I posted much of this in an earlier thread, but since I'm new to skiing, the topic is dear to my heart. I apologize if this is redundant.
My wife and I started skiing last year -- just before my 49th birthday. I was VERY reluctant! She had skied a tiny bit back in her college days and after moving to New England she thought it would be fun (BTW, she's much more fun than I could ever hope to be, but I guess that's for another thread.) I felt I was too old to try to undertake such a high risk sport, thought I'd have a tough time doing it... FWIW, those who don't ski perceive it to be a very dangerous activity -- I had multiple colleagues basically say they didn't think I should go. That's a real public perception problem with respect to attracting adult skiers. Also, as a teen and early 20s something, I would've loved the opportunity to try skiing.
She searched the web for lesson packages. We settled on Gunstock (Southern NH) because they offered a package of 3-days of 2-hour lessons, lift tickets, and rentals for $109. We found this really neat condo that was being rented on a nightly basis with a great view for about $80 and off we went.
Though apprehensive, I'd decided I'd give this my best shot, laugh at myself when I fell and knew I looked like a complete idiot, and have fun. Only part of the first day I thought was real fun was having a beer in the bar after finishing and having a terrific dinner in this great restaurant we found. Oh yea, the 81 year old guy we started chatting with while having lunch, as he was leaving he explained that skiing was a great aphrodesiac (SP?) -- really a hoot.
Getting boots was not fun! Basically young kids handing boots across the counter. I of course had put too many layers on and was very hot by the time I found a pair that seemed to fit. Then up the stairs (stairs were really fun the first day in boots) carrying skis, poles out to mee the instructor. That first day, everything seems so very foreign. The boots, your skis, the lifts, everything is your enemy. I thought the instructor did a fine job. One member of our class who was certainly doing as well as me, basically started crying after about 45 minutes and quit -- just felt like she'd never be able to do this. We "skied" the rest of the day though I can remember moments of terror when my body would hardly even move. Left to my own devices, I'd have never gone back for a 2nd day.
Next day, dealing with boots, skis, steps, etc. was still a pain in the butt, but was becoming more familiar. We had plotted that if we started the lessons on Sunday, then Monday there wouldn't be many in our class -- we were the only 2. After day 1 I was just sort of throwing my entire body around, the instructor really really helped me, actually got a real sense of what skiing was like and generally had fun. We were going to do the 3rd day of lessons on Tuesday, but both of us were somewhat sore and it was cold, cold, cold, so we headed home instead.
Certainly folks learn at different rates, but I think a lot of folks end up very frustrated after their first day. I think setting realistic expectations for the first day, facilitating things like boot rental, and making other things about the process fun will encourage people to come back for the 2nd and 3rd day. And by the end of the 3rd day, I was getting pretty hooked. Having areas where never evers can go and make a fool of themselves away from the experienced skiing public is good both for folks psychi, but also for safety. We ended up going to Sunapee a couple of times and basically staying on the "novice area" where they have a few green trails of progressive pitch, we could work on technique without either getting in the way of better skiers or getting into terrain that was too difficult.
We did go back to Gunstock for our 3rd lesson. Ran into our first day teacher who seemed both pleased and surprised to see us. We took a couple more lessons and by the end of the year we were comfortable on most blue trails (though we were probably skiing at places that have rather easy blue trails). Bottom line is we had a ball and hope to ski as much as weather and work allow this year. But I can easily see why people never return after their first day!
If ski areas want to expand to the skiing population, there are two separate issues: The first is attracting and increasingly older population to give it a try in the first place (I'm quite sure that my wife's experience years ago was the only thing that got us out at all) and secondly to retain those who actually give it a go. I think the article hits on a lot of good points. I think money is an issue, but I think there are much bigger barriers.