can help keep rates down for the other 600 staff.

Allow more flexibility to offer services restricted by corporate insurance. In some cases a smaller operator may be able to offer out of bounds experiences the regular ski school is restricted from by insurance.

Sessioning from higher end trainers or specialized skills associated with the independant camp.

Cons: (not that I believe most but excuses offered by operators)

Taking business from regular ski school. (if they could offer the service there wouldn't be a demand)

Loss of control over staff. The hill may feel a lack of control over the comportment of the independant staff and inability to screen for convicted felons for example.

Activities of independants still putting hills management at risk of litigation.

Undercutting of ski school pricing. Generally pricing is simply controlled. Of course if pricing wasn't so over inflated there wouldn't be so much room to undercut it.

Over paying of staff driving up labour costs or theft of employees. Again if they didn't underpay staff so badly it wouldn't be so easy for the independant to pay more and steal the best or most senior staff.



Lots more either way I guess but there's a start.
post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by oboe
- and considering the awful first experience of ESA at Solitude (nice area, tough owner) - this should be interesting.
What happenend?!
post #7 of 16
In a nutshell, a very well intentioned group of people (us) got caught in an internal dynamic at Solitude that we didn't fully appreciate, but had to get clear of, and thanks to nolo's great industry contracts moved the ESA next door to Brighton (literally). See you at Snowbird next year!
post #8 of 16
We are a group sale, Lisamarie, a fair-sized one that occurs during a slow time of business. What's not to like about hosting ESA events?

I have no comment about the arrangements for the first ESA, except to say that Brighton was a terrific ski venue and hospitable host area for our group, as have been Snowbird/Alta, Stowe and Big Sky. All of these areas have numerous indie clinics taking place there every year, so it may be that ski area intolerance for indie clinics is a dated response in a competitive economy.
post #9 of 16
I would add that many camps require real estate and resources (grooming, etc), and resorts are usually fairly stingy with what they will allow to be dedicated to a relatively small group of people. They have to balance the buying power of that group with the buying power (and perception) of the general public. Also, too many camps not directly affiliated with the resort and you will probably see a decline in return visits to a ski school. People will see an alternative that has a certain sense of being elite and exclusive- at least more so than a regular ski school.

It's all about balance. If it increases the bottom line, they usually are all too happy about hosting a camp.
post #10 of 16
LM. We in AspenSnowmass love and encourage the camps. It's wonderful business for us, and generally they use our pros as well as some of their own. I think the fact that we make it easy for them to use our guys helps smooth the way, however we've had others that didn't and they still worked.

Our pros have come to feel less tense about "stealing business" than they used to because they realize that whatever brings people to our resort increases their chances of increased business in the long run. It's just that we've gotten more sophisticated and less defensive.

There is also a difference between something like ESA and someone coming into town and setting up his or her own ski school. The latter case is like going into a building that someone has leased to run a restaurant and serving your own food. The former is by invitation because the restaurant feels it enhances business in the long run.

Write Rich Burkley, our director for his take. It's really interesting. rburkley@aspensnowmass.com
post #11 of 16
Lisa,

you might contact Harald Harb, as all of his business is camps. His addy is www.harbskisystems.com He may or may not respond. But he just might be a good resource if he does.

Rick H
post #12 of 16
Good timing for this, I'm right in the middle of negotiating some camp programs right now.

I look for a product or program that's going to enhance my existing line up. It also has to fill some sort of need, meaning that my school doesn't offer something of a similar nature or I don't have the people to offer it (big name pros, etc). I also need to see a solid operating/business plan and how they plan to benefit our guests and our operation as a whole; it should include short and long term goals and projections.

I think that there was a thread dedicated to free lancing a while back. There are some parallels to that with camps. As it's been mentioned a lot of these camp ideas fail. I think one of the main reasons for this is the people involved only focus on how they will benefit themselves; they don't look at how they can create a mutually beneficial arrangement. The argument is always raised that they are going to bring people to your resort; they're not prepared for when the question is asked "are they going to be completely new guests to my resort or are these people already coming here?" That one usually stops them in their tracks and it also changes the direction of the conversation dramatically if the response is weak. From my experience, resort operators hate it when people are looking to capitalize the hard work that is done every day without contributing is some way, be it the bottom line or the overall guest experience.

In terms of image; if it's a good camp and operated professionally then I think it can really enhance the image of the school. I have seen it go the other way where the camp didn't measure up to expectations, it's a nightmare for the ski school. There's an automatic assumption that the ski school is responsible, and we are to a certain extent. It would be a poor guest service to shrug it off and say "sorry, not our program". This is why I'm pretty tough on people that want to start camps at the resort I work for, I don't want a line of people standing at my sales desk complaining about something I had no control over, it reflects badly on the resort and the school no matter what the circumstances.

That's my take on this anyway, thanks for the break, got to go back to work now!
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
WOW! Cannonball, that was extremely helpful! Thanks so much! If you'd like to be directly quoted, PM me your real name. I promise I won't tell!
L7, great insight from the perspective of someone trying to set up a camp. Weems, thanks for Rick's email!

Cannonball's statement rings true as it pertain s to the Epicski Academy. The first year, we held the event at Brighton. In the past, nobody would have thought of skiing there. The following year, many of us went there on our freeskiing days.
post #14 of 16

Indie Camps

Nevermind, thank you.
post #15 of 16
lisa-

i'm not sure if this applys to your research or not, but i've attend and worked the Chicago Race Camp at Copper Mt. since 1996. its a real great value for the customer and i think the resort. low cost for the customer and employees resort folks from ski school and race crew for a week during the slow time in late Nov and early Dec. Mark Monnin is the leader/coordinator and his web site is: racecamp.monnin.us ...
post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by weems

There is also a difference between something like ESA and someone coming into town and setting up his or her own ski school. The latter case is like going into a building that someone has leased to run a restaurant and serving your own food. The former is by invitation because the restaurant feels it enhances business in the long run.
This argument might hold water except for the fact that most ski areas operate on public lands under sweetheart lease deals with the Forest service. Most areas dont exactly own the "restaurant". Competition is good.
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