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Marketing ski instruction

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
This is in response to several different threads, ranging from letting ski instructors free ski to finding the perfect ski to one general comment made in some thread that I can’t find anymore. Most of this I’ve said before as well, so for those of you that have already heard this, forgive me for repeating myself.

Someone in another thread lamented that the general skiing population does not adapt and make use of the technology and techniques of the professional racing set. Their point being that this sets skiing apart from other sports where the professional athletes are studied, admired, and emulated (and in some cases of certain sports figures, this is a bad thing). Why is this true for skiing? Because in few, if any, other sports does the activity of the professional have so little to do with the recreational practitioners of that sport. Few, in any, other sports are, in their essence, as non-competitive as skiing too. Almost all other sports involve some kind of game or competition while skiing, as practiced by the general public, is purely a ‘leisure’ activity.

The original poster mentioned above made the comparison to the articles every month in Golf Digest breaking down the swings of famous PGA players, noting that there were things in Tiger Woods’ swing that all of us hackers could use and should try to adapt to our swings. How true. But it’s only true because we have the same goal as Tiger, which is to shot the lowest score we can. The essence of the game is to put the ball in the hole in fewest strokes possible. The essence of the professional skier is to follow a prescribed route down the mountain in the shortest time possible. Which has little or no meaning to the recreational skier. I think we do a great disservice to skiing as a sport and as an industry when we point to a Rahlves, or Street, or Moe, or Moseley and tell the general skiing public: ‘See, you need to ski like that!”

Having said that, let me clarify that the disservice is not a knock against these world-class skiers. The knock here is against the ‘ski industry’ that markets this as the penultimate in skiing perfection. And then doesn’t succeed in bringing this back to the amateur with the understanding that you don’t need to bash gates or hit 60mph on your skis to be a good skier, BUT there are some things that they do that will help you become a better skier.

SCSA asked about having SS instructors out ‘ripping’ up the hills as a plug to get more people into lessons which was quickly followed by other posters talking about cornice jumps & hot mogul runs. Again, look at what the ‘industry’ is putting out today. Flip through the pages of Ski or Skiing. Everything is getting pushed to the extreme. The ad’s and pictures all show people blasting off drift ridges, dropping down steeps, etc. When as the last time you saw an Atomic ad that showed a middle-aged adult snowplowing down a green run? Well, alright, that won’t sell any more skis either. But step back from being the dedicated hard-core skiers that all of us here at Epic are. If you are an ‘average’ skier, you’ll get in only 10 days of skiing this season. If you own your own equipment, chances are quite good that your boots are over 5 years old, as are your skis (especially if you ski in the Midwest or East). You are out on the slopes to have a little fun, enjoy the fresh air, maybe spend some time with the family. You could care less about cornice jumping or ripping a line through the mogul field. It isn’t worth it to you to spend the extra $$ AND time on lessons. You are happy with the way you ski and where you ski. Why change? Well, the message here has to be that taking lessons can make your skiing more enjoyable. ‘We can increase the fun factor’. Or, as my Mom used to say “You paid for the whole mountain, so use it.” (Usually said to convince my brother and me that it was time to stop skiing the same run over and over again and try something different.)

The fault here isn't in teaching methodologys or systems. It's in the Resort's/Industry's handling of ski schools. Skiing instruction has little or nothing to do, per se, with the decline or flat growth in skiing. Skiing instruction could have a impact on turning that trend around.

Well, spent too long on this already. Gotta get back to work. Just my .02 Take it for what it’s worth. End of sorta rant.
post #2 of 21
Here's an interesting editorial that speaks to your points, Tag (and they are good ones!):
post #3 of 21

Nice job.

I've been thinking about this one. What I've come to find out is this. There's two groups of skiers. The recreational type who ski 8 to 10 times a year and the blue/black type who're convinced of their skills. When someone asks them they say, "Oh yeah. I'm an expert".

So let's start with the largest group of skiers - the ones who ski a few times a year while on vacation and the ones that show up a few times a year just to be social.

So, selling lessons to this group is a challenge. I think if it's to be done successfully, a whole new pitch is needed as you point out - dump the extreme angle. The pitch needs to go something like this. "Sure. You only ski a few days a year. But wouldn't you like to enjoy those few days more"?

Now let's look at the other group, the blue/black types. We see 'em all day and we know what they do wrong - no need to go into that here. So what's the pitch to this group?

Well, blue/black skiers, I think, are likely to take a lesson, but the key is, you have to show them why. They're not going to sign-up for a lesson on their own -after all, they're experts.

Like one guy I skied with. He was convinced his skills were great - but the guy needed some lessons bad. He had all the wrong moves, but with some tweaking here and there, he'd be on his way.

So what to do? Well, I think it's tough to get this type of skier to take a lesson, because they're so sure of their skills, like I said. So I think you really have to show them why they need lessons.

So target a message to this type of skier, something like this. "Come out and take a few runs with our best instructors, for free". This relates to the idea of skiing under the chair.

Now you've got a captive audience. You take the skiers out with great instructors and the instructors lay it down. I'm willing to bet that after the first run, the skiers are going to be like, "Wow! You're great! How do you do that"?

So you've now crossed the biggest hurdle in in sales - getting a captive audience. The skiers skied with the instructors and the instructors have now given the skiers a reason for lessons. "Be like Mike" really does work. Or in this case, "Be like ski instructor".

Okay, but what are you going to sell?

I think this type of skier needs a package, not a one day lesson. One day of lessons won't cure these skiers ills. They need 3 or 4 days of lessons.

So this is all fine and dandy providing the skiers are being taught the primary movements of skiing, not just some instructors idea of how they should ski. And, assuming that the instructors can actually backup what they say. I don't care what anyone says here. A skier has to be able to watch ski instructors to see how they do it. But if the instructors can't perform...

Now, this bleads into another topic, but I'm starting to see more and more Level 3 instructors, who quite frankly, are terrible skiers. I can't even believe someone passed them - well I can, given the sorry state of ski instruction.

So in a nutshell.
To market ski instruction, you need targeted messages to identified skier types. Then, you must deliver a high quality product so to generate positive-word-of-mouth marketing.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 19, 2002 10:10 AM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #4 of 21
You want to sell more lessons, you need to demo more. You need to show people where lessons can take them. You need to ski under the liftline and swivel some heads. Forget about jumping off cornices, forget about doing backflips. Just show powerful, elegant everyday skiing.

I took a lesson the other day. Why? Because I was jealous. I watched some guys go through a steep mogul field with finesse and fluidity. I admired their style and technique. I felt I could and should be able to do the same. I tried and failed. Repeat 10x. The way I skied bumps was not as good. There was a better way. It looked better. Next stop, a bump lesson. Now, I have a fire in my belly, a goal. I'm studying videos, reading skiing books, asking questions, and considering private lessons. All of this because I saw something I wanted to be able to do.
post #5 of 21
"Just show powerful, elegant every day skiing". YES!! Thank you!

And thank goodness ASC has finally gotten rid of that darn Johnny Mosley video that they show in the first lesson!
post #6 of 21
Yep - glad that video is gone too. Have you seen the new one? I don't imagine you've been sitting in too many Intro to Skiing clinics so I guess not! Its actually quite a cool video. The new snowboarding one has a lot of the silliness that was in the skiing one, but then . . . who cares?
post #7 of 21
Tag This is a great topic and once more I find myself in agreement with SCSA.I think That The ski Schools across the country need to look at the Schools that have sucessful programs and see what they do right.How I would measure success is by numbers of skiers in lessions and the number of skiers that return to that school for more lessions.If you have people comeing back year after year to the same clinic you must be doing something right.Toas ski school comes to mind as a successful program.
From what I gather most Resorts see ski schools as something they reluctantly have to offer.If done right a ski school could become a vary big drew for a resort.The program that Aspen is doing for beginners will pay off big for them in a few years.Schools could learn from what Harlod and Lito do.Both market themselves vary well. Make some tapes and books.Books and Tapes work vary well as marketing tools.In a way skiing does have a score card and to me that score card is How much of the mountain can you really ski? Like Tag's Mom said You paid to use the whole Mountain so Use it!
post #8 of 21
You want to market to the blue/black know-it-all? Take videos of them skiing, show them in the bar with videos of a good instructor skiing the same terrain interspersed. You see the hack, you see the better hack. In a ski school coat.
post #9 of 21
"Just show powerful, elegant skiing".

That's so on!

Even though I eluded to jumping off cornices and such, that's not what great skiing is and that's not how to sell more lessons.

Great skiing, as we all (well, some) know, is about being smooth, powerful, elegant, graceful, ya da ya da.

Show skiers that the key is proper technique.
1) You'll ski longer
2) You'll ski the whole mountain, not just some of it
3) You'll save energy
4) You'll look great (sorry, it still counts and always will count)

Show skiers the difference between what they think is good technique and what really is good technique.

But how is this all going to happen if we can't even get instructors to agree on some basics, like stance width? It won't!

I still pick up ski rags and read completely different opinions on technique -not good. Some ski instructors here argue with me all the time and we have completely different ideas about skiing. How can that be good? I don't think it is.

I get the feeling that most skiers, when time to make a turn, are frightened.

Remember the show, "Let's Make a Deal"? You know, choose between door #1, door #2, or door #3. I have this picture in my mind of a skier going to make a turn - but there's a 1000 doors to choose from! OMG!

I think some standardization would go a long way. I'm not saying we all need to ski like Harb, or Lito, or Barnes. But I just think it's time that the ski industry adopted a base concept of primary movments.

I think, ski instructors have way too much freedom to teach as they please and it adds up to confused customers. And, it just seems that too many instructors have too many diverging ideas - that the ski instruction product is way too fragmented.

I don't think we're far away from ski schools and ski instructors making real money. The industry should just borrow a little from here and some more from there.

Okay, I softened it up a bit. I'm came across as saying "I'm right and everyone else is wrong" which is not what I wanted to do.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 19, 2002 06:06 PM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #10 of 21
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Lisamarie:
"Just show powerful, elegant every day skiing". YES!! Thank you!

And thank goodness ASC has finally gotten rid of that darn Johnny Mosley video that they show in the first lesson!


I guess I am in the minority who would like to see instructors ski casually in the expert terrain (whatever that may be). Like SCSA said there are different goups that require different marketing approaches.
post #11 of 21
It be great if more folks aspired to ski like Harb (and others). And of course there are lots of folks who DO ski as well as Harb (and there is not just *one* path to get there).

Of course, on that subject, Harb was a beautiful skier long before he even came up with PMTS, when he was a member of the *gasp* PSIA D-Team. And the other D-Team members were, and are, just as fine of skiers as well. So there are many routes to excellence.

I think the ideas put forth here are excellent. Unfortunately, a lot more than just those things need to change for Instructors pay to go up radically. Probably the schools need to be independant of the ski areas for that to really happen. And the only way for that to happen would be to make what some would consider Socialistic changes to the rules that govern the ownership and stewardship of ski resorts.
post #12 of 21

Sorry, folks, until the casual instructor who doesn't need the money leaves the profession, we will not see higher wages.

It's simple economics. If I can get people to work for peanuts, economics says that's what I'll do.

post #13 of 21
Eug, I was not necessarily implying that instructors should ski powerfully and elegantly on green or blue slopes. I was actually agreeing with Who's That Girl's post about watching someone ski elegantly through a bump run.

I sort of like the idea of a candid camera going through expert terrain, videoing people who "think" they know how to ski it, than contrasting it with an instructor showing how it should be skied.

Todd, I may have had a bit of a challenge in the powder at Fernie, but no worries, I don't think I need to go back and take level 1 in New England! Glad to hear that they replaced that video, though.
post #14 of 21
My experience as a consumer of ski instruction has been that one-off group and private lessons provide little value. On occassion, I've gotten one good piece of feedback or advice that has improved my skiing, but more often I've found little of value in these experiences. I've learned far more from self study using Lito's book and especially Mark Elling's all mtn skier book than individual lessons.

On the other hand, last year I took a Master The Mountain 2-day course at Gore Mtn. in New York. That was great. We were able to work on a number of skills over time with consistent instruction. I made clear and tangible improvements that weekend. I attribute much of my improvement to that experience. I think their best instructors were drawn to teaching this course as well (we had the tech director of the ski school there as one of our instructors).

I plan on investing my time/money in ski camps (couple of weekend camps next year or maybe the steep&deep camp at Jackson Hole). My home mountain, Alpental, has an 8-week group instruction for advanced skiers that I may also take next year if offered. Might achieve the same goal as a camp over a longer time period. It is also very cost effective (They charged $160 for 8 2-wk grp lessons this year).
post #15 of 21
hey everyone as a self taught skier that grew up in wisc & started skiing at 17 then at 21 I moved to florida. after 15 years not skiing I started making yearly trips to summit co 95/96 season.I always wanted to take lessons but did not know where or what kind of lesson.last year I took my wife a never ever to keystone & they took her to the top on the gondola & had the lesson there,never even taught her how to ride the chairlift.they had a sheet of plywood blocking a run down the backside if a student got out of control they could slide into the plywood to stop.needless to say not a good experiance for a florida girl.after a few days I gave her a lesson & got her skiing.in fairness she would hve faired better on the training area at mountain house but we didn't know.this season my wife & two sons 5&11 took several lessons at m.h. & did well.since I was going broke buying lessons I asked about some for me.first off I am serious about my skiing I run ,bike ,workout ect to get ready for my trip,I like to ski keystone so I can ski at night,I have to cram all the skiing I can in 10 days.this year I even bought a skiers edge,machine it works.after I explained my abilities they suggested a mountain master lesson,I signed up & did a full day,we had a great instructor his name was jeff a level 3 psia. we skied a lot of moguls,trees,even the nastar course.I don't know how much I learned but it was a really great day of skiing & the instructor was impressed with my ability.the best thing was we skied areas that it is sometimes hard to get people to ski.moguls is were I want to get better & I liked what jeff was teaching us for moguls,he was teaching how to use the shape skis to carve thru the moguls as if you were on a groomed slope,the next day I decided to take another lesson but it was jeff's day off.well I took the same lesson but with a different instructor still a level 3 psia.we skied mostly moguls witch was ok but this instructor was teaching how to ski moguls as if everyone were on sraight skis,totally different. this lesson was not much fun & I bailed at the half day.the problem as I see it is lessons are a crap shoot depending on the instructor,why can 2 instructors be "good" level 3 psia but teach totally different technique.also more education for the skiing public on what kind of lessons are available & what they can do for you.
happy skiing bteddy

PS I will take more lessons next season & hope to get jeff as an instructor again if I go back to keystone.
post #16 of 21
We have something like 27 independent ski schools at Stevens Pass. Instructor wages are low and the ski schools don't really make a lot of money either. So not only do you have casual ski instructors (who will work for peanuts) but you also have casual ski school directors/owners who will work for slightly more (peanuts and crackerjack maybe).

You full time ski school people really don't want the ski schools to be independent. A bunch of independent ski schools competing for students will result in lower lesson prices/lower profit margins etc.
Unless you are well known enough to market/sell yourself as a celebrity ski instructor. But then you need to hire a staff to schedule appointments etc.
post #17 of 21
ok here's a question, and maybe it's uninformed, but would the ski schools of all or many of the resorts ever band together to form a co-op for the mutual benefit of the entire industry? (with members contributing comensurately to their size/revenue levels?) it would seem like this is a prime example of "sum of the whole. . ..economics".

i mean, instead of each of the resorts/resort conglomerates competing in the pubs for a bigger slice of the pie, it would seem to behoove them all for each to divert a portion of their advertising budgets to the collaborative effort of increasing the size (and density) of the pie! (think: got milk?, cotton, beef, california rasins, florida growers-ironically on tv as i type!-. . . you get the idea)

if such an organization were in place, you could, in fact, promote skiing ( at the 'member locations, of course!) through a variety of strategies and to a variety of targets! including, as has been discussed here, promotion of the benefits of lessons , then linked with a price-off, free trial, or package incentive -whatever was deemed appropriate by the marketing managers and advertising agency the cooperative would employ.

as with many products, the 'power of suggestion' in seeing "powerful, elegant everyday skiing" with the message that you, there on the couch, this could be you, here's how, here's a special offer. . .well, that power of suggestion would seem to be a persuasive one. (an ultimately pie-growing profitable one.) but the american public doesn't see that on tv (except in coors light commercials) because all the little guys and all the big buys are in it for themselves.

what do you guys think? is a little cooperation in order? granted, i might be biased as i do this for a living and that's just the way i think, (and yes! it would be my dream assignment to do ads for 'the american association of ski resorts'!) but i truly believe it would be of benefit to all of them, and wonder would they ever do it? (whether i worked at the agency they picked or not!)
post #18 of 21
This all began with a mention of analogies involving golf. I spent four years playing golf in college, played in the minor leagues of golf (mini tours) and worked for a few years in the golf industry.

Go to a public course or to a private course. A few beginners take lessons, obtain a modicum of expertise, and head of on their own. I would hazard to say, at the average private club, only 5% of the members seek instruction. At a public course it probably worse. The average guys borrows a set of clubs and is taught by a friend. He gets hooked and buys his first set of clubs at K-Mart. He "learns" a great many bad habits and spends the remainder of his life struggling.

As I type it reminds me of the scene played out at Eldora every day.

In reality, if the folks are happy and having a few giggles who are we to say what is right or wrong? We know there is a better way. We know there is an easier way.

There is one more salient point. Lessons are prohibitively expensive for many. I think that is truely the bottem line.
post #19 of 21
One of the gyms I work for is planning a scuba diving trip in Mexico. They have an 8 week prep course, which seems to be part physical part mental. But one of the topic headers struck me as interesting:


One of the things that got me "hooked" on skiing was the opportunity to do something so out of the norm from my city girl lifestyle. Prior to learning to ski, with the acception of running, all my physical activity was done within the confines of a gym.

So apart from the sensation of skiing, itself, there was the newness of everything a mountain lifestyle is about. The motivation to get better was partially skill based, but also based on the desire to see "what else is up there". This can include something such as riding the gondola to the top of Jay Peak, and checking out the view, to experiencing the mountains in Italy, that may have a farm or two in the middle of the slope.

On Blackcomb, it was finding that little hidden shack that serves these great pancake lunches. And on the Fernie/Banff trip, it was seeing the Rocky Mountain Sheep on the road {yeah, I know, its like the tourists who in the cities who are fascinated by pigeons, quit making fun of me! } and the difference in topography from the Canadian Rockies and the Whistler B.C. area.

If someone has only the most basic of ski skills, there is only a limited enjoyment of the mountain, and a limit to how far they will venture out away from their home mountain.

The maintenance man from one of our gyms, just moved here with his family from Santa Domingo. He wants his children to learn to ski so they will learn to enjoy the winter.

IMHO, marketing the enhancement of the entire experience would be a good plan.
post #20 of 21
Oh, and I forgot one thing: The American college of Sports Medicine did a study of skiers and MCL tears. Skiers who skied CONSISTANTLY in a wedge were more susceptible. Not sure how you'd market that, but it a point to be considered!
post #21 of 21
Purple Pants,

There is such an organization here in Colorado. It is called Colorado, Ski Countty USA. Though Wolf Creek is nolonger a member the scuttlebutt I here coming from the front office is that it is in danger of folding. In fact, all year I have not been able to find there new website address. I don't know what the problem is, but I feel that it is probably diveregent ideas.
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