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The matter of marketing

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 
I believe that skiing is a powerful metaphor. Doing it teaches us how to live with fear and self-doubt, how to harness natural forces, how to be intuitive, how to communicate, and probably much more.

Skiing is an activity that is fun in a group and Zen all alone.

It brings you to the mountains, where you will find perspective in the scale of the landscape and the breadth of geologic time.

Skiing is dance, all dance, from waltz to mazurka to ballet. Mermer quotes an Inuit song: "If you do not dance, you will grow moldy."

Skiing is a community (snowboarding even more so). No sport has a more loyal following, nor followers who are more accepting of new converts.


Why doesn't NSAA/SIA do as the dairy farmers, pork producers, and cranberry growers do? That is, band together to market their product to the nation?

Is there a need for a SNOW Advisory Board?
post #2 of 103
is there any difference between "marketing" and "sales"?
post #3 of 103
Thread Starter 
I would say that sales measure the effectiveness of the marketing campaign.
post #4 of 103
From a business point of view...

Marketing suck all the profits out of a business advertising things that it can't really do.

Sales then sell the same for delivery last week, but at less than it costs, and expect to get paid.

And then you are left with those who are supposed to deliver an impossible product/service in an impossible timescale, for an enormous loss.

(I've been involved in all three areas of business, so this is the voice of experience!)

post #5 of 103
Thread Starter 
Notwithstanding the voice of experience, marketing serves the function of informing potential buyers about the features and benefits of the product you have to sell. In the well-worn phrase, marketing brings buyers and sellers together.

But let's not digress: this topic is specific to marketing the sport of skiing. (I am not that concerned about snowboarding: it has grown at a blistering pace and although we are not seeing hordes of "fresh" converts, we are seeing many skiers crossing over.)

Exhibit A:

"The reason skiing is stagnant and snowboarding is growing is because skiing sells to the head and snowboarding sells to the soul. And the head is the most difficult to sell."

- Jack Turner, snow sports marketer (Snow Monsters)

post #6 of 103
OK, sorry for the cynicism!

My question:
Who are you wanting to market to?
1. Virgin skiers (if so what demographic)
2. Returning skiers (e.g. people who skied, then had children, and haven't been back since)
3. Regular skiers (trying to get them to upgrade - new lessons/new gear/new resorts)
4. Some others I haven't thought of.

post #7 of 103
Thread Starter 

Virgin skiers is not a bad nomenclature, seeing how well Virgin is doing in the UK. Maybe there's a cross-branding opportunity there...

I think you have made a good suggestion to consider market segmentation. In fact, I'd slice and dice the groups you mention a bit more: age, gender, race, urban/suburban/rural, annual income, type of car, allied interests, etc.

We need to study the changing demographics as well: U.S. population growth is in non-white groups, which traditionally have not been drawn to winter sports. The U.S. population has also been steadily migrating to the southern states, where snow is "out of sight, out of mind."

Just a few thoughts to place the challenge in perspective...
post #8 of 103
What does it mean that the US population has been migrating South?

Does that mean the North is losing population? Or does that mean the South is growing more rapidly than the North?

The US population, like most of the rest of the world's, is growing older, is it not? Perhaps there's corollation between age and desire for warmer climates?
post #9 of 103
Sorry, Nolo,
That was what I meant by demographics, not just including the ABC1s (as they group them over here), but looking at everything that provides for segregation, and then having very precisely aimed target marketing, using the relevant media and style to appeal to each group.

post #10 of 103
Snowboarders have souls????? Sorry, could'nt resist!

Not to stereotype about race and economic status, but if skiing is too expensive for some middle income families, how can the growing non white population, which in SOME cases is lower income, afford it.

The maintenance man at our gym is from Santa Domingo. He wanted to take his family skiing, so they would'nt be mad at him for moving them to our cold climate. He was planning to go to Wachusett. The lift ticket price sounded reasonable, but when you factor in equipment rental, lessons, $10 burgers for a family of 4, well, you get the picture.

Some mountains, such as Sunday River, do outreach programs to the "inner cities". But then you have the issue of overcrowding, and anyone paying the 50-60 dollars for a ticket is going to be resentful.

Also, why turn someone on to a sport that they ultimately will not be able to afford to participate in?
post #11 of 103
Gonzo, marketing and sales are two terms that are bandied about by people who do not appreciate the difference between the two. One of my majors at university was marketing, and yet sales (or promotion) was only a small part of that major, as it is only a small part of marketing in the business world.

TRUE marketing is discovering the needs of potential customers/clients and attempting to fill those needs. Yes you often need promotion to communicate the message that the company can fulfil that need. Sadly few organisations are marketing organisations, instead they often try to “push” a product or service by heavy promotion, thereby creating a perceived need. It’s an expensive process, often it fails, but is sometimes spectacularly successful.


post #12 of 103
Thread Starter 

I think a big reason people are moving south is because of the jobs. The population is trending older because the Boomers (the football in the snake) is passing through middle age and into senility (anyone, anyone?).


Stay on the line. It sounds like you might be our resident marketing expert, and we need an expert to check our understanding.

Anyway, I'm curious how people respond to that quote from Jack Turner. He seems to be saying that it isn't that skiing ain't got no soul, but that this is not being communicated to consumers or is being overwhelmed by "cerebral" messages.

This seems to square with the perennial complaint that ski lessons are overly technical.
post #13 of 103
"The reason skiing is stagnant and snowboarding is growing is because skiing sells to the head and snowboarding sells to the soul. And the head is the most difficult to sell."

- Jack Turner, snow sports marketer (Snow Monsters)
Not withstanding that there are many adult snowboarders, I think that what Jack is saying is that the youger generation "created" snowboarding's soulful character. That's what young people do well. They put soul in their lives. I'll admit that the best soul is expressed by adults. But there are more soulful yearning teens than soulful yearning adults. Soul doesn't pay the bills. As they get older, pragmatism tarnishes their soulful character until one day they're saying "OMG, I sound like my parents. Now where's that mortage bill?" Freeskiing has successfully captured some of that soul. But, it's about air, not turns.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing that traditional skiing isn't mainstream. Careful what you ask for! Would you rather see skiing get wildly popular? Or would you rather relish it's wonders as a minority. I am more inclined to the latter. Besides, if we skiiers lay low, then you know our turns are going to someday become chic just by virtue of skiing's mystic and the cyclical nature of things.

Stretch pants? My Schoeller ski pants stretch. Didn't you know that soft shell is in now? You wanna be hip. You want skiing to be the master of snow sports. But, you don't follow it's technical progressions. Who here has heard of Schoeller fabric?

Okay,it's not the cutting edge of turning shapers. But, every aspect, including clothing bears some importance to keeping things fresh, soulful, new and vibrabrant.

Stop being such sticks in the mud and get a fresh attitude. Be young. And stop trying to sell skiing to the masses for peat's sake.
post #14 of 103
Originally posted by nolobolono, quoting Jack Turner, snow sports marketer (Snow Monsters):
"The reason skiing is stagnant and snowboarding is growing is because skiing sells to the head and snowboarding sells to the soul. And the head is the most difficult to sell."
No, I believe that the problem lies in the marketing of skiing is aimed at the head.
It is marketed as a middle/upper class activity, this is possibly down to the old 80/20 rule: 80% of the income comes from 20% of the population.
The rich will pay through the nose for Aspen, but there isn't a Club 18-30 Ibiza equivalent for the not-so-wealthy. (reduced cost, no frills, etc)

Over here, Andorra caters for that. (sorry, no offense to those who ski Andorra)
Let me explain... Andorra is a tax free country between Spain & France. Many tour ops do cheap holidays there, e.g. £199 ($290) for a week half-board, and then maybe £40 ($60) for a week long lift pass. Beer etc is cheap when you get there, and they have good, low price schools.
Over the last few years many in the 18-25 year old age range have gone there for a low cost holdiay and are hooked. Some better skiers refer to the slopes there as being Motorway (Freeway) skiing. Wide and not too steep. But they are graded easier, so a good beginner can finish their first week going down a blue/black. This appeals particularly to the male ego.
The Andorra resorts make their money not through the world's best hotels, or the top ski runs, but by getting high volume/low price throughout the season.

You then end up with two levels of ski marketing: price conscious and, effectively, image conscious (I'm not saying that we are image conscious, but we are concerned about where we ski, what we stay in, how we get there, and what the best runs in the area are)

Now, there are some resorts in Europe being re-developed by Intrawest, and other North American conglomerates. Maybe it's time that some of the Andorra type resorts were set up in North America.

I'll leave my rant there, and await other thoughts.

post #15 of 103
Thread Starter 

I was interested to hear the Canadian chiefs of CSIA speak of the "North American" market recently. If true, then Canada is positioned as the Andorra of N.A. with its attractive rate of exchange. I do know that Canadians comprise the largest non-native population at U.S. ski areas, and U.S. citizens are the largest non-native population at Canadian resorts.


I can't afford to ski either, but I make choices motivated by passion. Look at what people shell out for Nikes in the projects: this fact says that the pull of a brand image can outweigh economic factors.


You raise an important point, which is, do we want winter sports to be elite (quality) or mainstream (quantity)? Skiing was kept out of the Olympics for decades because de Coubertin felt it was a "rich man's sport."

How do you feel about WTFH's suggestion that the industry players be encouraged to develop two types of offerings: one for the 20% with 80% of the disposable income that is sold as a luxury and one for the other 80% that is sold as a commodity?
post #16 of 103
Interesting quote from Jack, he is indeed a very clever and successful marketing man. His strategy for selling his movie was getting celebrity endorsements. Once he got Aretha and Picabo on board, it was easy for him to sell the sponsors, including the US Forest Service, and dozens of ski areas. The movie itself is free, by the way.
Remember when skiing was glamorous....Stein, Jean Claude, Spider, Suzy Chafee, where did they go? Any super models out there looking for a gig ?

[ April 30, 2002, 08:00 AM: Message edited by: snowdancer ]
post #17 of 103
Nolo--I would strongly disagree with you about the football in the snake, the boomers aproaching senility, if I could remember what senility meant. Could you give me a little help there?
More on point, I don't think it's meaningful to distinguish between skiing and snowboarding in this thread, if you're trying to promote winter sports on the mountain.
WTFH--I'm not sure it makes sense here to try to distinguish between sales and marketing, either. I can be every bit as cynical (marketing is what happens when the sales guys aren't closing, marketing is where the cowards who can't meet a quota hide--am I revealing a little bit of field bias here?--actually I always liked the marketing side of things). But what does make a huge amount of sense is to talk about the market segmentation that you describe with the Andorra programs. In the USA you can see a similar difference in the attitude towards snowsports in, say Texas (affluent status driven affectation) and the Pacific Northwest (generally accessible to any middle class person with the inclination, pricier than pickup basketball but cheaper than owning a boat or a beach house).

one different perspective on this discussion--skiing is itself a marketing tool used to promote other products. If you are selling certain kind of products to that affluent 20%, as a matter of course you throw a pair of skis in the back of the SUV. A fair number of ski resorts have turned into the winter promotional amenity of the real estate development that drives the economics of the place--more important than the golf course, but along the same lines.
If you love skiing you hate this, but it's a fact. If you are trying to live out of skiing this is terrible, because you are trying to live out a cost center and the pay for folks who work in the cost centers rather than the revenue generators generally sucks. If you are trying to promote skiing, of course, you've got a lot of free product placement going on that somebody ought to figure out a way to take advantage of.
post #18 of 103
there are already lots of skiing products that cater to the 80%. That's what the Pocono areas do. That's what you have in Ohio, Michigan and lots of other areas. WTFH, haven't you heard of SS classes where Pierre Eh! is from that can be as large as 50 students to one instructor? I say the marketing is there for the 80%. That's what Loveland in CO markets to. Solvista? the same. There are lots of areas that pick up that 80% very well.

Now talk to me about marketing to that 80% with the objective of wrapping skiing in a sexier package that the 80% will die for. That, my friend, doesn't exist. Like Nolo sed... Low income people buy Nike shoes in spite of their cost. They buy them because they're sexy.

How many of you have dipped your toes in the sexy waters of snowboarding, free-heel skiing, pipe and park. I'll bet not many. Looks like a candidate for a survey. I think the problem lies more in the current state of the general skiing public. They don't embrace change. They're not tickled by something outside their comfort zone. I'm sorry to offend, but I think that there's a lot of stick in the mud attitude that the marketeers have to acknowledge. And it's you!!! It's the you that bashes snowboarders and any other thing that's not straight-up good-ole skiing. There's nothing wrong with good-ole ... But for the sake of this discussion we are a bunch of losers when it comes to adding spice and change to a broken industry that's getting its ass kicked by new school. Hell, I was told by a SS supervisor as we rode up the chair together just a month ago that he thinks new school telemarking is a weak fad. It totally blew me away. Then I understood better when I was told that the same SS guy rejected shapers for the longest time. What a stick in the mud! Nice guy. Fantastic skier. But a clue as to what this industry needs? The light is out in that room.

Now hear me out...
Today, there are umpteem ways for people to spend their discretionary leisure income that didn't exist before. Sports, Arts, Movies, amusement parks and so on. When I was a kid, the ski vacation was a given. Now it competes with these heavy hitters. If you want to see a stronger ski industry (I don't) then it needs to be sexier. It needs to be younger. And... it needs to have the acceptance of a broad scope of generations who want that sexiness in their lives.

Me? I make skiing sexy for me in my own private way. I say forget the sexy packaging and leave skiing to those who truly enjoy it for what it is (that's most of us.) In the end we'll be the better for it.
post #19 of 103
One thing about the Andorra set-up, they keep the classes small (<10), again it's a case of guaranteed volumes. If a school were able to guarantee 10 classes of 10 student morning and afternoon 6 days a week, then I'm sure they would be able to lower the prices.

As for trying other aspects of the sport, I agree. I play on skiboards, and rave about them, yet some people both here, and elsewhere, will pooh-pooh them because they are the most dangerous thing in the world, or because you must be gay to ski them. The sort of egos and attitudes you read some times could put someone off the sport, nto encourage them to take part!

post #20 of 103
Nolo, I am just trying to understand where you are coming from. WHY the big concern over ski marketing???? Which stakeholder do you represent? Skier, instructor, manufacturer, owner, ???

There are ENOUGH skiers and boarders. Weekend here are crowded beyond reason. It's survival of the fittest. Not fun. The roads are packed and the commute to and from the mountains is bumper to bumper. People pack up on Sunday at 2:00 just to get a head start on the traffic. Even worse, if you get a late AM start, you may find the resort CLOSED because it is at capacity.

I don't think skiing is going to die anytime soon.
Since we coexist so closely, there is bound to be some cross-selling between boarders and skiers. One of these days, I'll try boarding and a snowboarder will try skiing, just to see...
post #21 of 103
Thread Starter 
I am someone who cares. You might say I'm on a mission to make Hannes Schneider's prophecy come true:

"If everybody skied, there would be no wars."

Sorry about the rat race in your neck of the woods. In my neck of the woods traffic is scarce and lift lines nonexistent.

We would be more than happy to host some of your skiers and snowboarders here in the west.
post #22 of 103

Just for the hell of it, I'm going to drop in a couple of observations/questions.

You pose your question as someone who cares about the future of the sport. Before we worry about the future, let's take a look - more or less from a business perspective - at the moderately recent past and compare it to the present.

I think that ten years ago skier days were relatively similar to what they are now. Even adding in snowboarders doesn't change the equation a great deal. So the industry has been "flat" for at least a decade.

In that decade, what has occurred?

* Unbelievable changes in lift technology (more, faster, and more comfortable ways of getting up the hill.

* Huge advances in grooming. They can restore practically any mountain to baby's-butt status overnight (except Snowbird, of course [img]smile.gif[/img] ).

* Quantum leaps in ski design. The versatile skis are capable of anything and the specialty skis are like something handed down from God.

* While the overall number of ski areas has declined, it's kind of hard to name a major resort in the US that's actually stopped operating.

Given that all of this has occurred in an industry that's not growing, what would "growth" do for me as a skier? It might perhaps mean an incremental decrease in lift tickets if significantly more people were skiing, but other than that, what might I gain from more people practicing the sport?

I completely understand that those whose livelihoods revolve around ski numbers are deeply concerned about this. Nevertheless, the evidence doesn't *seem* to support the conclusion that there's something seriously wrong with the business.

post #23 of 103
Given that all of this has occurred in an industry that's not growing, what would "growth" do for me as a skier? It might perhaps mean an incremental decrease in lift tickets if significantly more people were skiing, but other than that, what might I gain from more people practicing the sport?

Exactly, Bob! I think the same. Why would I want more crowded slopes?

People who choose to work as instructors, lifties, lodge workers, area managers, etc. are interested in a "growth" because in their eyes, it will reward them with higher pay. My sentiment on this: hey, when you chose that job or career, you knew it wasn't to get rich.

Growth? stupid idea. Let's all welcome George Babbitt to the boosterism of EpicSki. All hail "growth," because it is essential to our skiing experience? NEVER.
post #24 of 103
Thread Starter 
Hi Bob,

I think the worry concerns the flatness you describe. The effects of a stagnant market may not be felt immediately. It's the boiled frog syndrome. The change in temperature to reach a slow boil is incremental, the frog adapts, and boils to death in comfort.

Let me ask you a question: would you be willing to make an appointment to ski at Snowbird, as you would make an appointment for a tee time at a golf course?

I am thinking of how WTFH's guaranteed sales might change the picture.
post #25 of 103

Good post that is "right on". As I thought about the fantastic progress that you have pointed out, I couldn't help but wonder why there has not been a similar dramatic evolution in the way we teach skiing? Sure, PSIA has made some changes, but how much different are we today, really, from what we were under Horst Abraham in the late 70's? Think about how much equipment, clothing, grooming and overall resort management have changed in that same amount of time. We constantly remind our students to be "dynamic" in their skiing and, at the same time, we remain "static" in our own organization and thinking.
post #26 of 103
I think you're being a tad narrow-minded, Gonzo, if you can't see beyond yourself.

Maybe if you make it to 70 or 80 and discover that most resorts are board only, or closed, then who else will you blame? "The youth of today"?

Let's take a trip into the future, to the Fletcher Memorial Home for Incurable Skiers...

"In my day young people could ski wherever they wanted, now they don't even have resorts to ski on. Aren't young people stupid, too busy looking after themselves and ignoring us old people. Don't they realise it was us who made all those resorts in the first place, and now, how do they treat us? They either close them or ban us from using them..."

"do you remember before everyone had holo-TV"

"bah, I even remember when TV before we all had plasma screens"

"do you remember when skis were straight"

"liar - skis were never straight"

"I can rock my chair better than 97% of you, and you're all doing it wrong..."

(sometimes the most salient points are made through humour)


P.S. But probably not this time.

[ April 30, 2002, 02:19 PM: Message edited by: Wear the fox hat ? ]
post #27 of 103
Thread Starter 

If the operating margins weren't so razor thin at most of the areas you and I ski, the investors might spring for glading the trees, padding the chairs, adding a few more stools in the restrooms.

I could have a TV/VCR to use when I shoot video of my students. JohnH might get a jacket and not have to pay for it. Those beginner classes might be held to 6 students instead of Pierre's 50 (a phenomenon I have seen in Montana many times myself).

But most of all I'd like to see instructors earn a fair wage: as Ott says, merely to be treated as employees would be a great start. We're aware that we are well rewarded with intangibles, but one must eat. I happen to think that instructors have a very real stake in creating a stronger consumer market for the sports we teach.

I would repeat my invitation to visit Montana if you seek uncrowded slopes, nostalgic amenities, and great SNOW. Oh, I almost forgot the charming rusticity of the inhabitants, such as Gonzo's coach, and possibly Gonzo himself!
post #28 of 103
Reading all of this, I can't help but be reminded of what the Zen Master said to the New York City hotdog vendor: "Make me one with everything!"
post #29 of 103
Thread Starter 
Awfully broad brush you're using, Sitz. Looking back on my evolution since completing certification in 1984 (the beginning of my learning, don't ya know?), I see quantum changes from the final forms to skiboarding with my homeys.

There are plenty of others like me wearing the shield. Not stagnant, not resting, not downing coffee in the lodge in their free time.

If Horst's work lives on, it may be a tribute to the work, not necessarily a demerit against the audience. I happen to still read Plato. Try the Symposium some time. I think Diotima nailed the motivation of 87.5% of the certified instructors out there teaching today.
post #30 of 103
"Quantum Changes"? More like "kaizan", small incremental improvements. "Hoshin" (breakthru)needed. No wonder the Harbs of the world have such an ardent following
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