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Size of ski school groups

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
Who decides how big a group lesson should be? We saw ESF (the French national school) with 15+ adults, and children's groups of 10+. Their brochure says they give no committment on class size - but you can pay extra for your child to be in a group of max 8 (school holidays only).

I can't imagine I'd learn much with 1 instructor to 15 of us. We booked with Evolution 2 who promise no more than 8.

Is it even safe to have so many kids to one adult? Are there rules/laws about this? (in the UK there are laws about playschool/creches etc which have children only slightly younger)
post #2 of 34
Frances it all depends on how many instructors show up vs how many students here. The other day we had 7 instructors for nearly 400 students. Class sizes here are a minimum of five and have been as large as 50.
post #3 of 34
As a student I would not go back to the school that had a group of more than 8 if I had a choice of schools.
post #4 of 34
Thread Starter 
50???? How can you learn anything in a class of 50?
post #5 of 34
Thread Starter 
p.s. I love this place... I post a message & go to lunch & 2 people have replied when I get back, even in the middle of their night.
post #6 of 34
Frances, 50 is extremely unusual and happens rarely. That was an extreme case. 15-25 happens much more than we would like. If its snowboarders, the class size is less of a problem as only 50% of them pay attention in the slightest so you're class size is effectively smaller. [img]tongue.gif[/img] [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #7 of 34
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Frances:
p.s. I love this place... I post a message & go to lunch & 2 people have replied when I get back, even in the middle of their night.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

It is not quite as radical, the board shows West Coast time and I am in Boston.
post #8 of 34
It really depends on demand, and available instructors. I dunno how it works in Europe, but here in the US we only get paid if allocated a class. So there's a limit to how many instructors you can have waiting arouind, unpaid, in the hope of getting a few hours' work.
I had 10 beginner s the other day, but that is not common. During the X-Games last year, I had 18 kids on one day to herd around the mountain! We did OK though.

6 to 8 seems more the general rule in classes here.

ant
post #9 of 34
I think on the norm, most SS class average is around 8. I remember when we had classes that large and sometimes larger, and I guess that's nothing according to Pierre eh!. [img]smile.gif[/img] But now we work with much smaller groups. At Snowmass, our class average for beginners is 3 to 4 but could have as many as 5, and our intermediate class product, Small Group Lesson, can have no more than 4, and has normally 2 to 3 in it. How can we make any money doing this? Charge more. [img]smile.gif[/img] But I don't think that what we charge is out of line. For beginners, $109.00 get you an all day lesson with equipment and lift ticket. Our Small Group Lesson is $99.00 for an all day. With such small class sizes, it's almost like getting a private for a fraction of the cost. If one was to come in our slower times, it could be a one on one all day for $109.00 for beginners to $99.00 for intermediates. Not bad, huh? --------------Wigs :
post #10 of 34
The Perfect Turn schools are supposed to limit clinic size to 6, they are pretty good about this - though during the anarchy of a holiday this rule certainly gets more liberal!
post #11 of 34
I had a group of 12 today that went very well. There were even a few 12/13 year olds mixed in however, they were well behaved.

But, toss in a few brats and a mixed group can become a nightmare. : ........ I usually just kind of let them ski away and after a few long hikes back up they tend to get with the program.
post #12 of 34
Frances, a picture says it better than 1k words,
even if it was a long time ago, I haven't
seen a difference nowadays.
http://web.tiscali.it/pickelhaube/memories.html
post #13 of 34
Thread Starter 
I love the brown jacket & goggles. And why is nobody smiling?
post #14 of 34
Hi Frances,
If I remember well you picked the only german
of the group...
Well, nobody was smiling because we were deadly serious about the task at hand, to become a ski champion!
Seriously speaking, I do not remember, but checking al the class picture I have, I never smiled (I'm a very shy person and as a kid I was even worse)
I ckecked the original, and the sun was shining directly into our eyes, everybody has their eyes closed, even the instructor, and thus forgot about smiling...
post #15 of 34
This really begs the bigger question. What is better for the client, turning them away and telling them we are "sold out", or putting them in a big group?

I'd love to see some stats on that.

Bob
post #16 of 34
Thread Starter 
Tricky. Depends on their standard. Reassign your instructors so that beginners are in smallish groups. Offer the better skiers a big group for a lower price & explain it'll be more like a day with a guide than detailed technical instruction. Those new to the resort will still take that (at least, I would).
post #17 of 34
WV, I once had a CFO tell me not to cut off..."I would rather have them pissed off with their money in my pocket than pissed off with it in theirs.." I disagreed, continued to cut off, steered toward reservations and max class size...created a comodity, forecastability and ultimately MO MONEY... He is still in the industry...so keep yer eyes open.
Answer" 6-8 would be optimum" Reality "most schools and instructors wish"
post #18 of 34
Giving people an option would be a good start. Take a class now or come back later or here is the refund or take class now for less money. Something along these lines would make students feel a lot better.
post #19 of 34
There was some discussion on alternative ski instruction models a while ago that I think relates to this discussion. alternative ski instruction

I don't mean to reiterate but I would like to add that it seems to me that most ski instruction is really based quite narrowly on a financial model (as is true in many other sports). My "radical" ideal would be to see a resort focus on developing its image and marketing approach based on its ski school and creation of the image that it is THE place to learn and improve. In that case the value of the "ski school" would transcend the typically narrow minded cost/revenue approach I think most resorts employ. If a role for a ski school could be developed where its "value added" is much greater than the revenues it generates there would be much opportunity for innovative approaches and improvement of the learning environment. In such a case I don't think we would be talking about class size as much of a relative factor. Instead we would be discussing innovation and relatively radical change of ski instruction organization.

Certainly the quality of a resort's ski school is a part of its image. However, I know of no place that has taken the leap to base its image (at least to a greater extent) on the concept of "a mountain of learning and improvement." From my expereience, I would say that the resort coming closest to this would be Taos. Although in recent times they (or at least the ski magazines) seem to have reduced the marketing focus along these lines.

I don't mean to say that every resort can afford to do this, as only a percentage of skiers have a quality learning/teaching environement as a high priority. But I suspect that there are more than enough of us with this focus to make a few resorts successful based on this approach.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 21, 2002 09:00 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Si ]</font>
post #20 of 34

How many is to many?

We had a guest for this past weekend. She enrolled in a never-ever snow board lesson. She was very excited about it. She has purchased a season pass that comes with 3 lessons. Her lesson had twenty five students, one instructor. She learned to sit around on her butt for a day. I guess that is why snowboarders sit all over the place. :

She was very disappointed, showed little interest in coming back. This even though she bought a pass, had lessons coming and spent money on a jacket, pants, gloves...

I called the school and spoke with a manager who said someone would call us back, they did we missed the call, called back but no return call. I went in person to the school and spoke to a different manager who told us that Twenty Five in a Saturday class was not unusual. He offered another class free, which was nice. Although given the quality of the class I have serious doubts that she would learn anything.

With all the hand wringing that goes on here about getting folks interested in the sport, taking lessons this is one example of how to turn a person off.
post #21 of 34
A few years back, we actually published a guaranteed maximum of 8 students per class in our brochure. I think I had a number of classes over 15 that year and the largest was about 25. The ski area never got a single complaint from the public about the class sizes (what does that say?).

The most I've ever had by myslef was 37 middle school kids from an inner city DC school. That sucked! These days, if classes are going to be greater than 20, we'll put two instructors with one larger class. Last season I witnessed one class of about 35 with 2 instructors. Luckily, the instructors were a L2 and a L3 cert, so the class went well.

I got pertty good at keeping people moving in classes with 15+ students, but I know they would get bored standing there watching. I'd try to keep them engaged while they were standing around, but it's like conducting a 3 ring circus.

When I get classes that are really big, I tend to run the class a bit long. Even if I never tell management, I think the students deserve it. So instead of ending at 90 minutes, I'll go 2 hrs or more if the students need it. Another thing I've done, is let the people go once they have reached the point where they can safely navigate a beginner run, and keep people with me until they can do the same. That way, the class gets smaller toward the end and people get more individual attention. I HATE leaving people at the end of a class knowing they probably cannot safely make a run on the beginner hill. At that point, if I must leave them, I sometimes give them their lesson ticket back and tell them to come to the next lesson and ask for a level 2 lesson. The level 2 lessons have very few students. A couple of times, I even ended up with the same people in the level 2 lesson that I had in the beginner (level 1) lesson, so we were able to just continue where we left off. I think this fulfills the "guaranteed learn to ski" pledge that we have.
post #22 of 34
There are times, when given the conditions, the group and the pro, 5 is too many. Over 7 is where I start to get worried. Over 10 and you need to have a good group or an above average pro. Over 15 you need to have a good group and a great pro. If I had to pick one number as too many for a first time class it would be 12.

Having 25 in a class on regular basis is a sign of a problem. Was this a big resort or a little one? We've heard stories from some of the midwest "factories" where 50 in a class is not unusual. In those cases, the economics are such that it would drastic changes in the business model to get class sizes under 10. Because they do not get widespread customer revolt under the current conditions, they don't see a need to make a significant upfront investment (e.g. construction of facilities to support a 5 times increase in school staffing) with no guarantee of payback AND a likelihood of lower short term profits. In their case, the problem is so bad that it is not deemed worth fighting. In general, East and West coast resorts don't have the problem that bad and can therefore afford to address the issue with an eye towards long term payback. Resorts that are making a concerted effort to make the first time experience a success are providing dedicated facilities for beginners and limiting class sizes to 5-7.
post #23 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by therusty

Was this a big resort or a little one? .
Keystone.
post #24 of 34
Bob Barnes is a regular poster here. see "congratulations bob barnes" thread. He was recently named director of training at Keystone and I'd bet would be very interested to know your friend's experience. It doesn't seem like something he would put up with.
post #25 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom
Bob Barnes is a regular poster here. see "congratulations bob barnes" thread. He was recently named director of training at Keystone and I'd bet would be very interested to know your friend's experience. It doesn't seem like something he would put up with.
That is the reason I did not mention Keystone by name until I was asked.
post #26 of 34
Where did you find this ancient thread?!

Over the years, I've noticed much bigger beginner classes in Australia, and they are a standard rather than an abberation. 10 or 12 seemed to be optimal, they'd count them off and send them off. Then you have latecomers coming to join, which blows the groups out further.

Latecomers for more advanced classes are SOL as the groups have gone. But beginners can't go very far, so they get those add-ons happening.
post #27 of 34
Thanks Kima,

Maybe Keystone adding Bob to the staff is a sign that they want to change things. However, the training director typically has little direct control over such matters as class sizes. Hopefully Bob can give us a clearer picture once he can get his head above water (this is a very busy time of the year for training directors).
post #28 of 34

class Size

50 students in a class - ugh = quitting. Sometimes we have barely 50 skiers on the mountain. I think class size really depends on the different ability levels of the students. If everything is basically equal a good instructor can handle 8-15 but if there is a real difference in ability etc. a real problem can occur. I really like the post by SI, the ski school can be a real draw, ambassador etc. for the mountain instead of a bean counters fodder. Too bad that a lot of people in the ski industry don't see this. Peoeple will come back time and time again if they are treated well and get go lessons etc. A ski instructor is often the most visible person on the mountain. So what do some areas do - no skiing with you coat on. I feel class size should be limited to a max of 8 for a quality experience. The posts of 25-50 for a class size is just ridiculous. Why would a person pay good $ for such a lesson. It seems to me the only lesson is to go somewhere else next time.
post #29 of 34
Ski schools used to be a more valued-for-the-sake-of-it thing, but then they became "profit centres" which means they are primarily profit generators, not a service or a status symbol or a great visible feature of the resort. It's a shame, for all the reasons listed by Idaho Pete above.
post #30 of 34
I was instructing with Pierre at Boston Mills in 2002 when he posted that number of 50 students in his class. 25 was not uncommon even last year. Just today at the new hires clinic at Keystone I asked about the number
of students in the class. I was given a very reasonable number, that depends on the age of the students and their level.
I will mention the thread to Bob Barnes tomorrow. And, yes, he is very bsy these days.
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