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Nutty Idea? Looking for your feedback.

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 
I spent some time with the Director of the Jackson Hole Ski School last night and an interesting idea came up. I'm looking for feedback from any of you who might be willing to comment.

As a bit of background, many of you on Epic know that I like to ski in the "off" seasons. Spring, summer, fall, whatever. You may also know that a couple of decades ago I was one of the backcountry ski guides here in JH.

As additional background, the JH Ski School is the department of the ski corporaton that is responsible for all the summer activities at Teton Village. They currently offer rock climbing, yurt trips, hiking, trekking, wildlife viewing trips, mountain biking, bungee trampoline, etc. They are always looking for additional "adventure" outings to offer summer visitors.

So after about the third beer, I was asked the following two questions: a) do I think anyone would be interested enough in skiing out of bounds from the JH tram in the summer to actually pay for a guide; and b) would I be interested in guiding them if they were?

So, I'm posing the question to you folks. I would likely share any feedback you have with the SSD.

Is this a completely nutty idea? Does the prospect of hiking an hour at 10,000 feet with skis and boots on a pack sound like fun or torture? Does skiing corn snow in shorts and a t-shirt in the Tetons in June seem like something you'd like to do? Would you be willing to pay someone to show you how and where? ("Normal" winter rates for a guide are nearly $500/day - this summer idea would have to be about $150 - $250 in order to pay for the liability and permits and such). One nice thing about summer skiing is that you only go when the weather is nice; the skiing sucks if the sun isn't out.

One thing that I know for sure is that there are *way* more summer skiers now than there were eight years ago when I started my monthly ski thing. Perhaps there are a few people out there who would enjoy hiring a guide and making some turns in the summer.

I have no idea whether anyone would ever sign up for this or not. So, how about some comment? Good, bad, indifferent - I'd love to hear your thoughts.
post #2 of 44
Doesn't sound nutty.

I don't think it has a huge clientele, but probably enough to make it worthwhile.
post #3 of 44
I think it sounds like an awesome idea. However, there are many factors that play into a decision like that where you have to hire a guide... what kind of snowpack is there in the summer, what kind of cost is there, how many "runs" do you get, etc. Personally, I think it would be very cool, and might open up that idea to more resorts around the country.
post #4 of 44
I just saw the part about it only being $150... in my mind, that would be money well spent.
post #5 of 44
What's that line from the movie, "if you build it, they will come". I think you would have to limit your marketing to a younger crowd then most of us on Epic. May be if you could add some form of transportation for the hike you would market it to the money crowd. May be have both options, it all depends on the cost.
post #6 of 44
Bob, I know quite a few folks in Zoola who like to do as you do, try to ski every month of the year.

unfortunately we don't have as many millionaires in Zoola and it's unlikely that these folks I know could afford to travel to JH to do what you're proposing. they seem able to ski by sticking to a 3-hour drive radius.

but there seem to be plenty of rich idle folks about in the USA, so I'd think you might have a chance of getting that thing going.
post #7 of 44
I think it is a very doable thing, especially if it's marketed as part of a summer adventure package. When I was there for a meeting last summer and hiked off the top of the tram, I saw skiers hiking up alongside and was very jealous. If there had been an option to have a guide take me up for that little, i'd jump at it. One issue for last minute decisions would be access to skis and boots for those who didn't know about it before arrival or for those who didn't want to schlep skis on a summer holiday for a one-time thing
post #8 of 44
Bob - I think it's a great idea, but I also see a couple of potential problems.

1. I think that no matter how you market the service, you will attract a lot of walk-ins (spur of the moment decision makers) that will express an interest. Unfortunately, the mix of abilities and physical fitness (at altitude) will probably be very similar to what the ski school sees, or, in the summer, even worse, ie, lots of low level skiers and fewer high level skiers. Unless you have a low angle beginner summer snowfield right at the top of the lift (sort of like the Zugspitze has / used to have? ) you won't be able to match your customers to the terrain and wind up with a lot of disappointed people walking away - not a good thing to keep overall JH satisfaction high.

2. I suspect that at the other end of the spectrum, you will also see a lot of braggarts that will say that they can hike and ski anything. A low angle beginner snowfield located at the end of a 5 minute hike that includes a bit of exposure would allow you take a run with such folks to check them out.

3. Among your higher level potential customers, most will probably know a bit about the mountains and feel that they don't need a guide anywhere near as much in summer as they do in winter. This will likely cut into the number of people from this group that you might otherwise attract.


OTOH, where do I sign up?

Tom / PM
post #9 of 44
Zugspitze? PM, were you in the AFRC?
post #10 of 44
PM, if BP offers it as a reunion weekend for past winter clients only, would that traverse some of your objections?

Exclusivity sells.
post #11 of 44
Look at what Snowbird is now doing w/ their tram during the offseason: Skis are now allowed on the ride. Many of the folks around here see this as positive, as it saves you 2K vert of hiking before you even get to the snow. It allows you to yoyo many more times in a day than would be possible without the ride. I view this as an off season version of Silverton, where the lift is an enabling lift that allows you to get into the BC faster than before, not as a lift used to replace the ascents all day long.

One BIG question here, that nobody seems to have mentioned: Isn't JH retiring the thing next summer? What replaces it, and the route it takes, might put a huge crimp in any plans. A proposal like this, even to long time aquaintances/friends will have to eventually get the blessing of Executive management, where they will like to see a business plans detailing out the proposal. A BP without a viable transport option will never fly and it will get stuck until one can be inked into the plan.

Powdr
post #12 of 44
OK Bob, as a non-instructor, non-patroller member of this forum, who has never ventured out of bounds, I will give you my responses. Your questions were:

Does the prospect of hiking an hour at 10,000 feet with skis and boots on a pack sound like fun or torture?

Just an hour or so? I could most likely handle that. I know the elevation and terrain will make feel like an eternity, but yea I would do it.

Does skiing corn snow in shorts and a t-shirt in the Tetons in June seem like something you'd like to do?

Absolutely. As a backcountry newbie, I would much rather do it when it is nice, as opposed to frostbite conditions. So there is no powder, big deal. I would use this as a learning experience when venturing out of bounds.

Would you be willing to pay someone to show you how and where?

Now you hit on the big yes. I would be more than willing to pay for the know how. Will I learn things such as basic back country safety? How to assess the terrain for possible lines? Any tips on avvy awareness and demos on how to use the equipment?

150-250 a day? I'll take your first week. Let me know when.......................
post #13 of 44
As a somewhat similar thing, consider RMI (Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.). Your $150 price is pretty close to what they charge for their one day hikes, classes and the like (actually climbing Mt. Rainier costs considerably more). I don't think they do anything with skis, though.

Look at it as a variant of the hiking stuff that Jackson Hole (apparently, from the first post) already provides. It's sort of like a specialized hike with nifty extras.
post #14 of 44
A lot of people ski Tuckerman's Ravine in the east, so the interest in a long hike carrying skis and skiing is definitely there.

The price is the issue. I would think that someone would have to spend a significant amount of money to advertise the service nationally. The build a better moustetrap and people will beat a path to your door concept rarely works (unless you've got a really bad mouse problem

So if they'd be willing to put some money into advertising in the national Ski mags (for example) it could work. There are of course Guerilla Marketing methods that with good planning and execution could also do the job (viral marketing for example.) But it will require a concerted effort of some kind to find enough people to sign-up.
post #15 of 44
Sounds like something I would love.

The one problem I could see is how many people are tourists at JH in the summer? Enough to provide a steady base of clients? People in the winter make the trek out there just for the skiing, but I don't think anyone is going to make it in the summer solely for this, so your customer base has to be people who are already in the area for whatever reason and are looking for something to do beyond the normal summer activities. If there are enough people in the area already then I'd say this would certainly be attractive (I think most people out there at any time of the year might be the type who would like to ski).
post #16 of 44
Thread Starter 

You guys are great.

Wow. Thanks for the quick and varied response. I like many of your answers and certainly some of the potential issues you've raised.

Here's a little additional information:

* Summer visitors (tourists) outnumber winter visitors in the Jackson Hole valley by a factor of ten to one. We're one of the few destination ski resorts where winter traffic is literally dwarfed by summer traffic.

* PM - you're right about the difficulties of determining skiing ability and altitude capability. There is no good way to start someone out easily and work into the more strenuous stuff. There is pretty easy skiing to be had but *no* easy hiking.

* Equipment would be no problem. The ski corp owns one of the larger ski shops in Teton Village and I'm sure ski/boot rentals would be easy to arrange. (Plus, one of the owners of the resort is an avid backcountry skier and would be all over this idea if it could be done intelligently.)

* SMJ - Beyond adding a link or two to their website and adding a piece in their summer activity brochure, they simply wouldn't do any advertising at all. There are group travel organizations and local lodging providers that are constantly looking for more (and more exciting) activity options.

Powdr - You're right. Who knows what the future will bring? I have no answer for that one.

Ullr - Just come on out next June. I'll take you whether this thing flies or not. You do bring up a good point, however, and that's about avalanche awareness. One thing that's great about summer skiing here in the *lower* Tetons is that avalanches really aren't in the picture at all. Safe travel on snow and self-arrest capability are mildly important, but avalanches are just not a factor unless conditions are unseasonably strange. In a way, that's potentially a problem because some of the areas we might ski are most definitely avalanche-traps in the winter but very benign in the summer. I wouldn't want to leave a first-time backcountry skier with the false impression that you can go anywhere you want any time you want. That one might require a little thought.

Thanks for all the help, you guys. Please keep the suggestions coming.
post #17 of 44
Jackson Hole probably attracts as much or more tourists in summer than winter. There will be a market for this, especially if you are outfitting. A one day summer B/C excursion is more likely to be a impulsive decision, or something complimentary to a summer vacation, rather than the exclusive reason the client arrives at your door step. With that in mind, earlier comments about skills and fitness being variable need to be considered. As spring progresses, only the steeper northern exposures hold snow. The exposure skiing snowfields is a lot different from winter skiing. If you can't arrest, you end up on scree on a good day; boulders on a bad one. How long can you operate a safe B/C experience between the end of the regular season, and when unsafe conditions prevail on skiable slopes? What level of risk exposure is acceptable for guided summer skiing?

edit: we posted at the same time, and you answered a lot of this.
post #18 of 44
Thread Starter 
I should also mention that I'm not looking for something that would keep me at all busy. One trip a week would probably be as much as I would be capable of doing anyway.

I also think from the ski corp's perspective this would fall more in the category of something to offer in addition to other activites rather than something they would count on to bring in a lot of business. This would be along the lines of one more service available rather than a profit center anyone was counting on as a serious source of revenue.
post #19 of 44
Bob, I think it's viable, and could be sold to a clientele that's looking for "more, more, more" and unique experience.
post #20 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo
Zugspitze? PM, were you in the AFRC?
Unfortunately, no, nor did I know Rick from there. But I did spend a fair bit of time at the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik in Garching, in Heidelberg, and at a couple of other spots within striking distance of the Zugspitze.

Tom / PM
post #21 of 44
I would certainly do it if I had the money.
post #22 of 44
Bob,

Maybe you could find Sherpa type locals who would haul skis, boots, food and beer. I'm pretty sure I could get myself there.
post #23 of 44
Well... It sounds like you are trying to commercialize back country skiing.

How does avalanche safety play into this?

Here in the Northwest, we have a hardy group of year around skiers - the Turns All Year (TAY) crowd: http://www.turns-all-year.com/index.html
post #24 of 44
I like the idea, but equipment and marketing are a must.

We go through Jackson every year or 2 in the summer, but I don't think I am bringing my skis along on a summer vacation.

We love to hike, and if it were an option, we would do it.

How much is it worth? Not $250 per person. Maybe not $150 per person.

I can hike for free, and if the benefit is the guide and gear, it would be worth $75-100 per person, but over that and I am hiking, kayaking, or setting up the ropes for the day.

Great Idea, I hope you do it.

Make sure they market it so we can get it in the budget.
post #25 of 44
I can only think of a couple things that I believe are important:

Who will insure you? If you'll fall under the resort's policy, cool.

Gear - how many people will plan to do this as opposed to those that show up wishing they had brought their gear? Skis, boots, poles, crampons, axes, packs, gloves, jackets, pants......

Certs ? Guide cert, medical cert,....
I know Exum is there, maybe utilize them and throw yourself into the equation.

Advertising?

just thoughts....
post #26 of 44
i would do it if i was planning a trip there in summer! Definately! That is gonna take some marketing skill to get the word out. Maybe even draw a few more tourists in the off months!
post #27 of 44

Off Months???

Quote:
Originally Posted by huckingfellers
i would do it if i was planning a trip there in summer! Definately! That is gonna take some marketing skill to get the word out. Maybe even draw a few more tourists in the off months!
In Jackson (anywhere close to the Tetons/Yellowstone) Winter is the off months.
post #28 of 44
I'm 55 yrs old and have been skiing for about 8 yrs. I like the steeper terrain at Alta, Steamboat, etc but have never ventured into the back country.
I would not make a special trip to JH to ski in the summer but if I were there, I might give it a try - not alone but maybe if my son or a friend also wanted to go. I might consider $150 but if I took my son, $250 each gets expensive in a hurry.
With all of the visitors in JH in the summer, you certainly have enough customer base to work with. I think that the biggest hurdle is the cost. If you could get it down below $100, I think that people would come.
Thanks
post #29 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by garyskr
I'm 55 yrs old and have been skiing for about 8 yrs. I like the steeper terrain at Alta, Steamboat, etc but have never ventured into the back country.
I would not make a special trip to JH to ski in the summer but if I were there, I might give it a try - not alone but maybe if my son or a friend also wanted to go. I might consider $150 but if I took my son, $250 each gets expensive in a hurry.
With all of the visitors in JH in the summer, you certainly have enough customer base to work with. I think that the biggest hurdle is the cost. If you could get it down below $100, I think that people would come.
Thanks
garyskr and others:

I probably wasn't very clear with the way I listed the pricing. During the winter, the cost for a guided party is about $460 per day. That's for a party of from one to five guided skiers, and is the cost for the party, not per person.

This summer thing would be along the same lines. The charge, say $200 or whatever, could be split by as many as three or four skiers.

We've had some more conversation about this little idea and it probably isn't going anywhere. The problem of how to evacuate someone who might get hurt is a fairly tough one. You can't use toboggans and gravity during the summer, so you would have to be able to get the victim back uphill to the top of the tram. That would involve rescuers and that's a pretty complicated proposition.

Also, it's been brought to my attention that Grand Teton National Park considers the ridgeline between the tram and Cody Peak to be bighorn sheep range. This is the same general area where I do the majority of my summer skiing. Now, I've hiked and skied that exact same area during the summer for years and years and have never seen a bighorn, but it sounds like getting a permit from the Park would require an act of Congress. Much of the better, easier summer skiing is inside Teton Park, so this whole idea may die before it goes anywhere at all.

We'll still talk about it, however.

Thanks again for all your comments. It sounds like there might be quite a few people with an interest in this kind of activity.
post #30 of 44
Bob, lots of good advice above. Just to add a few more.. The probability of getting hurt today for folks like yourself that hike up 4,000 feet is significantly lower than this new group that get to ride the TRAM up 4,000 feet. You have 10x more people that potentially want to do this new summer B/C and you have a 100x higher probability that they will get injured compared to the crowd that hikes up the 4,000 feet today. Your going to have to have the personnel ready to haul these folks out for injuries and medical emergencies like high altitude sickness and heart attacks.

Great idea. I got an extra $150. and this might be the main reason I go out to spend a week fly fishing in Wyoming. In fact maybe you want to market this as an extra service to existing JH summer packages like fly fishing.
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