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Conversion

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Conversion is a religious term that ski people use to describe what happens when someone who doesn't ski at all takes up the sport and sticks with it. Of course the ski industry would like to convert more people than the 16-20% who take up skiing after their first go at it. There has been no shortage of finger pointing and excuses about why the sport appeals to such a small percentage of those who try it. The rental shop and the ski school have taken the most hits, but marketing and risk management usually get blamed a bit too.

Could it be that a 20% conversion rate is acceptable? How are the other sports doing with conversion? How many people who try golf stick with it? How about tennis, board sailing, mountain biking, running, aerobics?

What's the conversion rate with religions?

Would the answers put a different spin on the beginner lesson?
post #2 of 28
I was hoping this thread would be about skiers that want to marry snow boarders, or something like that.

But on to your question, Converting more people would be nice, but I think a lot of the problems are things in the "it's too cold" category. Not much we can do about that.

Maybe one thing we could do is encourage people NOT to learn how to ski during the holidays. Talk about brain overload, it's crazy out there. There's a lot of smiling people, but there are some that are looking just a little overwhelmed. Also, didn't there used to be such a thing as a learn to ski week? It seems to me that a 90 minute lesson is pretty much a joke, no matter what level you are teaching. I may be over-estimating my abilities, but I think if I had a group for a week non-stop, I could have them skiing pretty well by the end of it. This includes helping them through the rental shop, etc. Obviously this would not be for everyone, but if they are total newbies, and want to learn how to ski, I think I could cnvert them.

Really, even an all day level 1 would be a good start.
post #3 of 28
Oh yeah, one more thing. Another complaint I have read is "don't feel like a skier"

I always take a little time in my lessons to show the "cool" way to do things, so that my students won't look like "dorks".
post #4 of 28
Skiers are born not made!

Happy Holidays are just that!
post #5 of 28
Quote:
I always take a little time in my lessons to show the "cool" way to do things, so that my students won't look like "dorks".
Looking isn't the problem ... feeling is!

Nolo

Comparing golf with skiing is disingenuous as there is nothing athletic about golf besides a walk in a controlled environment and a lounge room practised swing. Running & mountain biking can be done anywhere any season. Aerobics needs a gym class (covers 90% of the population). This leaves us with two athletic endeavours that require unique nature controlled environments, personal fear confrontation and attempting to control a non powered moving object.

Finally, skiing costs a bomb compared to Boardsailing.

To assume that instructors can “convert” people to skiing is a little presumptuous. Instructors can assist in the connection with sliding on skis but “convert” is maybe a little strong.

Quote:
Would the answers put a different spin on the beginner lesson?
If you could get a whole industry to apply itself to the question then I would answer yes.
post #6 of 28
I saw a blurb where the theme parks are trying to get a bigger share of the folk who go on a worthless cold ski vacation. Seems skiing isn't the only thing competing for the consumer dollar. If we win 16% I think that is good given the splits in personallity types in the general population.

If a person is the right personallity to like skiing then it sticks, otherwise the person keeps hunting. I don't know as first impressions about skiing are necessarily as great as the poles would have us believe.

My first day on telemark skis twenty five years ago was a total painful disaster yet I went out and bought equipment with a smile on my face. Year before last I tried snowboarding and there was not enough advil in the bottle to try it again. I might try it again but I don't have much incentive. Even my own experiences vary quite a bit and I know that it wasn't anybody elses fault.
post #7 of 28
Well Nolo, accepting a 20% conversion (I like to think of it as growing skiers like a farmer) is also the same as accepting an 80% failure rate. Anyway, percentages really don't tell the individual stories of why someone might or might not ski again. The cost just getting in the door will keep many away, limiting the initial pool of potentials. even if we give a deal in the begining the sticker shock will eventually become an issue for many. Many just can't afford the tithing (?) their conversion will cost them.

From inside our sport I think the rental shop boots are a major problem, add to this poorly maintained equipment and our students are starting out on the wrong foot.

Now we get to instruction. I think the ski areas are dropping the ball here also. It takses skilled on the ball instructors to help tear away the assumptions and fears associated with learning to ski. Many of the sensations a beginer feels are attached to negative emotions from other previous times in their life. They experience and associate fear with the sensations. Add to this the new context our visio-vestibular system has to opperate in and then give them an instructor who doesn't even consider these issues and it's easy to see why the other 85% doesn't continue. I think the 15% are the naturals and the lucky ones who got good instruction and equipment.

If I thought for a minute that only 1 out of 6 of the beginers I teach would continue on with the sport, I think I might just hang it up. Believe in our students, believe in our sport, believe in ourselves and find a way to remove the obstacles to each students learning. Maybe that sounds preachy, but it's the only way I can go out there. Get to know your students. Peal away the asumptions and the fears. Find common ground and good emotions for the sensations, and support our students in every way possible. Take the journey with them.

Maybe I'm full of fecal matter, but percentages don't tell the story, the individual student does. What is acceptable on an individual basis to each of us and our students?
post #8 of 28
By epic:
Quote:
It seems to me that a 90 minute lesson is pretty much a joke, no matter what level you are teaching. I may be over-estimating my abilities, but I think if I had a group for a week non-stop, I could have them skiing pretty well by the end of it. This includes helping them through the rental shop, etc
I am not an instructor or ski area professional. However, as a "consumer", I agree with epic's satatement. A skier who can learn to ski "pretty well" is one of the best advertisments for skiing that can be had.

In the PNW typically, off the beginner slopes, you will see families with kids from 3 to grandparents. They come in all shapes and sizes and ski with all kinds of equipment and techniques. Equipment ranges from rear entry boots, old Kaestles, Rossi's, Fischer's, K-2's etc., to the latest and greatest skis and boots. Techniques range from traditional narrow stance skidded turns to clean carving with a fair amount of stem christies in the mix.

Irrespective of apparent athletisism, most seem to be having a lot of fun. This tells me that that skiing can be enjoyed by a wide range of folks, once they have a basic skill set. On the other hand you also see skiers and boarders falling every other turn who wind up spending the afternoon in the lodge or heading for home early.

Most people who live in areas where winter can be cold, have the clothes to deal with it. To make the skiing experience fun rental boots must be fit and not cause pain, and a basic confidence to navigate around most of the mountain must be achieved.

For all their limitations, "soft" boots have their place in the rental market. pain-free boots and a good and affordable lesson program, are critical to improving the "conversion" rate. With out those ingredients, a day on the slopes can easily be a miserable experience for a new potential skier. Provide decent equipment and a good lesson program and it can be a great experience and a life long activity. [img]smile.gif[/img]

[ January 03, 2004, 07:14 AM: Message edited by: Lostboy ]
post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 
In this thread I am exploring 1) the possibility that skiers are a special breed and 2) that instructors/ski schools are unfairly saddled with the burden of converting nonskiers into core skiers. As far as I know, there has been no study of this, especially comparing skiing's retention with other recreational sports. There are very few ski areas doing exit interviews or surveys to know why people don't return (to my knowledge, Mammoth is the only one).

Let's now turn to the first year instructor. Retention in PSIA of Level I members is less than 50% nationally (my data is a couple of years old, but I'd be surprised if it has changed). If a college lost 50% of its freshman class each year, if a company lost 50% of its new-hires each year, etc., heads would roll.

I am wondering if there's an association between new skier conversion and new instructor retention--if the expectations placed on new instructors make it impossible for them to feel successful at their job. I am wondering if we can tell new instructors that on average they can expect that their ministrations, no matter how well-intended or by the book, will not "take" in 4 of 5 of their students? Would an injection of reality improve the retention of instructors?

In other words, what would happen if we allowed students to fail--if we placed more responsibility for their success onto the student? What if we openly admitted that skiing is hard?
post #10 of 28
nolo, your listing of point (2) just explained for me why you have been questioning the roots of "skier growth" for the past several years.

now I can say, I feel massive empathy for ANY instructor or coach who has been saddled with the burden of "growing the number of skiers."

I've made my position clear in this forum many times -- we DO NOT need growth in skier numbers. those of us who love skiing will continue to ski no matter what the Corporate Ski Area Owners think will happen, no matter how much growth they "forecast" and hold their owned areas to achieve, etc.

Why, I wonder, must this be a top-down system? Do the Corporate Ski Area Owners really have such a problem with intellectual inability -- that they don't understand that skiers are not fungible, are not "made" by the ski school, and do not return to ski because of Corporate Conveniences...

The question continues to be, "why"? I'd be happier if the focus were there.

I think the solution to this closed question is right in your post:

Quote:
What if we openly admitted that skiing is hard?
put simply, that's the plain truth, and there's no smokescreen or Madison Avenus spin that can alter this fact.

[img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

[ January 03, 2004, 09:49 AM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
Gonzo,

It has been a struggle for me to understand the role of the ski instructor in the growth of skiing. If you look at the growth statistics, which have only been kept for a short period of geologic time, the big upswing was in the '70s and the curve has plateaued since about 1980 at 54 million skier visits annually (in the U.S.) give or take a percentage point or two. What happened in the '70s was the big end of the Baby Boom hit the sport. In fact, I think the Baby Boomers caused a huge spike in recreational tennis and golf, etc., at about the same time. In conclusion, I do not think ski instructors had a significant role in the growth of skiing in the '70s.

On the other hand, there's no doubt that ski instructors were pivotal in the popularization of skiing in the United States after WWII, as were former 10th Mountain guys. Those were the days when ski instructors were like movie stars and skiing was the sexiest thing around.

Skiing is now a mature sport ("mature" being anything that reaches a longstanding growth plateau) and ski resorts require huge capitalization to maintain facilities and services. They need new skiers to fuel the engine, and so they look to the obvious departments to attract customers and generate sales and deliver satisfactory service. Corporations must grow! It's the first law of business.

I suspect there are natural limits to growth in skiing and that as Oz says, "skiers are born not made." If the role of ski instructors is to assist skiers on their development curve and not to persuade, cajole, or coerce the uninterested into doing what they are not inclined to do, then I think the role would have more dignity. As it is, I think ski instructors are coming close to asking, "You want fries with that?"
post #12 of 28
Quote:
If the role of ski instructors is to assist skiers on their development curve and not to persuade, cajole, or coerce the uninterested into doing what they are not inclined to do, then I think the role would have more dignity.
That's how I see the role of instructors/coaches. Of course, the Corporate Ski Area Owner (CSAO) thinks of ski instruction as a mechanical process resulting in a regular, uniform "product" that only requires more raw material.

I'll say it again, folks... it's time for a revolution. The climate in the USA is ripe for it. Look at how far the current POTUS is taking us... farther toward Imperialism, mimicking the old British Empire. What's next, colonies created for more slave labor?

The pendulum needs to start its swing back toward humans, and away from endless pursuit of $$. Any instructor who bends to the will of the CSAO is being VERY shortsighted, IMHO. If paid instructors do not start being adamant about exactly what they can and CANNOT do for the CSAO, and about informing the CSAO about the rather huge differences between business models for a raw materials/manufacture entity and a LEISURE/SPORT entity, the CSAOs will continue to insist that their artificial world is the reality, and that reality is fiction.

Doesn't anyone else see this horrific drift? Doesn't anyone else think we're ripe for a revolution in government, politics, business and social structure?
post #13 of 28
[quote]Originally posted by gonzostrike:
Quote:
Doesn't anyone else see this horrific drift? Doesn't anyone else think we're ripe for a revolution in government, politics, business and social structure?
No thanks, I'm pretty happy with the world we are living in.
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
Gonzo,

It has been a struggle for me to understand the role of the ski instructor in the growth of skiing. If you look at the growth statistics, which have only been kept for a short period of geologic time, the big upswing was in the '70s and the curve has plateaued since about 1980 at 54 million skier visits annually (in the U.S.) give or take a percentage point or two. What happened in the '70s was the big end of the Baby Boom hit the sport. In fact, I think the Baby Boomers caused a huge spike in recreational tennis and golf, etc., at about the same time. In conclusion, I do not think ski instructors had a significant role in the growth of skiing in the '70s.

On the other hand, there's no doubt that ski instructors were pivotal in the popularization of skiing in the United States after WWII, as were former 10th Mountain guys. Those were the days when ski instructors were like movie stars and skiing was the sexiest thing around.

Skiing is now a mature sport ("mature" being anything that reaches a longstanding growth plateau) and ski resorts require huge capitalization to maintain facilities and services. They need new skiers to fuel the engine, and so they look to the obvious departments to attract customers and generate sales and deliver satisfactory service. Corporations must grow! It's the first law of business.

I suspect there are natural limits to growth in skiing and that as Oz says, "skiers are born not made." If the role of ski instructors is to assist skiers on their development curve and not to persuade, cajole, or coerce the uninterested into doing what they are not inclined to do, then I think the role would have more dignity. As it is, I think ski instructors are coming close to asking, "You want fries with that?"
It seems to me, that what is needed is mainstream media (hollywood) exposure of skiing. Not Seth Morrison making the impossible possible, more like James Bond sipping martinis at the slope side bar (after shooting the bad guys and jumping out of the tram). How about if the next Joe Millionaire is taking his dates skiing at Aspen, or MTV was showing "The Real World Vail".
post #15 of 28
nolo, an instructor can only "offer fries with that" to the skiers who actually take lessons, a small percentage of first timers at that.

Almost all first timers go it alone or whith 'help' from friends. I think the experience on that first day or two determines if they will come back. Those that do come back have pretty much decided to give-it-a-chance, skiing that is, and they go up the slope and down the slope, fast acquiring bad habits.

And then they plateau and either are happy with how they are skiing, or if they are not, they take lessons.

That's when we get him, the selfproclaimed advanced intermediate, who'se first few lessons are remedial on easier terrain than he would like to ski and the remedies often 'don't take'.

Why in hell does ski management even associate the ski instructor with skier retention?

....Ott
post #16 of 28
Most of what I've seen would put the "conversion" rate at closer to 11% but it depends how you define and track it. Nonetheless I believe that cost and availability are the 2 main issues and that the only way you change conversion or skier visit numbers substantially are to affect these 2 things. But in reality prices will continue to skyrocket as dirtball ambulance chasing Trial Lawyers encourage everyone to sue for every little reason under the sun. And unless God once again opens up the deep and creates mountains (or at least hills) and snow, we probably won't see a wholesale jump in availability.

By no means do I believe however that costs are simply related to overhead as the resort industry would love for us to believe. There is not a huge liability in scalding meat and throwing it on a bun, but that doesn't stop them from charging $7 for a crappy hamburger at Jack's. The days of the 10th Mountain boys and doing Royals with Stein have been crushed by the "INDUSTRY" of skiing. I see our ski area owner every day and he usually has coveralls on going to work on some piece of equipment. How often do you guys at Breck or Vail see that? I have no problem with corporations or profit, but how can Vail charge $70+ for a lift ticket, $109 for a lesson, and $8 for soup and a bread bowl and still lose $14 million last year? Were the board of directors formerly in the airline industry?

I use my latest trip out west as an example. My son and I drove out, stayed 5 nights at a Silverthorne hotel at $50 a night. No airfare, no rental car, and we brown bagged lunch. 4 days skiing, no rental equipment, and 1 all day lesson at Vail for my son while I skied the back bowls. I also used my PSIA discount for lift tickets. The damage for this budget trip, $1300.

The reality for most is that this sport is just far too expensive for the majority of people. You want a prime example of how costs can effect the industry. The hill I teach at last year offered a $99 season pass. Prior to that it was a few hundred. Season pass sales went from under 500 to over 2500 the first year.

Take the family of four skiers. They buy new equipment every 5 to 7 years. They ski at some resort for a few days once a year and ski maybe 7 days locally. The annual amortized cost for this hobby, $5,000. All for 12 fun filled days out of 365 a year. This is $416 per day. Tie this in with the slipping of physical conditioning in our society, it's no wonder why most choose Disneyland or a cruise.

Being a regular perennial skier requires love, committment, desire, passion, affection, or at least enough affinity to part with 3 - 15% of your annual take home pay. Rather than compare skiing with golf, tennis, softball, or similar sports, I believe a closer comparison can be argued with Health club renewals or Weight Watchers. Both are around 10%.

I spend less per year on my golf (60 days per year), mountain biking, roller blading, health club, and camping combined than I do for skiing. My ski teaching and coaching pay is the only offset. But I also love skiing more than the others.

If you're a skiing enthusiast, why does it surprise you to be in small company. Look at it this way, we could be fly fisherman.
post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally posted by gonzostrike:
[QB
Doesn't anyone else see this horrific drift? Doesn't anyone else think we're ripe for a revolution in government, politics, business and social structure?[/QB]
To answer briefly before moving on; Yes. And there probably hasn't been a time in recent history that we weren't ripe for such by at least 1 person or group's standards. But are you gonna set it off?

On to original topic: The reason for the 20% retention is laziness. Americans are very lazy. That's also why we're very fat.

Here's my opinion of what happens with 100 first time skiers

20% like it and come back. Some go die hard, some just recreational, but one way or the other we can count them in our ranks.

25% hate it and everything about it. We never see them again.

30% may like it, but not love it, and view it as something they may do in the future, but then they never get around to it. This or they make the once a year trip to Hunter or Mt. Snow, using the skis or board as a prop just to get up there and party.

Now here's the important 25%, the La-Z-Boyz (and girlz).

They go, they have fun, they may even have aptitude or potential.
But no instructor or promotion can cure common laziness. Now to their credit, skiing is not simple or easy. For instance, here are some of the obstacles folks in my area face.

5 hour roundtrip drive to the closest DECENT hill.

8 hour r/t to closest GOOD skiing.

10-12 hour r/t to nearest REALLY GOOD hill.

8 hour r/t flight and several hundred $$$ to get to the closest GREAT skiing.

Minimum investment (for most) of roughly $150. Lift, lesson, rental, transportation, food, gloves, hat, bibs or pants, etc.

Crazy lift and rental lines (realistically, most first timers will go on a weekend, and many on holidaze).

Condescending attitude toward "noob's".

A fairly intimidating environment. I remember being very apprehensive about going "up there". And I am one who is accustomed to great heights.

Bitter cold.

The list goes on...

I knew from the first time I skied that I would do it again. I knew after 10 days skiing that this would be something I did for as long as I'm physically able. But I'm an obsessive type. Most are not, and IMHO, most people just couldn't be bothered.

Don't fight it. Do what you can to teach those who come seeking knowledge, but don't worry about the ones who don't come back. They're keeping lift lines short, and lines untracked.
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
If a college lost 50% of its freshman class each year, if a company lost 50% of its new-hires each year, etc., heads would roll.

Actually in my first course they AIMED to fail 30% of the students....
On the first day we were told to look at the people on each side of us... "One of you three will not be here next year"
post #19 of 28
Quote:
If the role of ski instructors is to assist skiers on their development curve and not to persuade, cajole, or coerce the uninterested into doing what they are not inclined to do, then I think the role would have more dignity
I totally agree with you there Nolo.

Quote:
The pendulum needs to start its swing back toward humans, and away from endless pursuit of $$. Any instructor who bends to the will of the CSAO is being VERY shortsighted, IMHO. If paid instructors do not start being adamant about exactly what they can and CANNOT do for the CSAO, and about informing the CSAO about the rather huge differences between business models for a raw materials/manufacture entity and a LEISURE/SPORT entity, the CSAOs will continue to insist that their artificial world is the reality, and that reality is fiction.
mmmmm about sums up what I told my last SS as I calmly declined their kind offer of continued employment. The company has just about turned ski instructing into office work. It looked pretty much like pyramid selling the way "referrals" where "on sold" in the locker room.

Quote:
Doesn't anyone else see this horrific drift? Doesn't anyone else think we're ripe for a revolution in government, politics, business and social structure?
You know with all this crazy emphasis on internal security, with planes being turned around, in depth visa screening, people being put profiled and put off planes, finger printing on arrival to match visa conditions and machine guns and armoured cars on the streets I think the revolution is already well under way. If GWB keeps his current paranoia alert running you can also kiss goodbye any foreign skiers injecting money into the USA ski business.
post #20 of 28
Nolo,

The golf industry has felt much of the same retention difficulties skiing experiences. In 1987 and 2003 surveys were conducted that detailed the reasons for the decline in play, both yielded similar results. I'll change the golf related words to skiing terms and I'd bet they would be close to an actual skiing survey.

Not enough time due to work--71%
Not enough time due to family--40%
Lift tickets too expensive--30%
Areas too crowded/lines too long--22%
Weather--22%
Don't have anybody to ski with--16%
Don't ski well enough--14%
Takes too long--8%
Equipment too expensive-6%
Physical problem--1%

The question then becomes what can skiing learn from what the golf industry is doing to promote new golfers and retain current golfers.

Programs like Link Up 2 Golf providing a free orientation, rental equipment, initial instruction, a 3 to 4 holes on course guided experience away from other golfers. Hook em, hook em, hook em!!!

The First Tee program designed to introduce juniors to golf.

Ask any kid who Tiger is and you'll probably get the correct answer. Unfortunately, Bode who?

Other initiatives/thoughts:
1-Facilitating finding playing partners.
2-Promoting affordable family and junior golf.
3-Promoting teaching and enjoyment of the game beyond mechanics.
4-Make available 9 hole play for time constrained golfers.
5-Constant exposure of programs like The First Tee through advertising.
6-TV exposure of the sport through the PGA and LPGA tours, Annika at the Colonial and Michelle Wie-the 13 year old phenom.
7-Anybody can go to a range and whack balls-hard to do with skiing.

Not all of these would work in skiing but they can be thought starters.

Area management and industry trade associations need to really take a hard look at their product, do some detailed studies to find out the real reasons we loose new and experienced skiers (understanding there will always be attrition and the need for fresh blood). Then come up with some really strong initiatives to facilitate growth and retention.

In the year 2,000 the core golf industries (operations, course construction, equipment and TV, magzines etc.) pumped over 38 BILLION (yes that is a B) dollars into the economy and related industries such a golf course real estate and tourism/travel pumped another 23 BILLION into circulation.

While skiing will never approach those numbers it is a viable recreation activity with significant economic impact.
post #21 of 28
I started skiing 3 seasons ago and I bought ski boots after my first lesson and day out. I learned on a Saturday that was crowded but it was sunny and my instructor was awesome and taught me alot

I am now on my third pair of skis and new boots among all kinds of other equipment.

I have friends who I would love to get into skiing but they will not go.

One of my friends tried snowboarding with a friend a few years ago with no lessons, no good waterproof equipment, and the rental shop put him in boots that were way too small.

He had such a bad experience that he will never try skiing and neither will his wife or family members who have never been out.

It's really frustrating trying to get people to ski after they had one bad experience that could have been better under different circumstances.

There are so many variables that can go wrong on someones first day that it is hard to place blame.
post #22 of 28
The instructors here are concerned that their performance might make or break a new skier. Do you think that the guys at the rental shop care? What about the people burning your $6 burger, do they give a crap? They guy who clears the snow off of the steep stairway to the slopes, does he give a rat's ass if new skiers stumble and drop all their stuff? And how about the DMV transplant working the ticket window?
It is so typical of big corporations to spend money on everything EXCEPT wages for the little guys to try to boost profits. "Let's hire big $$ consultants to try to get our peons working harder for less pay". "Let's pay lawyers $$$ to help us get around labor laws". "Let's pay more lawyers more $$$ to get around environmental and zoning laws". "How about greasing the politician's palms". "OOO, let's hire a trendy design company to publish our extravagant prospectus!"

Heh, no offense to the consultants, lawyers, trendy designers and pols.
post #23 of 28
as a (recovering) lawyer, miles, I see no offense!

Oz, the problem is that there aren't enough people who are seeing what we see. If it means anything to you, I admire your choice in declining a job that has become ridiculous, even if you like the subject matter itself. Only through such accretive change can the Corporate goons be affected, and only in that way can any serious attitude changes occur.

as to "conversion," F#*@ the Corporate Cloacae who say instructors have any role there. they've no clue.

[ January 03, 2004, 10:29 PM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally posted by nolo:
Conversion is a religious term that ski people use to describe what happens when someone who doesn't ski at all takes up the sport and sticks with it. Of course the ski industry would like to convert more people than the 16-20% who take up skiing after their first go at it. There has been no shortage of finger pointing and excuses about why the sport appeals to such a small percentage of those who try it. The rental shop and the ski school have taken the most hits, but marketing and risk management usually get blamed a bit too.

Could it be that a 20% conversion rate is acceptable? How are the other sports doing with conversion? How many people who try golf stick with it? How about tennis, board sailing, mountain biking, running, aerobics?

What's the conversion rate with religions?

Would the answers put a different spin on the beginner lesson?
Here's what we do...hire a bunch of young guys to ride around on bicycles wearing short sleeve white shirts and ties. Then, they'll go door to door and at inopportune times, knock on the door and ask the inhabitant if they could discuss skiing with them. Seems to work some places.
post #25 of 28
Are instructors the vanguard of skier growth? Well, dream on, management. I think Ott is right about most of those taking a lesson having been at it for a while before they seek to improve. For those first time evers, here we can make a difference. You know the answer; meet the student’s needs in a supportive manner that facilitates real learning and improvements also, meet their expectations. Share not just your technical knowledge but also your enthusiasm and love of the sport. Bring your new clients into the community and help them through those first tribulations. In house instructor training has to focus as much time on the art of teaching as is done on the technical aspects of the demonstrations. So much more responsibility must fall on the instructor. Yet to ask more of the instructor in view of the relatively low pay is ridiculous.

As for the correlation between new student conversion/failure and new instructor retention, it may be a factor but many other considerations come into play. I can only speak of my own experience and the two biggest reasons I almost didn’t return after my first season were; adjusting to the fact that skiing is now a job and low confidence in my ability to effectively teach.

Perhaps the relationship is found in the later reason but, for me, I thought it was due to my shortcomings in communicating, not the student’s failure to understand. A lot of it was just getting comfortable speaking in front of people, having never really done that before. I wonder how many come to the profession not really understanding that being a good skier doesn’t automatically mean you can be a good teacher and love of the sport isn’t enough to carry you, though it is a good place to start. What is the relationship between new skier un-retention who had their first lessons taught by new instructors not yet able to effectively teach? As stated in previous threads, new instructors are focused on their own performance as teacher, not the students as learners; this is a natural progression as the new instructor learns the craft. New skiers taking lessons, any skier taking lessons, are most in need of coaches able to tune into the student’s needs. Theoretically, a level 2 or 3 is most qualified to teach beginners but how many would be willing to take the ‘first evers’ after putting in their time on the bunny hill? That’s why I stated earlier that more time must be placed on teaching instructors to teach, or as Kieli stated in another thread,”…. more clinics that concentrate on learning progressions and movement analysis.”

Should we allow students to fail? No, but we should except that they will. Should we place more responsibility on the student, should we tell them that skiing is hard? Yes, we should shape realistic expectations. Contrary to advice I’ve received, I often tell my clients that learning takes commitment, it may be hard or it may be even more difficult then that. It will be the most fun you can have outdoors in the winter if you stick with it. I tell them that they are about to begin an adventure that they will remember always, that this learning process will progress faster now then at any other time in their skiing lives. The first few years will be remembered as the most fun and those spectacular crashes will be retold time and again. I don’t think instructors can convert the uninterested but by facilitating learning in a realistic and fun way, we can retain those interested enough to take lessons.
Having said all of that, I believe that the biggest detriment to growth is expense and convenience. Skiing cost too much and it’s too difficult to get to. Who besides dedicated snow sport enthusiasts would gleeful drive into the snowy mountains seeking fun? Here, in the real banana belt, if there is no snow in town people do not think about skiing and if it’s snowing, people fear driving anywhere let alone to the mountains where the snow is the heaviest. The cost of skiing must somehow be lowered. Snow making, grooming and high speed lifts cost big bucks to install and maintain so lift tickets are expensive, rentals are expensive, food is expensive, slope side lodging is expensive, so all of these perceived consumer demands can be met as the resort pays down debt, meets payroll and overhead and provide a profit for investors or to meet future investments in improvements. As a wise old women once said, “Catcha 22”.
post #26 of 28
There are those who are born skiers, those who achieve skiing skills, and those who have skiing thrust upon them.

I would never have begun skiing without the noodge from Mr. Delta, as I am a confirmed city girl. Until I was 33, my single ski experience was from a grade 5 school trip; the rope tow was broken, and we spent (I kid you not) all morning side stepping up what must have been a parking-lot grade slope, and sliding back down it twice. Bleah.

There were three major conversation factors for me. First, my first multi-day experience was at Nakiska, on a mountain, and it was just utterly beautiful. Second, I kinesthetically loved the sensation of skiing for the approximately 20-second to 1-minute (initial) periods I could sustain the controlled glide. It was a very hard-won struggle for me to lengthen that period. Finally, a terrific bootfitter at Sun Peaks fixed my ski boots. Prior to then, all the boot rentals I'd ever had were at least a size too big; the boots I bought hurt so badly that I was practically in tears at the end of a blue run until Nick fixed them. Wow -- boots that would make your skis turn, but not squeeze your calves until the blood circulation was cut off -- what a revelation!

I wouldn't put the burden of conversion generally on instructors, but for me they were key to my conversion because of the second point. I had to learn to ski, because for whatever reason, I am not capable of skiing badly -- I don't ski, I just fall. For the first 5-6 days that I skied, I fell *constantly*, with unbelievable quad burn, because I didn't remotely understand what any of my instructors meant when they said I needed to put my weight forward. Nick, the guy who fixed my boots, also was the first person who got me to understand exactly how far forward "forward" really meant.

I've been trying to convince some other people I know to try skiing, and for never-evers, there are three big factors. (1) It's really expensive to ski. (2) If you live in Toronto, you have to drive a long way in bad traffic to reach not-great hills. (3) People are scared. Many, many people I know have opted for cross-country instead.
post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally posted by delta888:
Nick, the guy who fixed my boots, also was the first person who got me to understand exactly how far forward "forward" really meant.
I bet Mr. Delta didn't like that too much.

[img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #28 of 28
Quote:
I've been trying to convince some other people I know to try skiing, and for never-evers, there are three big factors. (1) It's really expensive to ski. (2) If you live in Toronto, you have to drive a long way in bad traffic to reach not-great hills. (3) People are scared. Many, many people I know have opted for cross-country instead.
yep

some folks go tele and thereby avoid a lot of the "expensive" problem, but still, lift access gets you more practice.

skiing takes commitment, no matter what your level.

that's why people don't try it more often. it's hard.
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