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Help- Ski School is broken!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
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?

Thanks,

K
post #2 of 17
I see you've got nine posts, so you missed the ENDLESS thread about this....
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks Sibhusky- I'll check that out.

 

K

post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by katherinelr View Post

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?

Thanks,

K

K,

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.
post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by sharpedges View Post




K,

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.


 


I dont know the ski school in question, but if what sharp edges is writing is true....then it seems your ski school managment is at least part of your problem.

You actually run class sizes of 12??????????????????

People today are cash rich, time poor.  Hence they want to make the most of their ski days, move out of bargain basement ski school and go up market.

Full Day lessons, top pros, and small groups.

This allows people to maximise their learning and enjoyment, and with the lift line cutting privledges you can usually ski more in a ski school group then alone.  Sure the ski school might have to pay the pros abit more to attract the right calibre of pros....but they can also charge more for the lesson, and the lessons will be booked out...
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidude72 View Post

You actually run class sizes of 12??????????????????

People today are cash rich, time poor.  Hence they want to make the most of their ski days, move out of bargain basement ski school and go up market.

I assume he's talking about British Invasion - that is a bargain basement product.
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post




I assume he's talking about British Invasion - that is a bargain basement product.

Epic is correct. 

Last year the new management at that area instituted a max 5 policy for normal classes.  And the new prices, especially for kids programs, reflect this change. (Previously, groups had often been much larger except for the small kids.)  The exceptions are things like the invasion which involve special package deals.  A multi-day audience like that is a good venue to try a revised ski week format.  If the new format works there, it'll develop a life of its own and could become a holiday season draw. 

Said differently, other than Presidents' Day Week which is a public school holiday in parts of the Northeast, it's the only large, concentrated group of week-long lift ticket sales that they can plan on.  It's the only safe laboratory they have to test out a new ski week approach.
post #8 of 17
The quality of instructors at some of the resorts is inconsistent and in many cases, terrible.  $95 for an all day lesson with a poor, unenthusiastic  instructor not giving individual feedback and whose skills are not up to date is not going to have people coming back for more.  The resorts must demand better quality from their instructors and get rid of people who do not meet the standard.  Give customers a quality product for their money.   
post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by skier31 View Post

The quality of instructors at some of the resorts is inconsistent and in many cases, terrible.  $95 for an all day lesson with a poor, unenthusiastic  instructor not giving individual feedback and whose skills are not up to date is not going to have people coming back for more.  The resorts must demand better quality from their instructors and get rid of people who do not meet the standard.  Give customers a quality product for their money.   

If you get this kind of lesson do what any unhappy purchaser of any product  should do. Go to the ski school desk and tell them your lesson was inadequate and poorly administrated and demand a lesson with a  skilled instructor or your money returned to you. Nobody should pay good money for such a lesson . I think they would accommodate you in some way . I know ours would.
post #10 of 17
I really like what SKIDUDE72 writes. When I was learning to ski (many,many moons ago). The best skiers on the hill were the ski instructors in full uniform. They were required to free ski between lessons. Everyone serious about their skiing wanted to take lessons-because we wanted to ski like "those guys & girls"). Also, they didn't all ski the same (ie. golf-cart turns:slow, wide, and ugly). I returned to skiing 6 years ago; ski an average of 5 days a week. I can't even tell you who the Ski School Director is at my home mountain (Greek Peak). Most laid back Ski School I've ever seen.
post #11 of 17
 skiteebow,

Unfortunately in today's worker's comp environment, some ski schools will not allow their staff to free ski in uniform in fear of a worker's comp claim or liability suite if they collide with a guest.  It is sad because I work for one of those resorts.  To get a couple runs in before work I have to change jackets (not allowed to turn the uni inside out) then run in to change before line up.  Then if there is no lesson, run back inside to change again if I want to ski.  I suggested that level III and above instructors would be good marketing tools free skiing in uniform but the risk management doesn't see it that way.  
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post

 It is sad because I work for one of those resorts.

I do to and every time someone gets hurts the first thing people ask is "Were you wearing your jacket?".
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post

I do to and every time someone gets hurts the first thing people ask is "Were you wearing your jacket?".
I think most resorts have mandated this approach by now.  At my home resort if an instructor is in a sanctioned clinic, they are allowed to wear their uniform.  Supervisors wear their uniform whenever they are on the clock.  Risk Managers have a legitiamate concern when it comes to liability.  We have discussed Bud's "marketing" angle many times.  I have actually been paid to ski in visible areas while in uniform in the past.
JF
post #14 of 17
  Yep.  Who is running the farm, well the lawyers and bean counters of course.  Silver Mt. here in Idaho stopped letting us free ski in our jackets.  PR, selling the ski school etc. almost stopped.   I used to stop on ther slopes and help people all the time which was a great sales method for lessons.  Got a lot of private/requests that way.  Too bad even our sport is over run by SUITS.    Hi Bud.  
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post

 skiteebow,

Unfortunately in today's worker's comp environment, some ski schools will not allow their staff to free ski in uniform in fear of a worker's comp claim or liability suite if they collide with a guest.  It is sad because I work for one of those resorts.  To get a couple runs in before work I have to change jackets (not allowed to turn the uni inside out) then run in to change before line up.  Then if there is no lesson, run back inside to change again if I want to ski.  I suggested that level III and above instructors would be good marketing tools free skiing in uniform but the risk management doesn't see it that way.  
 
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

Sharpedges- Thanks for your insightful reply.

The Max5 guarantee has been great, and I was thrilled to see that others on this forum knew about it. That's one of the hurdles I see- getting marketing to provide us some support, or ask for our input so we, the people actually involved in ski school, can help them highlight our specialties. While I have benefited from all the early morning powder shoots, I've also watched as the time sensitive email that was supposed to go out Tuesday promoting ski school specialty programs never get sent. Do the areas where you teach or ski promote the ski school? Have good signage? an informational website with video clips etc?

We do allow our Supervisors/ Staff trainers to ski in uniform (at least until someone gets hurt...) and while we do have some skiers in the Rust coats that rip, we also have some supervisors who are not known for their skiing prowess that don the colors and take to the slopes. Sadly, half of those that rip go in and change because they don't want to be found. Personally, if I don't want to be found, I go find some patrol friends and help them "check trails," especially those that had been closed before the big dump. I let them go first so it doesn't look like they're chasing me...

I read the recent thread Sibhusky recommended and don't mean to stir up more controversy...I'm only looking for a way to reinvigorate my ski school specifically, and the industry in general. Not an easy task by any means, but a little idea sharing never hurts.

 

K

post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4ster View Post

I think most resorts have mandated this approach by now. 
 

My resort lets pros free ski in uniform off duty. We also have a safety manager who is stricter than my mom.

There are many reasons pro and con on this issue. At a lot of resorts, the squeaky wheel (i.e. reason) gets the rule. At my resort, with line ups every 2 hours, beginner lessons starting every 30 minutes, etc., the need to put an off duty pro to work quickly is "squeakier" than issues of image and liability.
post #17 of 17
Katherine,

Welcome to Epic!

Although our group lesson business has stayed about the same, our private lesson business has grown to the point where we sell out of instructors at times.  The largest growth area has been in private children's lessons.  They account for over 70% of all lessons taught.

The instructors that say "I don't teach kids" often don't teach, while the rest of us are kept quite busy.  The return rate of our adult lessons is also quite high (for walk-ins).

RW
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