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What if ski schools were loss leaders? - Page 2

post #31 of 44
I'll have to defer to anyone who can get both ski and golf in their user name. Yes, I was assuming that a much larger proportion of skier days at western resorts were generated by destination skiers. I envy your season pass situation. Just looked at the Pats Peak web site -- $349 for a regular, adult full-season pass if purchased before 11/2. We've enjoyed Pats -- basically decided to try it one day becuase it was just enough closer that it made trips easier. But it's a relatively small mountain even by Eastern standards. A believe it's a bit over 700 vertical feet with 20 or so named trails.
post #32 of 44
Originally posted by NewSkier:
I'll have to defer to anyone who can get both ski and golf in their user name.
I'm just fortunate enough to work in two sports, both of which I love.
post #33 of 44
My view is not based on any presumed knowlege of the economics of the ski industry, just my views as a consumer. I attended the Epic Ski Academy last season because it was such a tremedous value. I have avoided private lessons at ski areas because the prices have always seemed to me to be too high.

I started skiing many years ago in jeans, several sweaters, and a windbreaker. I am convinced that skiing need not be a rich person's sport(until you get involved in racing ).

Producing good skiers at prices that are within reach of the average person will produce a large pool of lifetime skiers. This will benefit many ski areas, though maybe not all.

With better skiers on the mountain existing trails will be able to handle more traffic safely. IMHO, the costs associated with lessons and the frustration experienced by those who don't take them combined with ill-fitting rental boots are the biggest disincentives in skiing. However, the subject of rental boots is best saved for another thread.
post #34 of 44
Thread Starter 
The thing that strikes me from this conversation is how all ski areas adapt to their niche in the snow economy. Their business is intimately related to their locale.

There are times I, my wife, or friends have gone there just to take a lesson.
--SnoWonder about Northstar and Sierra at Tahoe
In places where buyers have many choices, making the lessons sort of like the toy in the Cracker Jack seems very smart. Everyone in their market is selling the same basic caramel corn, but they throw in a *free* toy and call it Cracker Jack. What set Cracker Jack apart was not that it gave away a toy--just about every kids cereal gives away toys--but that the toys were a "Surprise Inside!" Often cleverly constructed and amusing, Cracker Jack toys were the "keepers" after the caramel corn had been eaten or scattered on the ground. The toy is an added value that comes with the box, but the toy can be reason people choose Cracker Jack over the competition, even though it costs a bit more.

(Cracker Jack may not be the most contemporary metaphor, but I am not the most contemporary writer.)
post #35 of 44
Is it worse to have one's life work reduced to fart jokes or Cracker Jack toys?
post #36 of 44
Thread Starter 
Curses, caught in the steel trap of the literal mind. [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #37 of 44
Farts are a dime a dozen, but Cracker Jack toys are highly collectible now. So there, milesb! [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #38 of 44
So getting back to the topic at hand...By Lostboy:
I attended the Epic Ski Academy last season because it was such a tremedous value. I have avoided private lessons at ski areas because the prices have always seemed to me to be too high.
A point to add, is that the costs of flying to Utah, lodging, meals etc., to attend the Academy could have instead been applied to taking private lessons at a local hill without the hassles of flying and so forth (of couse I would not have met all the great Epic Ski folks.) Private lessons are to a large extent a question of perceived value as well as a question of actual cost as was more true in my student days. The ability to engage in a sports activity and perform reasonably well is the best way to insure that a person continues to stay in a sport.
post #39 of 44
hey Nolo, nice thread...

I want to start off by building on the bit about the free lessons at the "at-Tahoe" resorts. I worked for Waterville Valley (in NH) which is another one of the Boothcreek Resorts.

A few years ago Waterville made some pretty big changes. The returning instructors were gathered in a room and a presentation about the ski insdustry, the profits of ski resorts, the average skier return rates, etc were discussed. It was clear... we ALL need people to take up the sport of skiing, not just ski once or twice... and as was previously mentioned in this thread - the magic number seems to be 3. You have to get a person to ski 3 times and then they will likely continue to ski. What prevents people from returning? It's expensive and it's not easy to do.

Two things resulted:
1. lift ticket prices got reduced to $39 per day (only exception is the holidays)... and there are 3 Booth Creek properties in NH - so a combined season's pass was offered at VERY low rates. (Waterville did this at least 4 seasons ago and it seemed to be the begining of a trend)
2. snowsports (aka ski school) created a "Passport"... here's how it works:
a. day 1 costs $69 and you get rentals, a beginner lift ticket, and 2 group lessons (and your passport book gets stamped)
b. day 2 also costs $69 and you get rentals, a beginner lift ticket and 1 group lesson (and get your book stamped)
c. day 3 is identical to day 2
d. bring your completed Passport book to the ticket window, buy a regular lift ticket and you get A FREE SEASON'S PASS :
(additionally the passport book has coupons for buying equipment and other discounts)

so, Nolo, Booth Creek embraced this concept. Although, instead of making ski school a true loss leader - they just trimmed some profits. Further, they gave free group lessons for advanced skiers each afternoon - to encourage people to take more lessons.

Ultimately, I think that a ski school should be a profit center. AND, within the ski school there should be room for using the loss leader approach with a "segment" of learners. I also agree that children's and adult's programs should be separate.

- quantity incentives
a. the more lessons you buy, the cheaper it gets (I do this with personal training at the gym!)
b. the more people you enroll, the cheaper it gets (discount for 2nd, 3rd, etc kids)
- discount/coupon incentives
a. buy a lesson and coupon to use at the cafeteria or mtn. shop
b. frequent skiers programs (buy 5 lift tickets, get a free lesson)

Repeat business generates profits. I EXPECT that if someone takes a lesson with me, they will take another. I'd like to see ski schools shift to a business model that supports and rewards this concept.

Directors also have to treat the ski school as a business and maximize profits!
- Always use full-time staff first.
- Make sure all staff is trained in customer service and up-selling.
- Connect the impact of the instructor/lesson to the other services on the mountain (I now work at a smaller mountain in MA, Wachusett, and we give all learners a card... on one side it has our name and the other side is a coupon... when the coupon is redeemed the mountains tracks the instructor's name... we are rewarded for the # of "cards" that get used bearing our names).
- Encourage instructors to ski in their jackets and act as ambassadors when not teaching - give out one of those "cards" to people you see who could use a lesson (the coupon works for lessons! and, it might get you a private request!!)

I could go on and on... I teach skiing and work as a business consultant. But, I am sure y'all are already ready to move onto the next post!!! Thanks for reading.

PS... we saw our first snow a few days ago... YIPPEEE [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #40 of 44
Originally posted by kieli:
hey Nolo, nice thread...

I want to start off by building on the bit about the free lessons at the "at-Tahoe" resorts. I worked for Waterville Valley (in NH) which is another one of the Boothcreek Resorts.

Its always interesting to hear the take from others who have worked at the same resorts you have. In my own experience these passport programs actually generated very little. In addition to the program Kieli mentioned, we also used to make learn to ski packages free during the early season. I recall the seasons recap had the numbers of people actually completing the passport as being incredibly small, compared to the numbers who went through the program. My recollection may be faulty but memory tells me the number of those who actually completed these passports was less than 2 dozen for the season. Whether these were really new catches or just friends of savvy insiders who would have shown up anyway was never really shown. Scuttlebut had it they were the latter. Of course this was before the reduction in the price of lift tickets. Booth Creek, to its credit, also came out with a great season pass program which reduced the cost of a season pass to less than $400 for the season. It may be that these efforts to generate increased numbers have borne fruit. In my day, these kinds of efforts seemed like corporate big ideas which were not always implemented with full commitment.
post #41 of 44
I told my Waterville Valley experience as an example how ski school can be used to generate business for the whole resort. To be 100% honest, I don't have stats as to the exact outcome of the programs - but they are still in existence today.

It is my HUMBLE opinion that the success or demise of such creative programs depends largely upon the staff of the resort - word of mouth marketing as done by the employees (especially the instructors).

Actually, this makes me think of something... I am going to start a new thread. I hope you all will come and give me your opinions.

post #42 of 44
My position has always been that the ski school one of the keys to skiing growth. And if ski areas were thinking outside the box they long ago would have realized that the greater the skiers ability the more days he/she skis, the more likely he/she will demo skis, the more likely he/she will use other services like lockers, and the bar. They buy more equipment and more expensive equipment. They are also more likely to take the family skiing and quite frankly, it is the family that the resorts should be seeking. The kids are the future of skiing. So the goal of the ski school should be to move people into the resort as beginners and then to move them up the ranks.

How to do that is a question, which has perplexed resorts for years. Oddly they all have the same answer. Charge a substantial amount for group lessons, and offer no other incentives to skier improvement. Teach large groups and be satisfied with minimal progress of the students.

The result is skiers take just the minimum number of lesson and then ski on their own. They become intermediates and never move up the ranks. The resort is satisfied to leave them in this condition and the skiers are for the most part satisfied to stay there. A small number of younger skiers will “naturally” progress to the upper ranks of skiers. Many of the rest will drop out or become social skiers, skiing only when the weather is nice and friends can ski with them. They seldom wax, or tune their skis and frequently have 15-year old equipment. From the resorts perspective this is an utter failure.

One way to change this is to offer a 6 ski lesson pass. The pass would guarantee the skier would progress to a specific level or have the right to repeat lessons for the remainder of the year until the level was achieved. The package for beginners would be cheap, $40 per day for lift, lesson, and rental. Once the lesson pass was completed the skier would have the right to purchase a season pass for a small amount, perhaps $200 – 300 (first time package buyers only).

For more advanced skiers the same package would generally apply, including 6 lessons with guaranteed results. But for intermediates or above, the pass would include only lesson and lift for $40. Market these “lessons” as specialized clinics designed to help good or great skiers become even better. These skiers would alternatively be able to buy a season pass and get the 6-lesson pass as a free “perk”. These perks would continue up and through the expert skier/racer ranks.

All participating skiers would receive a 20% discount card, which could be used to purchase anything at the resort, including tuning services, food, equipment, and specialized clinics. They would also have first crack at demo sales, etc.

Offer repeat season pass/lesson pass holders a $120 discount on the season pass/lesson, if the skier purchased the package during the spring or early summer.

Why do any of this? Some will say it just reduces the bottom line. My position is it would have the opposite effect. The number of season pass holders would zoom since the cost of the pass would be “lower”. It would also instill a sense of continual learning in the resorts regulars. The discounts and perks would tie more skiers to that specific resort. Instead of the resorts skiers buying crummy gear at their local big box retailer they would think about and likely buy gear from the resort. Guarantees would make the initial sale simpler and make more skiers more comfortable with the concept. The ski school would have a stable base of skiers. Spring and summer purchases of the passes would guarantee some income stability during poorer snow years and still offer the skier a tangible benefit.

There are a million other win/win ways to skin this cat but I see only the smaller “Avis” ski areas taking any steps to market these models. The bigs are just too complacent, at least locally where I come from. Monopoly is a terrible economic model. Just ask the Soviets, er, Russians.

post #43 of 44

isn't that the model used at Lookout Pass Ski Area?
post #44 of 44
Thread Starter 
Yes indeedy: Lookout Pass
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