Originally Posted by katherinelr
There has been a lot of discussion, at least at my resort, about how to fix ski school from a philosophical perspective. People just aren't taking lessons like they used to. The ski week is dead, and with advances in grooming and equipment, the public can more easily just go at it themselves.
I believe one of the fundamental problems is we are too involved in "teaching skiing" and not involved enough in "teaching people to ski."
Your thoughts? Insights on what went right in the glory days? Other issues?
I'm glad to hear that under the Nyberg regime y'all are reinventing the ski school. You have some very enthusiastic younger instructors and a few good senior types like Jon to serve as a foundation for revamping yourselves. Out of curiosity, I occasionally shadow classes from a distance for a run. It's not uncommon to hear mutually contradictory instruction on Ramshead or Snowshed in a single morning. Over half of your instructional staff uses strong upper body rotation to initiate turns, and some of these wear dark orange jackets not light orange.
You lament the impact of shaped skis on your ski school and the demise of the ski week. Your opportunity is the British Invasion. Create 2 5-day instruction threads on modern shaped ski technique for intermediates / beginners and emphasize edging skills from day 1 since your entry level rental fleet shaped skis will turn on a dime with just a few degrees of edging. 5-day, max 5, with your best instructors for a 30% premium or the traditional BI group size of 12 with traditional instruction. You'll get some takers in the british invasion and can build out from this. The old gear is now a distant memory and you needn't consider it in your teaching.
Ski weeks aren't dead, they've just moved up-market to elite instructors rather than being a ski school product. Epic hosts several Epic Ski Academies a year with former demo team members on staff, and the brothers Deslauriers, the Egans, John Clendenin, and other internationally renowned coaches having thriving ski camp businesses. Your resort is fortunate to have several examiners on staff. You might try a "ski with the examiners" week or a month of Sundays with them. Or form a joint venture with ESA or one or more of these coaches.
If you want to attract intermediates to take more lessons, then you need to have your most technically able instructors freeskiing in their jackets, looking good and ungolfcartlike. Those same instructors should be chatting up people and acting as ambassadors on the lifts as they freeski. The red-jacketed mountain ambassadors should know the best of your level 3 instructors by sight and should point them out when they see them from the lifts. If they show institutional pride and the instruction looks good from the lifts, then you'll slowly increase the lesson repeat rate. However, if ambassadors showcase lackluster instructors .... Basically, intermediates need as instructors 1) strong technical skiers, 2) who want to share their love of skiing, and 3) who are agreeable or even charismatic teachers. As vital as 3 is, 1 and 2 are even more important for attracting intermediates and beyond.
You might also consider increasing the lesson duration for your blue and diamond zone students from 2 hours to 2.5 or 3. This will allow for more personalized instruction and reduce time pressures on your instructors. You could still fit in 2 sets of classes a day doing this.
A few final thoughts. I assume that on non-holiday weekends you have more instructors show up to line up than are needed. Perhaps they could join up with the mountain ambassadors who give the mountain tours and either give a 3 minute pitch for the ski and snowboard school or maybe even accompany the tour. It could be a way to pick up some Saturday afternoon and Sunday business. Use the people skills of the ambassadors and your instructors to sell your offerings. Many of your lifties and ticket scanners are international students from warm climates. They ask your customers what it is like to ski. Give them some free lessons, so they can talk about how great the ski school is rather than asking us what it's like to ski.