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The ten minute lesson

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 
Here's a proposal for a new lesson concept: the 10 minute tip.

Advanced level guests take one run and get one quick tip for a nominal fee.

High Level Details:
This is for level 4 lessons and higher. Station a pro at the top of a run. A guest can pay a nominal fee (e.g. $10) and the lesson starts immediately. A typical session would comprise a 2 minute intro, 5 minutes to do one exercise and a 3 minute summary. The summary would include a sales pitch for a full lesson. At the end of 10 minutes (typically not a full top to bottom of the lift run), the pro cycles back to the top of the lift to catch the next customer.

Rusty Guy used to informally give 20 minute freebies as a teaser for requests. The purpose of this concept is more advertising than profit. But's also meant to get instruction to people who otherwise would not seek it out with the ultimate result of increasing skier days.

Pros: Would your school do this? Would you be willing to teach these at your normal hourly rate for time on station? Do you think you could change someone's skiing in 10 minutes?

Skiers: Would you buy such a product? Why? If it was free would you be more or less willing to try this out? What price is too much? Would 15 minutes be better or worse?
post #2 of 54
RoundTop did this a few times last year and it seemed to be pretty well received. It was 2 runs for $10 if my memory serves me well.

I made a few runs with Diane Roffe, so I was pretty pleased.

BTW, some resorts set up stations where instructors do free runs with potential students during certain times of the day. I know Vail does them out of Mid-Vail during off peak times. I believe they limit them to intermediate and above skiers.
post #3 of 54
Winter Park has one run with a video camera set up in a little hut and for a small fee you can have yourself video taped skiing down to it and get feedback from a pro. I've not done it, but it seemed like a good idea. If there's anyone here from there, they might be able to tell you if it is sucessful marketing thing.
post #4 of 54

I Would go for this

Originally Posted by Mom
Winter Park has one run with a video camera set up in a little hut and for a small fee you can have yourself video taped skiing down to it and get feedback from a pro. I've not done it, but it seemed like a good idea. If there's anyone here from there, they might be able to tell you if it is sucessful marketing thing.
I like this idea/
I might just be an egomainiac and like to watch myself ski?

post #5 of 54
Rusty... Liberty has been doing tips on weekends on the back side for years. They're free.
post #6 of 54
Thread Starter 

post #7 of 54
Given the two minute intro, I'd say you would need 15 minutes and in some resorts, you'd have to make it 15 minutes of skiing, not standing in line, since it only takes two minutes to get down the hill without the pointers...
post #8 of 54
Originally Posted by therusty


I really don't know. The customers who take advantage of it like it. Not as many take advantage as you' d think.
post #9 of 54
Mount Snow used to do something similier, they would to a quck video of you and review it with asking waht you want to improve. If it was bumps, they would take you over to a short bump run and take a couple of quick runs with you.
post #10 of 54
Who wants to spend the time? That's what my friends would say... even those that get 40+ days in every year.
post #11 of 54
I'm a little skeptical of the reception the idea would receive, and I'm skeptical of the benefit of a two-run lesson. However, this is the type of idea that you can actually test for almost no investment, so I would say give it a try!
post #12 of 54
Originally Posted by Mom
Winter Park has one run with a video camera set up in a little hut and for a small fee you can have yourself video taped skiing down to it and get feedback from a pro. I've not done it, but it seemed like a good idea. If there's anyone here from there, they might be able to tell you if it is sucessful marketing thing.
I worked the second half of last season at Winter Park and don't know about any video offered. That doesn't mean they wern't doing it. I probably only worked twenty days in March and April.

WP ran a $39.00 LTS package. My impression is it took a lot of manpower to staff.

Subaru/Nordica set up something akin to this at various resorts during the winter. It usually was full when they came to Eldora or did it at Loveland. It was also tied in to a demo program with Nordica.

I think the only issue that I can see is manpower. I first took a few private clients from Eldora to Winter Park last season. They were very short and asked if I would work a few days for them. I eventually worked three days a week. I don't know of any days in March or April that I worked where we had any spare help.

I did most of my 10 minute freebies before lineup, on my day off or after three oclock.
post #13 of 54
TheRusty, contact Subaru or Nordica, they sponsor events like this out here. They might already be doing them on the East coast. Here is how they ran the ones I worked. A roped off part of a run (like a nastar course) with a pro at the top to play gatekeeper and a pro at the bottom to give feedback. Additionally, a third pro goes out for a run every hour. Three or four people can handle the job but it is not much fun for the pros who are standing in one place, especially if it is bad weather. Sometimes a line develops, which means you need to have an area for them to wait safely and sometime a skier will keep cycling through because the pro is not doing much and allows them to take several runs. Demos are difficult without the fourth pro and radios but all in all it is a good program for attracting new customers.
post #14 of 54
This is an interesting topic. Such instruction situations are already in place at a lot of resorts. My home mountain used to have a similar system in place. There is a section that has a decent sustained pitch where the area would do free video analysis. There is a light system on a small hut on the hill (green means go - red means don't go) and an instructor sits in the building and records you as you ski, and then gives pointers at the bottom (usually runs through the video in small groups to make the line move faster). Yes, its all free.

Now here's my story. The reason I got into racing is because of this type of instruction. The level 2 instructor who was often in the booth was also the coach of a local race team. Apparently he had been watching me ski long before I decided to be video taped. My first time through he asked me a bunch of questions like how long I had been skiing, how long I had raced for, who had coached me, etc - of course to that point in my life I hadn't had any coaches, never raced, and never had taken a lesson (accept for my first night skiing which I skipped out of to ski on my own). When I saw the video I was pretty impressed with the skier he showed; carving medium radius SL turns with huge angles... Turns out it was me.

After that the coach had me start coming to practices and he would give me instruction a few runs at a time. He and I still ski together often, and over the years he has contributed to my skiing in huge ways. Had it not been for that little instruction program I would not be the skier that I am today, and he would have not seen me develop into the skier that I am today, which I think he has gotten a lot of gratification out of, especially since he also watched me build a nationally ranked college ski team nearly from the ground up.

So, I think this type of training is priceless for a ski area to have around. The area shut down the video booth, and the instructor quit as a result of it (a shame). It was an unfortunate event, since they were able to offer such great instruction and draw more and more people into the sport of skiing. I keep hoping that one day the site will reopen, but I have my doubts. Regardless, I still ski with that coach, even though I have mostly surpassed his ability to instruct me anymore... although he offers up some very helpful tips now and then that correct my skiing in and out of the course. Overall, a great instructor and a great guy - exactly what the sport needs.


post #15 of 54
Thread Starter 
Thanks Greg,

It's sad to hear the end of a great story. But the secret to keeping a low profit program around is keeping it under the radar. If it pays for itself and does not interfere with the high profit services (and preferably supports the other services) it CAN live forever. If it crosses the line, it's a target that will eventually get hit.

I'd love to do video for the 10 minute lesson concept, but based on the experiment we ran several years ago it would be way too popular and too expensive to keep it under the radar.

At my resort, we have not been able to figure out the logistics of an "above the radar" video lesson such that it would:
a) be easy to sell
b) be easy to staff
c) have a space to operate from
d) be as profitable as other lesson products
We can do 3 out of 4 just fine. But we have not found a system that can meet all 4 criteria.
post #16 of 54
The way the system was set up at my home mountain, it was very "below the radar." Unfortuantely the area didnt want to pay the instructor any longer to just sit in the booth all day - regardless of who was there. It was a valuable tool for skiers who were taking lessons (instructors often combined it with their normal teaching) and those who just skied up to see themselves ski. It was fairly easy to staff, as it only ran on weekends typically. Unfortunately it didn't generate a lot of profit. It usually took awhile so very few people ran it more than twice in a day, so that wasnt an issue. As far as profit is concerned, I don't think you will find a way to match it to other lesson prgrams. I don't think I would pay for time to be instructed or recorded if it was only for ten minutes (although I get a lot of other instruction now).

The focus of such a program should not be to make money, but to draw in students. Now if you were to offer a cheap (say $5) lesson that was one run or maybe two runs and at the end of the lesson offered a discount on a normal length lesson you may draw in students - repeat customers at that. It would be even better to make the first run free, but you may end up with people abusing the program. This would be a good way to try out a new instructor or see if lessons are for you. Lets face it - many skiers who don't take lessons ever dont take them because of the high cost up front. they don't want to drop what they could be paying for another lift ticket on instruction that they aren't convinced that they need or will even enjoy. I think all of this scenario I just described relates to a common economics theory that I worked on last semester but I connot remember the name of it - economists?

Another program that I ran across - again at my home mountain - was the program designed for school ski clubs that requires the students to the "tested" before advancing tot he next terrain difficulty. They are marked with green circles, blue squares, black diamonds, etc - and if they are caught on a trail above what their sticker says they can be reported to the school or have their pass yanked. In my opinion the system is a flop because it isnt enforced and the tests are a joke (i can pass them all on one foot without getting out of breath).

BUT, here comes the interesting part. There is a fourth test offered - only by one of the level 3 cert instructors. It is a combination of a few skills from the level 2 and level 3 cert exams I believe (not sure though). It is coined the "double black test." Only about 2 are given out each year - and you get a free headband indicating that you passed the test. They will not give you the test without seeing you ski first - so essentially you will get sometimes up to an hour of instruction before the test is given to you. Then the test will take another hour at least. So you get a lot of skiing time with a level 3 pro for nothing but a time investment. Of course only top notch skiers have this open to them and it only applies to the younger crowd. I took the test either during my junior or senior year in highschool and my brother took and passed the test when he was in 8th grade (i think). Its a fun learning tool for students and gives you a lot of bragging rights to your peers when youre in school . It also serves the purpose of drawing in students - because if you don't pass they offer private lessons with one of the L3's.


post #17 of 54
Thread Starter 
Yeah Greg,

The unfortunate status for most ski schools is that they will run short of staff at some point (ok - this is a slight understatement) during the season. When the SSD/resort managers are looking for "one more pro" for line up, having one "sitting in a booth" is an easy solution to the problem. At our resort even the popular pay per run race course (staffed by the school) comes under pressure. This kind of program needs to be flexible to support staffing needs.

I was thinking about the discount offer concept as a means of helping to track the success of the program. I definitely don't like putting new instructors on this. Because the primary goal of the program is "advertising", we want to put our best foot forward. Because I would like for the pros to be able to handle impulse sales on the hill, they will need to handle cash. With the possibility for abuse of that, we need people we can trust. If the product is successful at generating private requests, I'd like to use assignment to this as a reward for our better pros.

The primary economics name for this is called "elasticity of demand". It's a measure of volume of demand vs price of product. Even though the "ten minute tip" lesson product has it's own elasticity of demand curve, it has the ability to impact the curves for other lesson products positively or negatively. If the price is too low (or free) on an ongoing basis, it can "cannibalize" the regular lesson products. If the price is just right, it can help increase the sales of other lesson products. But if the price is too high, it probably will not effect other lesson products.

Ideally, I'd like to see this product priced at slightly higher than what the hourly rate for a private works out to be. I'm ok with it being offered for free on a limited availability or limited time basis.
post #18 of 54
As I read this, I'm thinking of marketing budgets. It's not uncommon for early-stage companies to have nearrly 50% of their operations budget be marketing. Most people think of this as advertising, but advertising has a very low return-on-investment. The kind of approach that we're discussing here is, very simply, marketing. It is getting the word out about products. It is understanding the market (and why they do or do not buy our products).

This kind of approach to getting into the minds of the target market is sorely lacking in skiing in general. It would pay significant dividends. That is why it should be created and maintained.
post #19 of 54
Thread Starter 
Yes! Yes! Mea Culpa - I should have been using the "M" word instead of the "A" word. And I agree, marketing within the ski industry is sorely behind the 8 ball compared to the competition for our customers. Nonetheless, everytime I see the marketing people - they are always busy. Hmmmmmmm!!???
post #20 of 54
In my experience, the "marketing" at ski areas is more akin to "product management" in industry: they are defining products and bringing them to market. Sometimes there's a bit of related "market research", but often it's just an idea that someone thinks sounds good.

A solid, well-defined marketing function is responsible for understanding the marketplace, the products that fit it, and then communicating into the marketplace those products in a way that communicates value (return on investment) for the consumer. Sometimes, that involves advertising. But, frankly, more often than not, it doesn't (there's a lot of evidence that advertising no longer has any value, in general, although it's more difficult to break the habit than to show its low value).
post #21 of 54
Understanding the marketplace... hmmmmm.

Being a bit of a devils advocate here:

Trying to market to folks that have never taken a lesson because they don't think they have to is a huge waste of time. Hey, if one can learn to skate by themselves, what's so different about skiing, right?

Goodness, I know parents of kids in ski racing programs that don't think lessons could help them! In fact, almost ALL off the parents I've met do not and will not take lessons. If you think anybody would take lessons it'd be the parents!

Most folks that I know that do ski say they "ski well enough" already. Even those that aren't all that graceful. Still they have fun, and they do not want to replace any of their valuable time on the slope with drills that highlight their problems.

I mean, why pay money to go to the hill, and then have an instructor "fix" your skiing?

IMO, it takes a certain type of person to really want to learn how to ski. You have to want to TRY -- to give the effort. And if you are that type of person, you know the value of good instruction.

A good instructor is priceless. A good lesson is fun and rewarding. But somehow, the focus on the never-ever student seems to be solely on the negative. What gives?
post #22 of 54
Originally Posted by therusty
Skiers: Would you buy such a product? Why? If it was free would you be more or less willing to try this out? What price is too much? Would 15 minutes be better or worse?
Don't see much value in 10 minutes
Free - might try it out to check out potential instructor candidates
Too much? dunno what price is a real lesson...
15 minutes - maybe a fraction better.... I don't see much value in anything under 1 hour.... 1 hour is barely useful 2 is OK 3 is best
post #23 of 54
Originally Posted by disski
Don't see much value in 10 minutes
Free - might try it out to check out potential instructor candidates
Too much? dunno what price is a real lesson...
15 minutes - maybe a fraction better.... I don't see much value in anything under 1 hour.... 1 hour is barely useful 2 is OK 3 is best
Me neither - I don't see much value in a 10 minute quickie.

I need way more time than that just to understand what it is that I am being asked to do - let alone actually do it satisfactorily. In 10 minutes all I'd feel is frustrated - finding out what I'm doing wrong without having enough time to fix it? No Thanks.

I found 2 hours to be about right.
post #24 of 54
The only use I can see for a 10 minute "lesson" is for the skier to get one run videotaped (3 minutes), and receive 7 minutes of talk discussing their run and answering questions.

The purpose is to show the never ever lesson taker "what's inside the box". Try to show them something about what there is to learn. You don't actually have them do drills, just get them more interested in the process of skiing.

I would charge nothing, since it is an opportunity for the instructor to get their name out for requests.
post #25 of 54
Thread Starter 
Cool - thanks everyone. This has been most helpful to understanding what the possibilities are for this idea. It's nice to know that some resorts have already experimented with this.

Although I agree that it takes far longer than 10 minutes to make a significant impact on someone's skiing, I have had successful experiences introducing a "helpful" change in 5 minutes. The main hopes are that a 10 minute tip provides a simple assessment of a skier, something they can use right away (an arrow to add to their quiver) and a tease for what is possible in the future. For someone who is already on a regular "training" program, these goals have already been accomplished. My next step will be to talk with my SSD about the possibilities for experimenting with this idea.
post #26 of 54
If it is to be "free" maybe you could limit the usage by giving a "token" of some sort to specific local businesses... they could give one token to each guest & so limit the number of times a person is likely to "pop" in (eg ski rental place... or ticket offices or.... )
post #27 of 54
Thread Starter 

I was thinking that whether it was free or not, that it could be limited by how you staffed it. Either pros were at the sign to take people out or not. I would only have one pro staff it until demand built up such that there was a constant wait list AND there was proof that the concept was generating regular lesson traffic.

I'm not worried a lot about repeat abuse. First, my thinking is to charge for the product so that it pays for itself (there are enough people in our market where the time aspect is more important than the money). Second, by pricing above the rate of a private lesson, it's cheaper to take the private lesson if you want more time. Third, even if you did a free program, there are enough different alternative approaches (e.g. back to the end of the line, informal one per day rules - Hey - Haven't we met already?, etc.) to make abuse a small problem. Finally, repeat customers only proves the viability of the concept. It would be pretty cool if this became a standard piece of the lesson product line at all resorts the way private lessons and group lessons are.

"Tokens" represent the kind of logistical problem that plagues these kinds of ideas. You'd like to have everyone use tokens/tickets because that takes the need to handle cash out of the picture and let's guests use credit cards for the purchase. But that eliminates impulse sales. It's also a commitment to deliver the service. So you need to have a backup plan if they don't catch the pro at the sign. Fortunately this kind of stuff does not really matter how you choose to go. You make your choice and if it does not work out, you try a different approach. If you are aware of the tradeoffs when you make your choices, then you have a much healthier reaction when you change (because actual experiences did not match your expectations as opposed to being hit by unexpected tradeoffs).
post #28 of 54

In general I like the idea of the quick assessment or ski lesson in an attempt to generate ski school business. However, I think you might have a hard time finding takers if you're going to charge for it. At least you'd have to offer some discount for a private or group lesson for those who take you up on your 10 minute lesson. If you charge $10 for the quick lesson you'd have to at least apply that $10 to the cost of a group or private lesson, maybe even consider crediting $15-$20. The topic of a quick lesson or assessment came up in another thread that talked about spilts


Bob Barnes posted the following:

"Good points, Skidmo. How about, as a possibility that might address your request for a "choice," offering the opportunity for a quick, free, skiing assessment, for anyone interested. I'm thinking of a daily thing, where anyone can show up at a designated point and time, ski a short run down to an instructor, and get some very quick feedback. No strings attached, although it would surely include suggestions of how they might benefit from a lesson, and which level they would fit in. I've known ski schools that have offered this, and it seemed well-received to me. It's an inexpensive opportunity for a little extra guest service, and an opportunity to promote the ski school, as well as a way for students to get an accurate assessment of their level--before the lesson."

And I posted the following:

"I like Bob's suggestion of having the free skiing assessment, but take it one step further. Have three different instructors set up at different parts of the mountain, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Then give people who have signed up for lessons the option of going and getting assessed at the appropriate place before the lesson. The student can take that assessment from the instructor back with them, either in written or verbal form, to the ski school meeting place to facilitate the split. If a student choses not to be assessed, he or she will then have to be split based on converstaion. The free assessment can also be used for those not already signed up for a lesson as marketing/advertising. This will save time, give instructors some on snow info about the students' skills, allow students the piece of mind that their skiing ability was evaluated before being split, and, hopefully sell more lessons to those who were assessed and not signed up for a lesson."

So, your short lesson can serve 2 purposes: marketing/advertising tool and to aid in splitting. Hope this has been helpful.
post #29 of 54
At Smugglers' Notch, when there are plenty of guests, there are plenty of lessons. When there are very few guests, there are very few lessons. I would guess that at least 98% of the guests I have taught are destination skiers who are there with their friends or family from a location outside of this state.

While the "quickie lesson" idea appears inviting on its face, I'm not sure it's a blockbuster. Like The One Minute Manager or Who Stole My Cheese? the idea of a ten minute lesson is more worth thinking about than embracing as a literal, real practice.

On the other hand, mountain ambassadors who happen to be instructors in uniform could be useful, if the offer of a "ten minute lesson for ten bucks" were omitted.
post #30 of 54
Strikes me as a ten minute "tease/sales pitch" for which I am asked to spend $1.00 per minute. Doesn't sound like a good deal to me. It seems unlikely that I would get much out of this time and would be paying you $10.00 to listen to your pitch. Isn't the advertiser supposed to absorb the upfront cost of the advertising in hopes of making it back plus profit if people buy the product?
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