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New Body to Accredit Ski Schools?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
In some way, I guess this is a continuation of the "ski turn" thread that took a slight detour recently. Rather than fully hijack that thread, I thought I'd try this new thread out to explore a topic. What sparked my interest were two posts in the detoured thread, the one by Mr. Barnes regarding the need for consumer demand to improve ski schools and the post regarding physician accreditation.

I agree with Mr. Barnes (sorry for the "Mr." stuff, I have a southern upbringing) that consumer demand would help, but what would cause the consumer as a whole to pick a particular resort primarily based on its ski school? All ski schools claim they are great, but no one ever truly finds a meaningful way to compare them. So the consumer is left with little information other than anecdotes and an occasional reference in a ski mag that the school is great.

The analogy to physcians and health care in general got me thinking. Physicians, as noted in the previous thread, are licensed and accordingly, there is an analogy between physician licensure and PSIA licensing of instructors. But for ski schools, as opposed to instructors, the better analogy would be to hospitals that are accredited by a central body (JCAHO if anyone is interested). JCAHO reviews all hospital operations according to a set code it established and then issues an "accreditation" of the hospital.

If there were a central body that could develop a simple code for ski school accreditation (for example, setting levels for ratios of Level III to Level II instructors, establishing minimum continuing educational requirements of instructors, average length of years at same resort by employees, etc.), that central body could publish its crietria for accreditation and then review ski schools as to whether they met the criteria. Obviously a ski school would have to consent to being reviewed for accreditation, but I think a "Gold Label" from a central accrediting body would be a huge marketing coup for the resort.

As to whom or what the central body would be, I don't think any current entity is independent enough to serve that role. For example, PSIA is really in the business of certifying individuals and they would have an inherent bias toward ski schools that use their instructors. Ski schools/resorts would simply want the standards that are the cheapest possible to meet. Instructor's would lean toward requirements that may be too expensive for the resorts.

Instead, I would envision a newly created central body that includes equal memebrship from ski instructors, ski schools, PSIA and, perhaps, an advisory council of ski consumers.

I assume that if this would ever be started, there would be strong resistance from the resorts as a whole, but after one or two resorts actually had their ski school certified and began to advertise the fact that they were approved on their web pages and brochures, other more reluctant resorts would begin to take interest. Likewise, instructors may make a choice to lean toward working for an accredited resort based on perceived increase in consumer need and, perhaps a more educated consumer. This migration toward the accredited school would also hurt the ski school who did not seek accreditation.

The bulk of the money needed to finance this operation could come from application fees to be accredited, a charge for the accreditation, and a few for renewal. Seed money to start off would have to come from existing trade associations or perhaps some skier-friendly charities/private foundations.

I realize that this would be a tough rock to get moving. But I also think its a product that would benefit everyone from the consumer through the instructor to the school.

[ August 21, 2002, 09:49 AM: Message edited by: Skidmo ]
post #2 of 13
If nothing else, maybe a ski magazine could do this like Nwsweek does with Colleges. The question is though, could they sell that? Also, it would be expensive to rank all of the schools. Would it be worth the cost?
post #3 of 13
This is really a great exchange of ideas and information here, considering it's still summer time (in the N. hemisphere ). Pardon my sarcasm please....
On Certification- Ski instruction aint brain surgery so if John Q. gets a bad lesson ( and what does he have to compare it with if he's a beginner...) the worst thing that may happen is he won't ski next winter. He'll go on a cruise ship instead ( no lift lines, just buffet lines ). So comparing ski instructors to doctors is a bit of a stretch. Most people who try out for ski school only last a couple of years. It's lousy pay, and it gets old picking up fat people off the snow. ( Oh, God , I hope no fat people who are thinking of going skiing with their church group are reading this....)Uh, here's a clue- "SKIING IS ATHLETIC!" Those of us that stick it out and work through the levels of certification do it for one reason. We want to become the best skiers on the mountain and instructor training is the only way to do it. Unless you are filthy rich , no one could afford to pay for the level of training we get. At level 3 , you are never going to have someone paying for a lesson that can ski better or knows more about the sport than you do. So what's the point of endlessly training and going to exams? To prove to your peers that you are a great skier. The pin is a validation of that. Sorry if I offended anyone but let's be honest. There's a lot of ego involved here.
Another point: The sad fact ( pointed out in several previous threads ) is that most intermediates don't take lessons and the vast majority of lesson takers are beginners. So should they insist on a "full cert" instructor? I can hear the laughter behing the ticket counter already.....At my ski area anyone level 2 or 3 starts whining ( level ones whine too..) whenever they have to take a group of beginners twice in one day. Now if we were getting $10. per head, I think there would be a huge attitude adjustment don't you think? In my skiing dreams I only teach beautiful, rich people who have trained months for their skiing vacation. Of course, they tip me with a new car and beg me to accompany them to Austria ( all expenses paid + huge bonus )and become their "personal instructor" At long last, my years of training paid off!
To Ski resort owners/managers-
What's it gonna take before you knuckleheads realize that your tightfisted ways are killing this sport? Let's look at an average day on the slopes for Joe Beginner; adult all day lift= $53., 1\2 daylesson ( cheap) =$30, equipment rental ( hope your boots are dry, then again you'll probably be swimming in them anyway, ha!ha! )= $45. , lunch $17 ......that's $145.!!! What a deal! ( don't forget the sunscreen! )Afterwards, go get a $6. domestic beer. Why didn't they come back? Must of been the crummy lesson they got, glad we're not wasting any money paying those worthless ski instructor bums!! Maybe we can sell condos to 'em, then they'll come back!
The quality of instruction IMHO, is excellent at most resorts and we don't need more certification validation ,accredidation, or verification, what we need is some recognition and COMPENSATION ! And ( at least at my area) that means ALL LEVELS cause we have some damn fine level one and two instructors. It would be nice to see people appreciated for the good work they do. Not everyone wants to jump through the hoops to get certified. And 99% of the people taking lessons don't know the difference. All they know is whether or not they had a good time. Here's my tip to any 'serious students' out there...sign up for ski school, join PSIA and maybe you'll get lucky enough to get "Mr. Barnes" for your clinician ! :
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
The idea would be to create an accreditation that ski resorts would want to have. Think about what J.D. Power Associates did with their car reliability survey or the postive effect for a manufacturer of a Consumer Products "Best Buy" award.

The key is not just comparing the ski schools like a newsweek article, but establishing the right criteria by which to rate them. Once this is done, you can rate a ski school as accredited or not. You wouldn't rank the resorts, you would just label them as "accredited." This kind of accreditation is done in numerous lines of businesses.

For example, there was a thread months ago about what the perfect ski school would be from a ski instructors perspective. This would be a great start to drafting the minimum requirements for accreditration. Obviously, the accrediting body would have to get input from the ski resorts and the consumer before they could come up with their own guidelines and there would have to be negotiations to get an agreed upon set. I would venture to guess that the guidelines would benefit the ski instructors more than any other group. Using the example from my earlier post, if one of the ski school factors to be reviewed was average years of employment at the same school, there would be an incentive for the ski schools to find ways to better retain their current instuctors.

Obviously the ski resorts would be the biggest obstacle to creating this type of review. But if they are part of developing the standards, which they should be, it would be easier to get them to buy in. Also, I think the smarter resorts would realize the benefits of being accredited as one of the Best Ski Schools in the country by an independent body.

As to the funding, I don't think that would be an major obstacle, ski equipment manufacturers could be sponsors and, in return, get sponsorship rights such as naming the accreditation after them or using the fact they sponsored the project in their own advertising. Example, "Volkyl is proudly committed to see that the skier has all the best resources from the equipment to the educaiton. Accordingly, Volkyl proudly sponsors the ___________ Ski School Accreditation Program."

I fully realize that this is pie in the sky kind of stuff at this point. But I do think it would unltimately benefit the instructor, the ski school and, god forbid, the consumer.

Anyway, the main pooint of the post was just to get people thinking about a different way to try and address many, many of the problems expressed on this board.
post #5 of 13
Hi Skidmo,

I love your can-do attitude.

In the other thread a great clue was dropped, and that was BB's assertion to Sitz that consumer demand drives Quality. I think we would need to test your assumption (that consumers want ski schools to be accredited) before writing a business plan.

Also, I believe you have jumped to form without completing the task of defining its purpose. If the purpose is to give consumers a quality assurance, and that is backed up by market research, then an open dialogue about the forms that this quality assurance could take would be in order to surface alternative strategies that may alter the original idea of creating an industry supported but independent body to accredit ski schools.
post #6 of 13
What about the ASA? (do they still exist?)
You know, the guys that define standards etc.
Organisations such as:
ASA - American Standards Authority
BS - British Standards
DIN - Deutch Industrie Norm (I think) (Henc DIN on Bindigns)
EN - European Normalisation
ISO - International Standards Organisation
Could they not include one for ski schools?

Just a thought.

But I agree, Nolo, I'm not sure how big a difference the quality badge would make to consumers taking lessons, cause for me, it's not a badge, or a school, it's about how much better I skied after than before, and how much I enjoyed myself while having the lesson, and as a result of it.

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the points. I guess this all starts from my own personal experience. With a wife that doesn't ski, but would be willing to learn, and two kids just starting out, a good ski school is an important factor in selecting which resort we'll go to. However, I have no idea what constitues a "good" ski school or how to find it.

It would be interesting, for example, to simply get several resorts, ski instructors and a consumers to list the ten criteria that they believe are the most important for ski schools. The information could then be collected and shared. It would be a good starting point to at least see what the various contingencies view as important. This would at least provide some sort of base line from which to work.
post #8 of 13
I believe that Ski magazine rates ski schools and also has the 'top 100 instructors' poll? That is a great endorsement, but I as far as I know being rated in the top 100 hasn't gotten anyone even one request. ( We have two 'top 100 instructors' ). On another note, Taos has been rated one of the best ski schools out there, but I have had more than one student speak ill of them ( Sorry, Taos!) I also think that skiers like to travel to different resorts ( I do ) so the reason someone doesn't come back may just be that they want to try a different area. IMHO, ski ares should start catering IN A BIG WAY to the locals, cause that's the bread and butter. It may be that unless you have a large urban area to draw from ( like Denver or SLC ) remote areas like Durango will continue to see skier populations dwindle.

[ August 22, 2002, 08:50 AM: Message edited by: snowdancer ]
post #9 of 13
>>>I also think that skiers like to travel to different resorts ( I do ) so the reason someone doesn't come back may just be that they want to try a different area.<<<

Which makes me wonder: How does a ski school know if a student is a returnee or not? I have not heard of a ski school that makes students fill out a mandatory form, and unless everyone taking a lesson states if they have taken a lesson at the resort before, no valid result can obtained, just guisses.

post #10 of 13
Ott, they make the lessons cost enough so that you will use a credit card, and then they've got you.
post #11 of 13
The demand from the public for quality products is what has changed many companies through out the US. Competition! If we can assume that to be true then it would behoove organizations such as PSIA and marketing groups within the snow sports industry such as manufactures and ski magazines to educate the skiing & snow sports public in why accredited instructional programs are good for them and why they should demand accreditation. If the demand is left to the ski areas and there is no demand from their customers most likely it will never happen. Why? There is work to be done and little time to accomplish the current tasks so why put effort into areas where there is no demand. In general there is also no competition in the area of instructions. Skiers go to areas to ski and the qualities of the instructions they take are secondary. This does make the areas poorly managed companies it means they are for the most part addressing the issues that are in demand or those items that will increase revenues in today’s competitive market. The areas are putting in more lifts; snow making, grooming, cafeteria capacity, etc. So the question begs an answer, how do you get those organizations to create a demand by our customers that we sense is needed which then will improve our customer’s instructional products, retention rate, and the fun factor? PSIA as an organization is in between a rock and a hard place. They have to walk on both sides of the line. PSIA must maintain a strong communication line with the areas and not be or appear burdensome and yet we may see them as a major part of the problem if they don’t encourage the customer to make these demands. The other organizations on the other hand may be in a better position to help except how do you communicate the value and need to them? Why should they put forth the effort? Will they sell more products? Will they gain market share?

Have a GREAT day!
post #12 of 13
The Skiing Mag Top 100 Instructors may not be what you think it is. Every year the us supervisor/trainers pick who we want put on that list for Mammoth. Of course, since instruction is not competition, and there is no good way to rank the "100 best in the US"

By the way, this a little off subject, but I belive that the ISIA (international)is going to be replaced by a new international certitication. What impact if any this may have on the PSIA remains to be seen.
post #13 of 13
Consumer education about the benefits of accreditation would have to be one of the accrediting body's or its sponsorts tasks. I like Skidmo's ideas and Nolo's business sense. So let's form some kind of working group to first define the benefits to the consumer, the ski area, the instructor, and the product of ski instruction. The second step would probably be to outline the tasks necessary to acheive a series of milestones to make the concept a reality.

I would volunteer to be on such a committee. Anyone else?
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