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Note/rant - Page 7

post #181 of 207
The Snowbird Mountain Experience tour is one such program and most mountain host programs offer tours of varying complexity, but as you say, ski resorts in the U.S. are more contained than those in Europe. Expert pros act as guides (concierges) if they have a Total Service Provider philosophy. Some serve the same clientele for years as private instructors, and may organize and accompany their regulars on heliski trips to Canada, road trips, and off-season excursions. I do this with my loyal customers, for example.

It's like Sitz said: where's the sizzle? For my clients, I deliver a sizzle that is pretty much the same as Sheherezade's: I keep raising the bar on the experience. I try to make every lesson an adventure where they discover something delightful that they never experienced before.

At season's end we get together for a fancy lunch and recount the good times. Over the off-season we get together for bike rides and hikes in places "where the views don't quit."

[ May 02, 2002, 09:03 AM: Message edited by: nolobolono ]
post #182 of 207
Your point was clear, Nolo. I threw out a few extra snippets for clarification.

It does seem that this thread is hopelessly tangled up in trying to find a direction.
Indeed, kind of like life itself, sometimes.
post #183 of 207

I like your tag line.

post #184 of 207
Having not read all the posts, I hope I'm not repeating any ones ideas. Besides NSAA and PSIAs' woefull lack of direction concerning marketing, AKA: "What marketing". I've noticed that no one has commented on the demise of the Mom & Pop ski areas. This is occurring at an alarming rate, especially in the Northeast. These are the areas that helped introduce thousands of people to the sport. These areas reached people through their affordabilty and their proximity to the larger population centers. I wish there was a simple remedy to reverse this trend, but the fact that running a ski area in this day and age is a risky proposition at best. It's no wonder that skier visits have stagnated as the trend for these smaller areas is to close shop. For a real eye opener go to the Ski Area Management web site and under links there is a site called "Lost New England Ski Areas". There are hundreds of smaller areas that are listed here that are no longer in operation.
post #185 of 207
Nolo, getting back to my example of fast food marketing. Your reasons for eating fast food would be similar to what most of us would say I would think. Now how about why children like going to fast food reataurants? They don't care how much it costs, and seem to want to spend an eternity there. So what's the attraction for them?

[ May 02, 2002, 02:39 PM: Message edited by: Pete ]
post #186 of 207
Originally posted by Pete:
Now how about why children like going to fast food reataurants? They don't care how much it costs, and seem to want to spend an eternity there. So what's the attraction for them?
The "free" toys - bits of (usually Disney-linked) junk made in Third World countries that end up in the bin a week later. And, I guess, the same factors that pull the adults in - it may be crap food, but you know what you're getting and if that's what your palate's used to, that's what it will crave.

Happily I have a child who doesn't like anything at McDonald's and doesn't like junk food in general. Her friends think she's pretty weird - she's the only veggie in her 200-pupil primary school - but for a nine-year-old she can argue her case with some style! By a strange coincidence, she is also the right weight for her height and age and among the fittest in her school... (She's also pretty bright, but I would say that, wouldn't I?! [img]smile.gif[/img] )

I rue the day McDonald's dropped anchor in the UK - and in Scotland in particular, where an historically very poor diet has now been augmented by more rubbish. Obesity is now a major, major problem over here as well. Don't have the stats to hand, but something like 50% of the adult population is overweight, and of those around a quarter are clinically obese.

Grrr - I could go on, but I won't.... :
post #187 of 207
Ok, the reason I used the fast food industry is that it is a perfect example of very good marketing of a basically poor product. I could have used plenty of other examples such as fashion.

The point I was making is most easily seen when witnessing children’s behaviour (to my northern friends note I speak American as a second language, you’ll have to put up with English spelling [img]tongue.gif[/img] ). With reference to the youth, why do they hang out at McDonalds and not Subway, why do they wear Nike and not Dunlop, why do they wear those baggy clothes and not something more practical? The answer is that they seek social acceptance, something they are still developing at that stage in life. Savvy marketers (with enough money) capitalise on this need by promoting social acceptance through their products in various ways. As adults we often have a far more developed sense of social acceptance, hence we move to a higher set of needs, that of the ego.

Now I’m quite sure you’re thinking that Pete has finally lost the plot, but here’s how I see all this relating back to ski schools. From what I see there are at least three market segments in skiing, no doubt more. They are 1) The youth, 2) The occasional skier, 3) The skiing enthusiast (ie. us). None of these are being properly serviced by ski schools in my opinion. Unfortunately I can only touch on a few points, but here goes.

1)The youth.

Once again, it is social acceptance by their peers that underlines much of the behaviour of this group. Looking “cool” and being accepted in a group are often quite important (yes there are exceptions, this is a generalisation). You’ll often see groups of kids hanging around the pipe. So how does the traditional ski school aim to capitalise on this segment? Do lessons such as perfecting the parallel turn have any relevance to these kids. I would suggest they are just not interested in this sort of thing. Racing, yeah maybe. Reason? See above. I have NEVER seen a ski instructor in a pipe, though I’ve seen plenty of snowboard instructors. How many instructors can teach me how to do a wicked 360 degree iron cross?

2)The occasional skier.

They come to a mountain (read resort) wanting to have fun. They’re here to ski as it’s part of the package. So maybe they sign up for lessons to “learn how to ski”. First thing they do is get shoved in a group, probably without their spouse, with a group of people they don’t know. Tell me what is fun about that? The instructor possibly doesn’t want to be there and would rather be out skiing somewhere on the mountain; it reflects in the lesson. End of lesson, “ok, bye”. At the end of a lesson or two they now “know how to ski”, so why endure any more lessons. Maybe this is a worst case scenario, but trust me, I’ve seen it happen. The occasional skiers are possibly quite content to bumble about the mountain just as they are, so what do more lessons offer this group?

3)The skiing enthusiast

Having gotten to this stage the skiing enthusiast possibly wants to improve but has reached a plateau. They have taken lessons in the past but their progress has basically stalled. Why take more lessons? We know they could be helped, but a few unproductive lessons at this stage can be very damaging. Maybe they really are very good skiers so what does a ski school have to offer? Although this segment is possibly the segment traditional ski schools service the best, I feel it could certainly be improved upon. I believe it was Si that suggested the idea of a club type environment and I applaud his suggestion. It incidentally capitalises on this same need I outlined above. Many in this segment are driven by a desire to ski better (For LM’s benefit, as I know you are a fan of Maslow, it’s considered the need for ego; the desire to look good for others. A great bump run under a lift. Or the need for self-actualisation; the desire achieve our potential.)

As mentioned above, I have just touched on these areas and I do hope it inspires comment from others here.

[ May 02, 2002, 09:54 PM: Message edited by: Pete ]
post #188 of 207

You are a knowledgable fellow. What's your background, if you don't mind me asking?

In fact, I'd like to take a moment and appreciate all the cool people who hang out here. This is a classy bunch. I won't even add a disclaimer. I'd like to get to know more about all of you.

Okay, back to the topic of marketing a product nobody wants to buy. You are saying that we are not in touch with our customers. Why is that?

It's a rhetorical question. How can you get answers if you don't ask the questions? There are some good industry research groups and I'm sure the Biggies have fairly good market research, but my experience is of a remarkably casual attitude about finding out what the consumer wants, and little concern about getting it in a clean (unbiased) and reliable manner.

There are pockets of excellence about the land in the three categories you describe. Examples: Smuggler's with children and youth, Aspen with beginners and casual participants, and Jackson Hole with hopeless addicts. They help to define the best practices in these areas. It would really be great if we could get these stories (case studies) some exposure, so the ones who get it can influence the ones who don't, and all could strengthen the sports and the lifestyle from which we addicts get our high.

But the resort side of the industry is insanely jealous of their trade secrets. Sharing best practices just wouldn't fly in today's atmosphere of distrust and idea-hoarding. The ski resorts are like nation-states (some are empires) that have to impinge on one another's hunting grounds in order to create prosperity for their minions and their upper management. It's like we've conceded that the market is not going to get any bigger (not an unreasonable prediction, since it hasn't gotten bigger in 42 years nor has it gotten smaller), so all we can do is increase market share, gain economies of scale, reduce costs, raise prices, sell real estate, etc.

What's the fun in that? Where's the aspiration, the stretch, the challenge?

Then again, maybe the real reason for insipid, cliche'd, generic marketing efforts is because the mountain resort and snow sports are the backdrop for the real estate sales, just as a snowy landscape is the backdrop for winter SUV sales. If that's the case, who's going to get too excited about whether the window dressing is living up to its potential or not?
post #189 of 207
Originally posted by nolobolono:

But the resort side of the industry is insanely jealous of their trade secrets. Sharing best practices just wouldn't fly in today's atmosphere of distrust and idea-hoarding.
Hey Nolo. There is a lot in your post here that I don't quite buy, but the statement above I really take exception to.

Hell, there are no trade secrets. Everything we do in our marketing is in the Aspen Times, Colorado Ski Country, SIA, Denver Post. It's all out there.

What we will do is, that if we have a new idea, we will hesitate to throw it out there immediately--so we can try it out, and so we can have a little bit of lead time to install it. (The latter is because, yes, in reality we are competing for market share--which I don't think is necessarily unhealthy.)

However, as far as sharing goes, there is a huge amount going on. I'm constantly in touch with my friends in training and in management in the resorts in Colorado and some elsewhere. Guess how? Through PSIA of all odd places! [img]smile.gif[/img]

In PSIA, we network wonderfully and pass around ideas without reservation.

Also, groups of pros in various divisions within a school often road-trip to find out what the other guy is doing. This happens in upper management as well. And guess what, when we go to Vail, they treat us with friendship and the free flow of information. And guess what, when the Vailites come here, we do the same.

In Aspen, we host several small ski schools from the midwest--every November--and coach them in things we're doing.

The resorts--in all their internetworking levels, have a wonderful combination of cooperation AND competition.
post #190 of 207
There is a lot in your post here that I don't quite buy...
What else aren't you buying in that post?

It may be a post on steroids, but I will stand by the kernel of truth.

I was talking with someone at your level about sharing best practices, and here is what I learned: the chitchat between two friends in the business over cocktails or dinner is how best practices are shared. To raise this above the radar would NOT be conducive to more sharing.

Why would that be, if higher-ups weren't guarding their proprietary edge and putting the muzzle on?
post #191 of 207

Sometimes it's just rhetoric for the sake of getting more information. I believe Gonzo and Lucky have an analogy for it, something to do with the weight of the leader. I'm prodding. It can be very irritating, I can tell. Sorry about that.

But really, how else is a person to learn if they don't disturb the system and observe what happens?

[ May 03, 2002, 11:09 AM: Message edited by: nolobolono ]
post #192 of 207
Originally posted by Pete:
(thank goodness for subway, even if the bread does taste like crap … if Ott is from Europe he’ll be hearing me on the bread issue),
graaagh! American bread! YUCK. It is full of sugar.
It's not fair, now I'm back in Australia I have to go back on low-carb. So no decent bread for me, either.
post #193 of 207
Nolo, thanks. [img]redface.gif[/img] It was just a bit of a half assed go at the situation but I hoped it may inspire others to take up the theme and run with it a bit.

My background? Errr, ok. Pretty varied actually, in a nutshell, after high school studied at the School of Electronic Engineering in Adelaide, Australia and worked in electronics industry for some years before following my passion for flying. I am now a long-haul airline pilot flying Boeing 747-400 on the ultra long-haul routes. For “fun” some years back I completed an undergraduate degree in Business, graduating with honours, majoring in Management and Marketing, with a minor in Economics. I have an interest in organisational crisis management and disaster recovery. And I loooooove to ski
post #194 of 207
Does the 14 hour jaunt from LA to Sydney qualifty as ultra long haul?!
post #195 of 207
LAX to Melbourne is as long as they come, but LAX to Sydney is pretty close yep.
post #196 of 207

Thanks for the background. I'm impressed.

If I ran a resort that you visited, how would you like my group to gather information from you in order to send you timely notices of special deals, rewards, and offers?
post #197 of 207
Nolo, normally I’m a little reluctant to get too specific with marketing answers because I’m not at all familiar with your particular situation (but if you would like me to become familiar with your specific situation next season I’m sure we could work something out ). Generally speaking the search for easy answers to complex problems is fraught with danger, but hey, danger is my middle name right So I’ll dive right in!!

As far as a school gathering personal information about your customers I think the ideal time would be when booking/gathering for the lesson. Before taking a lesson I’m often asked to fill out a sheet of paper that, in addition to my name and address, asks things like my ability, number of days skiing, and so forth. Indeed if you run a ski school, gathering information like this is normally quite easy, as the school often requires a disclaimer to be signed to the effect that if you hurt yourself they’re going to try blaming somebody else. The mountain/resort would have a much more difficult job gathering the same data, as their audience is less “captive” if you will. Gathering addresses from accommodation centres would be ok, but would then excludes day visitors. In their case, probably the most cost effective way is to run a promotion, maybe something like “win a pair of skis” or “win a week for two”, you get the idea. Provide a really good incentive for people to fill out the entry forms with their personal data, it’s amazing what people will do if they think they will get something for nothing! The better the incentive the greater the return. Legislation regarding the use of this information varies so be sure to check that out.

As you can imagine, implementing a successful campaign can get complex, so it’s difficult to summarise in so few lines. But basically once you have that information it’s best not to bombard the person with something perceived as “advertising”, eventually it will be ignored. This is where a good marketer will get very sneaky, but in essence you want to give the person some reason to take notice. People are pretty self centred by nature, so if you give them something about themselves it goes down really well. Maybe this is the time to send the extra photographs of their ski lesson (maybe a group shot where they can say “hey there’s Boris, remember him, what an idiot”, laugh laugh, “Oh don’t I look fat in that” laugh laugh.) Something to make them recall what a good time they had. BTW a hint is that we tend to recall things in a much better light than may have existed at the time, the reality may have been that they were cold and wet when the shot was taken. For more experienced skiers (and you will know them from your questionnaire) you may send out fitness hints, upcoming specials, etc. So it goes on as you go through each of your market segments.

Sorry this has just touched on things but hope this helps.


post #198 of 207
Originally posted by nolobolono:
Sometimes it's just rhetoric for the sake of getting more information...I'm prodding. It can be very irritating, I can tell. Sorry about that.
It's not irritating at all! It's wonderfully challenging and don't ever stop. Prod me!!

In answer to your other question, the other thing I sort of take issue with is when you say,
"maybe the real reason for insipid, cliche'd, generic marketing efforts is because the mountain resort and snow sports are the backdrop for the real estate sales."

Certainly in the "mountain kingdoms" (a term coined by Rip McManus years ago to describe the Aspen's, Vail's, etc.) real estate is a big factor. It's not easy to service debt or amortize investment on lift tickets alone--even at our prices, and even in the busy days of 20 years ago. So real estate sales is a critical part of the economic engine, and a very difficult part for us in Aspen because our company never really had very much. (We lost those opportunities in the 50's with the decision that we were in the business of putting butts in chairs going uphill, rather than selling real estate.)

However, I don't think that's what leads to ineffective marketing plans. I think, in many cases, it's just incompetence. But I think, mostly, it's really hard to come up with a good marketing plan that really works. Marketing tends to take on a life of it's own that is in someways divorced from its product. And furthermore, lots of times people have these wonderful products and then they say, well all we need is "some marketing"--as if any marketing will do, or as if all marketing was just a bunch of surveys, discounts, and targeting. It's much more complex and expensive than that, and people are not yet as predictable as one would expect.

One time we put on a huge marketing campaign for our ski week program in Snowmass (about 15 years ago). It was amazingly successful, and the program really got busier. And the marketing program cost us more than the revenue brought in. The next year we cut back and the program went back down. On the other hand, Lito's program--largely through his own marketing sells out ALL THE TIME, and just gets bigger. Lito is a genius at this, and does a wonderful job--and it's a lot about Lito. Go figure. I don't know why it's not good. But it's not from lack of effort by intelligent and creative people trying their best.

But I think it is simplistic to say that it is all a real estate scam. In fact, when it became REALLY focused on the real estate (read ASC)it seems that it fails miserably.

Pete! Good stuff. Thanks. I think you ought to settle down and study something! You really sound lazy. I love the part where a long-haul pilot says danger is his middle name. I miss those flights to Auckland and Sydney because I've always had such a wonderful time in your part of the world.
post #199 of 207
[quote]Originally posted by nolobolono:
the chitchat between two friends in the business over cocktails or dinner is how best practices are shared. To raise this above the radar would NOT be conducive to more sharing.

Why would that be, if higher-ups weren't guarding their proprietary edge and putting the muzzle on?
I think it's normal for networking to be done informally. When you're speaking in a group, there is a natural tendency to become less forthcoming, for fear of offensiveness, endless argument, and, of course, being misquoted back at the "home office". That's why this forum is so terrific because everyone can be anonymous--just like two people over dinner. (I use my own name because I have no upward ambition, and my boss promised me if I were to lose my job, I would have the honor of firing myself!)

Having said that, my experience working with colleagues in PSIA has been that there is a great willingness to share publicly in both small and large groups, and sometimes the fireworks become quite dynamic. But, yes, probably less than in private, because, well you know..."Shut up and ski!"
post #200 of 207
I've been away consulting and must confess that I have not read this entire topic.

I once heard a very savvy retailer say he would rather make five fast nickels than one slow quarter.

I don't pretend to understand the customer at Vail or Aspen. I do pretend to understand the folks in Boulder and environs.

The price of a ski lesson is expensive. The price of programs are expensive. I simply think gross margins are a little steep, particularly in light of the fixed costs and/or overhead.

There is a cute joke about two folks who walk into a golf shop and one of the customers announces their friend has come to the course to learn to play golf. When the pro asks whether they both would like a lesson the person doing the talking says, "oh no, I learned how to play golf yesterday".

I think that is the issue with our groups piling off the buses headed to ski school. In two hours they feel they are skiers. Perhaps they are.
post #201 of 207
Marketing tends to take on a life of it's own that is in someways divorced from its product.

That would certainly be incompetent marketing. It would also be a sign of incompetence if marketing is in some ways divorced from its customers.

That seems to be both sides of it, and both are evident in our current state.

ROI is a very serious consideration, as you point out. When I think of good marketing I think of creating excellent feedback loops, also known as "virtuous cycles." (As opposed to vicious circles.) The great thing about a strong feedback loop is it can be a gift that keeps on giving--a renewable resource, you might say.

Of course, the system must be well-monitored and have the capacity for self-correction designed into it.

I fear that marketing that is not systemic is bound to fail.
post #202 of 207
Weems, I like to keep the flights interesting for my passengers
post #203 of 207
Interesting that Weems mentioned Lito. In Nolo's forum, I mentioned that Lito's communication style appeals to me more than Harald's. { by coincidence,when SCSA met me in person, he told me that I would probably work better with Lito than Harald}

Nolo commented that with Lito you hear reasonance, but with Harald you hear disonance. Lito's appeal is personal. I once got a thank you email from him for recommending his book on my website.

There is a website for fitness trainers, http;//www.ptonthenet.com
For about $100 a year, trainers get research and resources that are updated monthly. They are doing outrageously well, even in the age of the failing dot coms.
They started in a small town called Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Basically, they physically went into gyms, studios and trainers homes, and showed them what they had to offer.

Other similar services had very slick, high budget marketing techniques.

They are now obsolete!
post #204 of 207
Nolo commented that with Lito you hear reasonance, but with Harald you hear disonance.

I was speaking of YOU, not making a generalization. Never having even met the two gentlemen, I would not be qualified.
post #205 of 207
OOPS!! Grammar mistake! Instead of quoting your words directly, I should have said "I". Back to elementary school for me! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #206 of 207
Hey, it's okay. I just didn't want to P*** anyone off!
post #207 of 207
I have had week-long clinics from both Harald and Lito. I think Harald is much more technical than Lito. Lito has a holistic approach and appears to be a very easy going person.
Harald is much more direct, but was very sincere and dedicated to improving the skiing of the group.
I liked them both and learned from each style.
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