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Skier Retention

post #1 of 78
Thread Starter 
There is an interesting article in Todays Summit County Colorado Paper. Some things ring true, others well...

What are your thoughts?

article here
post #2 of 78
It is sad how many obvious first timers I have seen out there and known with little more than a glance that they will not be coming back. Usually has something to do with their buddy (or boyfriend) convincing them that its easy and they can teach them what they need to know. Encourage first time lessons. Cheap. Even give away a couple of hours. I liked the idea of sending instructors out there looking for the obvious first timers and giving them some help. Some of the other stuff made sense, also.

Anecdote. A typical example turns out to be a friend of mine. She went on one of the usual load a church bus up and head to NC trips. Her friend convinces her that he can teach her. She gets her skis on and up the lift they go. Doesn't bother to tell how to get off nor do they stop at the midstation. All the way up. They get to the off ramp. She stands but she cannot turn so down the ramp, across the cat track, and into some briars. He gets her out of that. Now they head downhill. Down a black slope. She still cannot turn, tries, and falls over. She slides all the way down the slope on her behind until she hits a snowmaking hydrant. She takes her skis off, walks into the lodge, and has no idea why anyone would consider that fun.
post #3 of 78
: Was this Sugar Mountain? I can't imagine being insane enough to take a first timer to the top of that mountain! If it was, they had their choice of Tom Teriffic and Boulderdash. I went down Tom Teriffic once and never again. It's nothing but a 20 foot wide strip of boilerplate bordered by brairs and scrub. Somebody in the same situation got killed at Beech Mountain last year. I really wish that there would be tighter control on this kind of thing, as I've seen more than a few similar situations. My home MTN ski patrol hauls about 3 newbies a Saturday off the mountain because their friends "taught" them how to ski. Either that, or they take one lesson, and jump into terrain that is impossibly over their abilities. Ok rant finished.
post #4 of 78
Bingo. I've been there one day and I didn't bother attempting either one.
post #5 of 78
Kima, you beat me to the punch-guess I shouldn't have gone over to Loveland to make my first turns of the season this morning. But thats a topic for another post.

What are the Bears thoughts? How can a first time experience be improved to help us retain new skiers? Is the article accurate or is there some sterotyping?

At any rate here are a few excerpts from the article:

"Eighty-five out of 100 first-time skiers do not return after their first or second day on the slopes, said Michael Berry, the president of the National Ski Areas Association.

The 15 percent skier-return rate translates into hundreds of millions in missed revenue opportunities, especially as the baby boomer market ages.

Berry said the future of the ski industry is at stake in how well the resorts and related rental shops change the beginner experience for the better.”

“The past several years the National Ski Areas Association has interviewed first-time skiers to find out exactly why beginners don't come back.

After all, it is easy to spot the first timers, especially for those who have been skiing for years.

Beginners cross their skis, flail their arms and contort themselves until they fall awkwardly on their poles.

They move slower than molasses that's going uphill in the winter, both on the slopes and off the slopes. They fall on the chairlift off-ramps. By lunchtime, their feet hurt because no one told them not to wear three pairs of socks, and their boots weren't fitted properly. If they're women, they get scammed on and if they're kids, they're ignored. The expensive resort hamburger seals the deal. They're not coming back.”

But the remaining 85 percent of beginning skiers and boarders of all ages say they need more personal attention, Berry said.

The need someone to make sure their boots fit, and tell them not to wear three pairs of socks. They want an instructor who can explain how to stop and how to turn - exactly the way they will understand.

Instructors could check beginners' equipment. If they buy a hat, it better be warm.”

” "It's nice to see we're doing things the right way," said Sam Brede, a manager at Carvers Ski, Board and Sports in Breckenridge, who listened to Berry's ideas.

"If it takes 45 minutes to do one boot fit, we'll do it for that person who takes a little longer. It's our job to educate the first-time skier whose cousin told him to use 210 centimeter skis."

Money is not among the top five factors deterring beginners, Berry said.

Beginners see themselves as doing something courageous and life changing. They want some acknowledgement and encouragement for trying, because then they'll come back.

"It's about making sure they have the most fun possible because then they'll come back," Brede said.”

“Fours steps to converting beginners to return visitors

It's easy to spot "em. Here's how to convert beginners into return visitors.

Pre-arrival education:

Encourage lessons. Set realistic expectations. Provide basic training exercises online or when trips are booked.

The rental shop:

Take the time to fit boots, skis. Personal attention for beginners. Treat women well, they decide vacation spots much of the time. Give beginners good equipment because it's worth the investment.

On the mountain experience:

Seek out beginners on the slope who obviously did not sign up for a lesson. Seven is the ideal number of skiers in a lesson. The most important time for the beginner is the end of the lesson, so instructors should stick around.


Remember: Beginners are converted into return visitors after multiple visits. Thank customers every step of the way for their participation and involvement. Remind them to return with their friends because some people are taking vacations together more often.”

One area IMHO, that they fail to mention is how some areas destroy beginner terrain for more condo's, roads to new real estate developments etc, etc.
post #6 of 78
Thread Starter 
Ski&Golf I had nothing better to do, hope you had fun!

Couple of things came to mind when I read this.

Money is not among the top five factors deterring beginners, Berry said.

That is what I hear from my non-skiing friends. It is not the $$ it is the hassle factor.

Take the time to fit boots, skis. Personal attention for beginners. Give beginners good equipment because it's worth the investment.

Last year when I took my family to the rental shop at Keystone they did not want to take the time to find proper boots to fit my sister, they tried to get her to take a kids boot. I insisted they take more time ot fit her.

Treat women well, they decide vacation spots much of the time.

True True True!

Seven is the ideal number of skiers in a lesson

Really? This seems to high a number to me.

[ November 03, 2003, 02:54 PM: Message edited by: Kima ]
post #7 of 78
Two things right away, "Seven is the ideal # in a group lesson"?

For who, the resort? Trying to learn something in a group of 7 is really not kosher in my book. I think 5 is great, 3 is better.

Only 15% of first timers return? Wow, this is amazing. I'm of 2 minds on this, first one says "how do people not love it and want to get better, etc.?" Second one says, Thank God! Imagine what lift lines would look like of there was a 40% return rate?

Interesting stuff.
post #8 of 78
I'd say 15% is a helluvalot. You can be a total klutz at golf and tennis, never take a lesson, and still enjoy it alot. Skiing and sports where there is a significant ouch factor (water skiing, skating, fast-pitch baseball) aren't for everyone. Either you are a "natural" or you practice/take lessons to get it right.
post #9 of 78
"Money is not among the top five factors deterring beginners, Berry said."

What a crock!!!

If it were free people would return to see if there might be a better day in store for them. After all, it's the lure of the high altitude environment that draws them in the first place.

Now, if you look at it from the first timer's standpoint, a bad experience on a ski slope makes them wonder if their $2500 ski trip was worth as much as a cruise or tropical trip of the same cost. If it were not in the same cost range, a lot of decisions would swing toward skiing.

I think the proper way to state it would be to not look for a relationship to money, but value. For a first timer, it is hard to develop the kind of value other options present.

OBVIOUS SOLUTION : Find a way to bring down the entry fee to the sport for first timers!(And make it enjoyable!)

post #10 of 78
Sugar ROCKS! But no beginner should go near the upper mountain!

My Visit to Sugar

[ October 30, 2003, 01:47 PM: Message edited by: West Virginia Skier ]
post #11 of 78
At my home mountain, when a beginner purchases a beginner lift ticket (Discover Skiing Ticket), it is the same price as a regular ticket, but has a free lesson bundled in with it, and restricts them to the beginner lifts. In this way it encourages first timers to have a lesson and learn the basics before their mates kill them by taking them straight down a blue or black run.

Hopefully by learning properly this will encourage people to come back again. I think the biggest issue however is that most of these people head up on an organised day trip, and if the weather is not a bellbird blue day then this also detracts from their first time experience and they believe that skiing is all about skiing in blizzard conditions.
post #12 of 78
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.
post #13 of 78
Just set the DIN higher.
post #14 of 78
How aw about making never-ever lessons a mandatory private lesson?
post #15 of 78

It was a fun morning. SWEET to be back on skis.

I think one word you said really keys a lot of the issue in my mind-"hassle".

I've been looking at a lot of things in our industry from a "Moment of Truth" perspective. A MOT is simply defined as any time a guest or customer can judge you product or service. It can be as simple as having no signage telling people how to get to the rental shop or ski school desk or maybe an interminable process of buying that lesson ticket because the area wants too much information for their database. Why should buying a lesson ticket take more than 1 minutes-at worst. Maybe it is just being able to find a table to eat that over priced hamburger.

Quite candidly many ski areas consistently fail those Moments of Truth. Why-to use a term I used for years in my prior life-they have an internal focus, looking at their processes and needs first-they talk about the guest and the experience-rather than a true external focus on the guest and fulfilling their needs, wants and desires. Do you walk the talk, or talk then walk.

The next time you go skiing take a moment to look at your experience through a MOT perspective. You may be suprised with the results.
post #16 of 78
Ski areas should have a facility, much like the childrens ski school, dedicated to the needs of beginners. It should be run as a cost, not a profit center. A dedicated facility, conveniently located, could take a lot of the hassle out of the process. One check in, one set of paper work, and beginner rental equipment in the same area. Extra staff could be available to answer questions and offer assistance. Little details that become big problems could be handled right away -- like telling the beginner to take the extra socks off, and don't tuck in the pants! etc. etc. If the facility is not close to the beginner area, skiers could be shuttled over, so that they are not exhuasted before the lesson even begins. Just like the kids programs, I'd like to see half, or full day lessons. 60-90 minutes aren't long enough. However, since the new skier may tire easily, a relaxing break, or lunch, back at the beginner facility should be included. Since ski areas are competing with cruise lines and spas, we need to pamper our guests if we want them to return. Dedicated atheletes won't be deterred by the obstacles that confront new skiers, but the population we are trying to reach is easily discouraged, as NewSkier aptly describes. NewSkier--keep with it. You chose a good area for your first ski experience. If you live in greater Boston or S NewHampshire, several ski areas in the vicinity offer excellent night/week-end seasonal programs which meet weekly and offer good value. You will improve rapidly by working regularly with the same instructor and group.
post #17 of 78
There really is not much resorts can do to dramatically improve on the 15% retention rate. The nature of the sport itself is what drives most people away.

Now, if you look at it from the first timer's standpoint, a bad experience on a ski slope makes them wonder if their $2500 ski trip was worth as much as a cruise or tropical trip of the same cost. If
Exactly. People view a vacation is a time to relax. They get away from the stress of work and enjoy a little time off. For most people choosing between sipping margaritas and sitting in the sun versus freezing your ass off, falling down a lot, and coming home bruised is an easy decision. The problem with skiing is the learning curve. It takes too long for many people to get good enough to enjoy it. The monetary and time investments needed are too high.

An interesting poll would be to see when people learned to ski - I would be surprised if a lot of people took up the sport later in life.
post #18 of 78
The problem with skiing goes well beyond the problem of teaching “never evers” how to ski. This industry is facing profound demographic changes that in my opinion will probably cause many resorts in North America to close over the course of the next 20 years.

Baby boomers are retiring and getting out of the sport, and there are not enough new skiers to replace them.

The growing Hispanic population in North America does not seem interested in this sport.

On the East Coast, we are seeing a significant population migration from the NE to the SE .

Hal Clifford addresses these issues in Downhill Slide. I don’t know what the solution will be short of more consolidation—especially in the NE. Resorts with lots of condos and 2d homes will probably survive b/c homeowners may ultimately have to band together at these places and run their hills as coops similar to Mad River Glenn. Also, there seems to be a niche market for commuter hills: Crotched, Wachusetts, Whitetail, Blue Mountain, Hunter. Those places will sell enough night tickets and other services to survive.

My concern is for places like Timberline, WV, where I own a condo: mid-sized resorts with some housing, older lifts, and very little new terrain to develop (either for homes or ski trails). How will these resorts survive? Like Gunstock in NH (one of the places btw that I learned to ski), Timberline is a great learning area. We have a two mile long green trail that is very benign and a decent staff of instructors. The climate is less cold here in the Mid-Atlantic and that also makes things somewhat easier for beginners. But again, Timberline can not survive on teaching never evers how to ski. We need high speed detachables and corporate marketing.

[ October 31, 2003, 06:52 AM: Message edited by: West Virginia Skier ]
post #19 of 78
Just a thought or two on subject...
Newskier and I have simular beginings in skiing...started because our WIVES descided we were going on vacation in the mountains..at forty years I was a never-ever but my wife had about 20 years experience...Resorts should give very special attention to the ladys. If mama don't want...we don't go..
Even with taking lessons the first two days, I was looking for alternate activities to do for the rest of the week. Needless to say, I took a beating. The only reason i didn't quit was the fact that if my wife could do it, so could I. Beginners should never be allowed on lifts without taking lessons, for their enjoyment and safety and ours.
I believe resorts need to look outside of mountain states to promote skiing. Living in the south, we use to see great packages offered in Sunday newspapers in major cities such New Orleans, Houston, Jackson,etc. We don't see these promos as often.
I feel that most people today want someone or something else to entertain them. Few people seem to be able to entertain themselves with outside activities, in particular when it comes to athletic sports...we have gotten lazy...
Resorts need to become more intuned to their ski classes and instructors, with more imput from these instructors on how classes should be given and structured...If beginners have a pleasant experience the first time out they will return, maybe not every year but often enough to keep this great sport alive..
post #20 of 78
I think the idea of instructors giving free lessons to the obvious newbies found flailing around the hill is an excellent one.

Most resorts/hills don't want instructors wearing their ski school jackets when not teaching. I personally think this is a bad idea. If we wore them while free skiing and took a few minutes to randomly give a pointer or two to the obvious beginners, even advancing beginners would it not promote ski school and lessons?

A majority of those who try this once or twice and quit are the same people. You've all seen them out there; their friend/father/boyfriend/cousin in jeans and a NFL Starter coat with 200 cm Olin Mark IV's telling them "you don't need lessons, I'll save you $30 and teach you everything you need to know". Scary stuff because most times this guy can barely wedge safely down a blue run himself.

Giving free pointers or mini lessons on the hill, IMO would not only promote the thought that "hey, lessons really will help me". It would also help build our own personal private lesson stash. I think it's a win-win for instructors, ski schools the potential new skier and the resort owners. Go out there and show them for free a little taste of what lessons can do for them.

[ October 31, 2003, 10:34 AM: Message edited by: Taylormatt ]
post #21 of 78
Thread Starter 
Quite candidly many ski areas consistently fail those Moments of Truth. Yes they do Ski&Golf.

Many posters have said that lessons would improve the experience for never-evers. Perhaps if you make it though the "hassle" of them. Have you ever taken a lesson at a major resort? Had to get the kids in a lesson before you went off to yours? In most cases they are not located in the same building, in some they are at totally different areas of the resort. Then the long lines, plus the chaos at the children’s school. You have to be wondering if this was a good idea at all. Add to that, it is usually Mom who has to deal with getting the kiddos dressed and at the school on time. (Dads if you want your wife to enjoy skiing you might think about taking this task on) Then at the end of the day, the confusion on where your kids are. At Keystone they have several different learning areas. We had our nephews in lessons for 3 days and never got to see then skiing. Each time we were told that they were at a different location. Frustrating for us and scary for my sister-in-law.
post #22 of 78
The 15 percent who do return to the slopes are the tough cookies.

"We could beat them with sticks, in fact sometimes we do, and that 15 percent still come back," Berry said.

That is the way it should be.
post #23 of 78
Originally posted by funkybob:
The 15 percent who do return to the slopes are the tough cookies.

"We could beat them with sticks, in fact sometimes we do, and that 15 percent still come back," Berry said.

That is the way it should be.
Bullshit! If the ski industry is interested in perserving its future, this percentage should represent a dismal record in their eyes. Low level skiing is not that difficult and many people are satisfied to simply ski the green slopes all day long, day in and day out. This retention rate is due to the resorts providing a poor experience as the result of poor service and organization. If people enjoy themselves they return, if they don't enjoy themselves they don't. Simple as that.

While I'm on this subject, are there any resorts that have figured out the ski/boot rental situation? One hour long wait with my kids to get poorly tuned skis and soaking wet boots that didn't fit was enough for me. They had their own equipment before the next trip. I have got to believe that some resort does a good job in this area. I just haven't heard of one first hand. In my area they are all awful.
post #24 of 78
I went to a PSIA event at Mt. Snow this fall. The name of the seminar was At Your Service. Part of the day was a tour of their state of the art discovery center. This area is totally designed for never evers. First time skiers are hand held right from the start. I believe it is a four hour lesson. The new skiers are able to view a video inside to see what they will doing. An istructor guides them every step of the way,from boot fitting to their first turns. Midway through the lesson they can take a break in a private section where warm beverages are offered.
Sounds like a great system and I would love to see it in action!
I would imagine that it takes some of the stress of the new skiers. The only down side I can see is maybe some people may not want to spend so much time inside. Getting on the snow is the fun part!!

post #25 of 78

We used to have an area like that. It was an excellent set up. The seperate lodge and "bowl" with 2 rope tows was for beginners only, moslty the never evers. Best of all, it was totally segregated from the main hill so nobody was concerned with fast out of control skiers buzzing into this area. It was totally safe.

We as instructors greeted them in the lodge, helped them get their rental equipment, checking boots for fit, getting rid of the 2 extra pairs of socks, etc. We then took them outside where we helped them get the skis on, educated them on proper ways to put the equipment on, etc. Then we had 6 stations for teaching. The students could advnace to the next station at their own pace. They had all day and could take breaks whenever they wanted to go in and warm by the fire with coffee/hot chocolate and snacks. Once the 6 stations were cleared they could ski freely in the bowl or purchase a discounted lift ticket to green terrain on the main mountain with an instructor by their side to keep teaching them. All this was very affordable and very popular.

Sadly, it is no longer. It was taken out years ago and replaced with a snow tubing park because it is less labor intensive and probably makes a lot more money.
post #26 of 78
Originally posted by feal:
Now, if you look at it from the first timer's standpoint, a bad experience on a ski slope makes them wonder if their $2500 ski trip was worth as much as a cruise or tropical trip of the same cost. If it were not in the same cost range, a lot of decisions would swing toward skiing.

Tell me, what kind of idiot would drop $2500 on a ski vacation as a first timer?

I've got a bridge I'd like to sell him :
post #27 of 78
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Xdog:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />

Tell me, what kind of idiot would drop $2500 on a ski vacation as a first timer?

I've got a bridge I'd like to sell him : [/QB]</font>[/quote]Not that hard at all. Family of 4, air, hotel, rentals. Pretty damn easy.
post #28 of 78
Family of 4? $2500 would be getting off easy. I have a hard time keeping it under $2k for 2 adults and no kids...and I'm in the travel biz!
post #29 of 78
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by Taylormatt:
Family of 4? $2500 would be getting off easy. I have a hard time keeping it under $2k for 2 adults and no kids...and I'm in the travel biz!
My family is very frugal
post #30 of 78
Originally posted by Kima:
</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Taylormatt:
Family of 4? $2500 would be getting off easy. I have a hard time keeping it under $2k for 2 adults and no kids...and I'm in the travel biz!
My family is very frugal </font>[/quote]OK, let's lay this out as cheap as possible:

Summit County is well known for being a value in skiing.

Cheap r/t tickets Pittsburgh to Denver: $250 (x2 $500)


Cheapest rental 4wd available for a week $350


What's an average 5-6 day ticket...$300~ish? (x2=$600)


Bare bones budget accomodations in Dillon/Frisco...Days Inn $60/night (x7=$420)


And I haven't even purchased a single beverage or morsel of food yet. Not to mention Apres Ski, a demo or two on powder days, other excursions, etc.
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