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Little Help Here!!

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hello all. I have recently acquired directorship of a small ski school in South Dakota. 1200 vert. feet, about 145,000 skier days, high speed quad, 6 lifts total, etc. blah blah blah. I'm in the process of doing the summer "rebuilding", as the school has been treated as a simple amenity and not a revenue center, near as I can tell. Much respect to the previous director, but I think I can improve upon the existing program.

I'm currently discussing group lessons with the GM and how they can be improved, as they tend to be our weakest division. He has mentioned to me that he would like to see the Level I lesson only go to a certain point. (ex. Teach the student to stop and wedge turn, then they must pay again to go further than that and begin into linked turns and christies.) I can't say I agree with this process, as I am a huge proponent of letting people go as far as they can in a given time and then selling an upgrade for the next session. Before I take a solid stance on this subject, I would like some of your thoughts on it. Is there some comrimise between our two ideas that I'm not seeing? Maybe some of you with greater experience in such matters could shed some light.

Appreciate your time.

Spag's quote of the day:
"Yes Madame, I am drunk. But you are ugly, and tomorrow I shall be sober."
-Winstom Churchill-
post #2 of 25
Spag,

Congrats up down and sideways!!

Was that "Directorship" or "Dictatorship"? Oh well, same difference.

1200 feet in SD, huh? We only have 960 in PA. I was offered work in Souix Falls, but.. nahhhhh.

I would suggest a conversation with the GM that talks about turning first-timers into members of the skiing community, not just quickie, one-time tift ticket money. The more time they spend in front of a Pro, the more likely they are to get hooked, then buy ski equipment, take vacations, bring the rest of the family, or tell Mom and Dad that they *really, really* want to go back (that's what happened with me when I was 11 years old - my parents have never skied).

The fact that your GM doesn't see the Ski School cash cow is a VERY good thing for you, because it will allow you to spend more of the money you bring in on better instructors (better pay), longer lessons, fewer students per lesson, clincs (paid and unpaid, paid to the clinician), paying for attending line-ups if no work, programs, parties, etc. We all know how much money we bring in. If Mgt doesn't know, good for you.

If I were in charge, I'd try to set up one time when 3 hour lessons go out. Say, maybe at 9 and 12:30. Then have more traditional 90 minute lessons throughout the day. Where I work, we have lessons starting every hour, that last 90 min. The ski school is set up in teams, and the teams show up at either even or odd hours, so that you always get a half hour break, or can let the lesson run a bit long and not miss the next line-up.

Good luck. Have fun, and make sure your instructors and students have fun and want to come back!

-John
post #3 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys. I may have mis-spoke here. Our GM DOES see ski school for its money-making potential. We're just kicking around some thoughts, and that was the one that concerned me most. I'd hate to have to cut lessons short because students advanced quickly. Worse yet, I'd hate to have to fill lesson time with Bull----. I'm glad you think I'm on the right track, though it only seemed fairly basic. Who else is out there... Can anyone come up with any positive things to say about "blocking" lessons and being milestone driven? (I can't, so maybe someone can throw an idea out there.)
post #4 of 25
Congrats NS! As a nearly recovered former SS Director myself, I forsee great fun and horror before you! <g> I hope the fun greatly outweighs the horror!

The idea of having a price assigned to what skill level one can attain sounds very non-customer-service oriented to me. As a Director and now again as a trainer - I very much urge instructors to let each student find push as far as they can as long as they remain safe and having fun within that push. When you get students no longer matching within a group that of course is where the artform of good class splits takes place. That is one thing that is still rarely handled elegantly at most areas - effecient, friendly and fast splits of classes as their needs diverge during a lesson. Actually its easy to do it perfectly . . . but ski area owners tend to like the more profitable solutions, which unfortunately tend to result in sloppier and more chaotic splits in the short term. In the long term, its certainly possible to pull it off well - and could be the subject of endless discussion here!
post #5 of 25
wow. sounds like an opportunity just looking for new thinking. Great...


NS,
You might consider posting this question on www.hyperchangecafe.com in the buzzwords section. You will get a lot of good feedback there too. A lot of instructor types hang out there too along with a few of us passionate students..
post #6 of 25
Since I am probably the only one new enough to remember being a beginner, I should probably comment. As much as i may have some criticsm for ASC's Perfect Turn Program, that was the sytem that got me hooked. I loved the idea that I could basically pace myself, and if I needed to repeat a level I could do it at no extra charge. The class splits were done efficiently, which was helpful.

And when Mark came by and said "I can't believe your'e linkling wedge turns on your first class" it made me think that maybe I have some skill at this after all.

Quite frankly, I don't see any merit whatsoever in what your GM is proposing.


*********************************************
My city your mountain, stay with me stay....
post #7 of 25
Did your GM work his way up through the Ski Industry? I mean does he really know the industry, or is he just another useless Business Major "Manager"? Seems like the ski industry is pretty fortunate compared to most in that the folks who manage generally actually do know the nuts and bolts of the actually industry itself, but there are exceptions.

-------
Dilbert - It should be forced reading for all Business Major In-Duh-viduals in school!
post #8 of 25
Our lesson goals for level one (as explained to the students in the introductories), are:

- the abliity to turn right,

- the ability to turn left,

- the ability to link turns to the left and
right,

- the ability to stop using wedge or a turn
to a traverse.

This is the basic lesson plan for Level 1 and half of the "average class" of ten will be very close with two or three doing nicely linked turns at the end of an hour and a half. This comes right from the PSIA.
post #9 of 25
Well Spag...you know my formula, but each market, mountain etc is unique. I pride myself in my mastery of appropriate plagarism, and have in turn been flattered by the same. Simple replication does not always make a good fit, though "tried and true" standards exist for a reason.
How long are the lift rides? Is your day a typically front loaded buisness cycle? etc. Can you shift discounted school groups to the PM? What are the rental etc. logistics and do you have real time sales reports from tickets interfaced with reservations?
I believe in pacing first time package lessons. An am/pm works well and helps upgrade the am onlys. 3 hours straight can be rugged for first timers.
This school I just took over did teams like Johns and works if you have alot of parttimers, though does not optimize instructor hours or fill in well for privates.
Always pick a price point for your rackrate single group high, to discount from. A typical package split is %40-ss, %30tix, %30rentz. An am/pm pkg. remainder should all go to ski school.
3 pak, type intros are popular again following the NSAA growth/retention goals. Leave a great hook for completion of the program.
Try (if you have the rentals) to strike parity on ski vs snowboard packages, higher prices make the sb cost prohibitive.
Oh I don't know, ya make me so damn proud!!!! Just like a first child!!! Anybody want to see his baby pictures!
post #10 of 25
Oh yeah!.....be intuitive....your a homeboy and a natural!
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Oh Robin, don't gush!! I'm finding more out about what I don't know than what I do know, that's for sure. Being a home-town boy does have it's advantages. Many of the things you've mentioned, I've already considered goals.(parity of SB and Ski prices, 40/30/30 price point, etc.) Let me ask you this. What is your reasoning for bumping discount school groups to pm? During slow time, this area has tended to fill the am with work and the pm with training and play. Just curious.

The management at this area is pretty solid as far as being "brought up " in the ski industry. But I believe that in the effort to make money, the boss is a little hasty with this recommendation. This isn't law, by the way, it was just brought up in a meeting and I thought I would give it a run with you guys. I'm happy to see the results of this search so far. Gives me a little ammo... if you know what I mean.

OK I've interrupted the flow for long enough I think. Best get out of here and let you guys hammer this out a little more. Ciao.

Spag
post #12 of 25
You guys sell school group programs? If so do you know what percentage of your business they are roughly? Thats always a great future marketing tool - but I found it had to be carefully balanced when I was SS Dir. in Colorado because the previous director had set it up to where it was interfering with business during our busy times as well. I ended up limiting it to very specific periods throughout the season.
post #13 of 25
Todd, that was what I was alluding to. Save the mornings for rack rate, your 5/5/5 programs in the PM.
Other questions,...percentage of stay over vs. day guests? Night bizz?
The trick ( and I could get hammered here) is to "steer" people to the greatest success they can achieve right out of the brochures menu! Some will be more price sensitive than others, but if they go for the 1hour and a half "pony ride" they can miss out. Make the pricing entice them to invest more time...allowing your pros to do their magic at a nuturing pace.
The movement away from am half day kids programs is IMHO, the way to go. $60 for the pm only or $70 (examples) for the full with lunch. You can then shift the staff over as the pm bizz slows. Multiple check ins and outs suck too! And kids need the time.
Also never make your upgrade costs punitive, make it balance the full cost to upgrade!
And for god sake, sit up straight and quit slouching!
post #14 of 25
Congrats! Ski schools are important...

Lessee, could it be... Terry Peak?

I'm originally from Minneapolis...



------------------
¯¯¯/__ SnoKarver <A HREF="http://communities.msn.com/SnoPeople


" TARGET=_blank>http://communities.msn.com/SnoKarver


</A>
post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 
Todd, I think the school group program here can definitely use an upgrade along with the group sales, but it's not as weak as the group lessons. I plan to use school groups to fill in my slow times and keep my instructors busy and up to snuff. I'm currently trying to think up a way to get the kids to come back on the weekends - independent of their schools.

Robin (and I say this with eyes forward and a rigid back!) I don't currently have info regarding the percentage of people who buy multi-day gigs, but I do know that with no hotel and no night biz, I am challenging our marketing and sales dept. to maybe rig up a package deal with one of the many local Lodging facilities. This place currently stands a day-tripper for most. I wrote a poem for you on your Canada Day thread. Check it "oat".
post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 
SnoKarver. You've just won a million hollers!! Terry Peak it is mon frer. Come on out and see us.
post #17 of 25
Spag: I wasn't going to post this originally, but my gut reaction to what your GM proposed was "Oh, they don't want to waste much energy on new skiers". I talked myself out of that reaction, simply because I know better. But if I felt that way initially, others might feel the same way.


******************************************* My city your mountain, stay with me, stay...<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Lisamarie (edited July 02, 2001).]</FONT>
post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
Lisamarie, I hear you. My first reaction was the opposite. I didn't think he wanted to deal with the intermediates. But once again I'll say that so far it only exists as a statement brought up in a brainstorm. I think he's serious, but he just needs to see reasons and "why" before he changes his mind and scraps it. Thank you all for your input. Big Help!!!
post #19 of 25
Hmm. Interesting. Ya know, one thing to keep in mind. it doesn't matter which one of us had the "correct" reaction. What is important is that both of us had the reaction that "he didn't want to deal with" someone.

Multiply that on a grand scale in any direction, and you have lost many potential customers.


****************************************

My city your mountain, stay with me stay....
post #20 of 25
Spag...

Do you have a local weekend kids program?

I got the lessons AND the kids weekend program in the winter. My folks were relieved to get me out of the house two nights, and one whole day every week.

There's a great selling point. Sell the parents on dropping the kids off.

Kids like the cool stuff. Maybe a mild terrain park and lessons? With a little DJ music on the side.

You should see the kids at the pipe at Breck. Some of these kids RIP. We have an Expert, and Intermediate area. Some of the kids ski instructors specialize in terrain park now... It's fun to see our uniform in the air...

Can you get some funds and a tie-in with local youth groups?

I skied Terry Peak twice in the 70's. It was fun, I enjoyed the vertical, compared to 'ol Buck Hill and Hyland Hills in MN.



------------------
¯¯¯/__ SnoKarver <A HREF="http://communities.msn.com/SnoPeople


" TARGET=_blank>http://communities.msn.com/SnoKarver


</A>
post #21 of 25
QUOTE: "...rather than charging students according to how far they progress technically, I'd ignore that and focus on helping them become passionate about the sport. The two are worlds apart, although, ironically, I'll bet students will progress farther technically with the second focus.
Skiing isn't about technique. Technique is important, and better technique definitely makes it more fun and rewarding. But to send the message to students that the only thing worthwhile is the next technical milestone seems wrong to me.
Give them a great time. Show them that they can LEARN (many have doubts) and that LEARNING and LESSONS are fun, and they'll come back for more."

Jeeez! With thinking like this, there may be hope for the future of skiing after all.
...I only hope it's contagious
post #22 of 25
Spag:

I see my job with the first timers as providing them with the skills to survive their first day on skis, not just their first lesson on skis.

If just 10% can do linked turns in some fashion and have an enjoyable day, they will be the ones who return to provide a continuing customer base.

If you cut them off at the knees by skipping that last portion of the standard lesson you may reduce that to 2%. Penny wise and pound foolish.

A New Yawk attitude way out west! Whooda figured?
post #23 of 25
To new "Ski School Director:" Sprag

It sounds [ as I listen between the lines ] that your GM is bottom line oriented. Therefore, there needs to be a plan, a comprehensive resort plan where the ski school either is a profit center unto itself, or part of an overall plan to generate more skier visits.

I know its important to be successful through instruction to generate enthusiasm and accomplishment so the skier will want to become better.

It sounds like the previous ski school director and the GM did not get on very well. This is a reciepe for disaster. A reciepe you don't want to taste. Therefore, it is important that you understand how the ski school fits in to the profitability or profit potential of the resort. You may need to have some further discussions with your GM. If things don't go well here, unless you really need the money, don't punish yourself.

I guess what I am alluding to is that you need to get the GM on your side, and therefore supportive of your efforts as director of a ski school. If you can somehow demonstrate that you are competitent, but more importantly how a well run, ski school can in fact generate more skier visits, and therefore more profit potential, this will go a long way in making your life easier, but busier.

So marketing strategy becomes key. The schools,through their sports and recretion programs, 4 H [ I am assuming that you are in an agricultural area ] scouting and similiar programs, any youth centered orginazation needs to be contacted, even the soccer league organizations.

If you don't have a Special Olympics Alpine program, talk to the special ed people of the local school districts. Also, your local ski patrol chapter may want to take this on as a special project. Its good PR for everyone. You, the ski patrol, the resort, the school districts, etc.

Evening adult racing leagues, preceeded by racing clinics. If the resort has an adult beverage liscense, usually Miller brewing, or Budweiser would be willing to be the sponsor. Have some promotional priced brew available after the races so as the results are tallied, everyone who wants one can have a 'cool" one. Contact all the ski retailers regarding them promoting your resort, and providing special youth purchase or seasonal rental packages. Try to set up special Saturday youth classes, that are all day programs [ 10 am-4 pm ] One "value" price gets lift ticket, ski lessons, lunch, suprvision, and the most important thing of all, some time just to ski. NASTAR for everyone, again preceeded by racing clinics.One price gets you two runs, and a lesson. A family of three or more, taking the clinic, gets the runs free at a reduced price.

Any or all of the above could help you generate more skier visits. Of course, I am assuming that there is a ski rental program, food and beverage services, and a decent size day lodge.

Good luck and keep us posted ,if you have time to do so.
post #24 of 25
To new "Ski School Director:" Sprag

It sounds [ as I listen between the lines ] that your GM is bottom line oriented. Therefore, there needs to be a plan, a comprehensive resort plan where the ski school either is a profit center unto itself, or part of an overall plan to generate more skier visits.

I know its important to be successful through instruction to generate enthusiasm and accomplishment so the skier will want to become better.

It sounds like the previous ski school director and the GM did not get on very well. This is a reciepe for disaster. A reciepe you don't want to taste. Therefore, it is important that you understand how the ski school fits in to the profitability or profit potential of the resort. You may need to have some further discussions with your GM. If things don't go well here, unless you really need the money, don't punish yourself.

I guess what I am alluding to is that you need to get the GM on your side, and therefore supportive of your efforts as director of a ski school. If you can somehow demonstrate that you are competitent, but more importantly how a well run, ski school can in fact generate more skier visits, and therefore more profit potential, this will go a long way in making your life easier, but busier.

So marketing strategy becomes key. The schools,through their sports and recretion programs, 4 H [ I am assuming that you are in an agricultural area ] scouting and similiar programs, any youth centered orginazation needs to be contacted, even the soccer league organizations.

If you don't have a Special Olympics Alpine program, talk to the special ed people of the local school districts. Also, your local ski patrol chapter may want to take this on as a special project. Its good PR for everyone. You, the ski patrol, the resort, the school districts, etc.

Evening adult racing leagues, preceeded by racing clinics. If the resort has an adult beverage liscense, usually Miller brewing, or Budweiser would be willing to be the sponsor. Have some promotional priced brew available after the races so as the results are tallied, everyone who wants one can have a 'cool" one. Contact all the ski retailers regarding them promoting your resort, and providing special youth purchase or seasonal rental packages. Try to set up special Saturday youth classes, that are all day programs [ 10 am-4 pm ] One "value" price gets lift ticket, ski lessons, lunch, suprvision, and the most important thing of all, some time just to ski. NASTAR for everyone, again preceeded by racing clinics.One price gets you two runs, and a lesson. A family of three or more, taking the clinic, gets the runs free at a reduced price.

Any or all of the above could help you generate more skier visits. Of course, I am assuming that there is a ski rental program, food and beverage services, and a decent size day lodge.

Good luck and keep us posted ,if you have time to do so.
post #25 of 25
Thread Starter 
I knew you guys would come through!! Lots of good Ideas. To answer some questions out there. Yes I do have a weekend locals kids group, and a mid-week women's local group. The men haven't had anything to do, so I'm starting up a weekend "race league" that might interest them. Terrain park is a sketchy issue here, but I have a lot of knowledge in that area so I should be able convince Snowmaking, PR and Mountain ops that park lessons can happen. "If you build it, they will come". There are TONS of small schools around here so school groups are gonna be nice. I thought I would have a harder time recruiting instructors, but I just got a nice e-mail from a BHSU student 12 miles away stating that he knows of tons of returners and most of them are excited about the change. Things are looking UP!

OK enough GM bashing (elbow, elbow, nudge, nudge.) He's a good egg, just a little misdirected on this one point. He happens to be a great boss and an even better teacher. He may be a little bottom line driven, but I'm confident that when he starts to see results, he'll just let me run with it. It's not like I don't have resources out there to gather information if I need it!!! This thread isn't even 2 days old and I've been bombarded with some great stuff!!

Spag's quote of the day:
"There seems to be no gentile way to express, on any public level, that you have to go take a dump."
-George Carlin-
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