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Is this a good idea?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
My SSD suggested last season to think of any ideas on how we can improve the ski school this year and I have ( I think ) at least one good idea. Here 'tis:
Any instructors that don't get a class will postion themselves at the unloading ramp of our main chair ( in uniform ) next to a sign that says "Free Evaluation Run with Instructor " ( open to suggestions , here ) When a skier inquires , you explain that you will watch him ski down to the bottom , then ride back up with him and give some free feedback and TIPS( hopefully this goes both ways ) At the top, you give him a card with your name on it, suggest that he take a private lesson and with the card he gets some type of discount. Of course, you get a commission if he decides to do it. What I'm after here, is to try and identify what management's objections might be to this idea. It seems like a win-win to me, because if I don't get an assigned lesson, I would probably just free ski. What'daya think?
post #2 of 15
Hi Snowdancer--I'd like to think that it's a great idea, but I have a couple thoughts, and I can see some management having some objections. Remember that, whenever they REQUIRE you to do something, they have to pay you, and they have to cover you with Worker's Comp, in case you get injured.

It would be a GREAT guest service, and could well entice some people to pay for lessons. But depending on the length of your runs, and your lift, your suggestion could represent a LOT of "free" instructor time, so much so that it might well cut into private lesson sales, rather than enhancing them. It could actually BE a one-hour private at some large resorts--for free! Furthermore, if it became popular (which it certainly should), it might be hard to accommodate the number of skiers who would show up.

The most successful instructors I know do things like you suggest on their own. When they have free time, they often mingle with guests in lift lines and on lifts, and stop and chat with them on the hill--especially if it looks like someone could use a hand. This is a GREAT way to promote your private lesson business, and it is certainly good guest service.

I have suggested something similar, although a bit less-involved: a designated place and time, well-publicized, where you can ski a short section down to a waiting instructor, who will give a quick, free assessment and answer a question or two. It won't take long, and should result in a genuinely useful "tip" for the skier, but it should really serve to entice the skier to want more--in the form of a real lesson. Kind of like those free samples they hand out in grocery stores that give you just enough of a taste that you buy a whole box....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #3 of 15
I remember when I did a "ski week" at Taos back in 85 that the instructors would go around the lodges at breakfast on the first day and give sort of an orientation. I thought that was pretty good. Of course they had a "captive audience".
That reminds me. Where's Weems?
post #4 of 15
I was mulling this over from a customer's point of view, and then read Bob's reply. He certainly has some valid points.

How do you deal with the guys who keep coming up for a series of free tips? There's always the guy who thinks he can beat the "system", and that would detract from the ability to reach other skiers. If this situation isn't handled properly, there's always the chance that the freeloader would badmouth the ski school based on a perceived slight. Tough situation to deal with.

To modify your suggestion a little-
Does your resort have a guide program? I know several mountains have this program where visitors have the option of taking a guided tour of the mountain for free, and the guide shows them a few choice sections of the hill ("secrets"). Put a ski instructor in that position (in uniform), and you can easily point to weaknesses in the skiers technique without resulting to a hard-sell. "You know, we could work on that some more in a private lesson if you were interested..."

Just a thought. Sometimes even the smallest hill can benefit from this kind of thing- either as a book in advance thing or a way to keep instructors occupied. Mountain management might even kick in some for the pay if it is seen as a public relations idea instead of a way to lesson revenue.
post #5 of 15
Some years ago, my sons pointed out that I dragged my ski poles while skiing. This was due to feeling out of balance. One of those instructors was waiting at the top of the lift next to the sign offering a free run with the instructor. I told him my problem. He told me it was a good idea to drag the tips of my polls, that it would help me balance, and skied down with me showing me how. STUPID! I did not bother to follow up with a full lesson.

For instructors: When a student or prospective student says, "This is my problem" or "This is what I want to learn" - at least HUMOR him!!! Pay attention to what the student wants. If the student, a Level 5, wants to learn bumps, take the student into the bumps! THEN you can say, "Lets go to a groomer to practice a few maneuvers". Do NOT ignore the wishes and perceptions of the student if you want to earn their trust. Also, no mater how bad [or good] they are, please do not say, "Don't do xxxxx." Better to say what to DO than what not to do. And even better yet to quide them through asking questions, such as happened to me on the best day of instruction I've ever had, reported elsewhere. The Bear responsible does not want to be named, so I'll respect that. GREAT instructor!

[ August 30, 2002, 05:48 AM: Message edited by: oboe ]
post #6 of 15
The discount would have to be substantial, say 30-40% for it to be effective.
As far as the freebie seekers, there are MANY easy ways of dealing with them, and you never get too many of them anyhow (except in certain ethnic neighborhoods).
But I have a hunch that this is a loser, at least as an official program.
post #7 of 15
It's all about the delivery of a marketing program, not so much the marketing program itself. A great idea, packaged the wrong way, will fail any day.

But I like the idea of a loss leader. It's been discussed here many times before.
post #8 of 15
I have an idea for you. You would need to present it now for next season.

Take the ski school's entire marketing budget and divert it to training.

Better yet, take the ski area's entire marketing budget and divert it to training all the employees and empowering them with knowledge and permission so that they never have to answer a guest's question with, "I don't know," or request with, "I can't help you."

Every last cent. Call it marketing.
post #9 of 15

As a non-instructor, I think your idea is a great one.

Some of your instructors won't want to do it (they'll want to free-ski, think it's demeaning, don't want to stand in the cold, whatever), but I would bet that those who do it would eventually increase their business significantly. Those who don't want to participate wouldn't have to, which might partially answer Bob Barnes' issue about requiring instructors to do it.

We as a society do many (*many*) things on impulse. This is an additional method of suggesting the idea of ski instruction to people who might not otherwise have considered it. By being there and being visible, you're capturing eyeballs and planting a seed.

To me, it makes so much sense I can't believe I've never seen it used anywhere.

Why not try it out for a couple of weeks? If it doesn't work, all you've invested is a few hours and some cold feet.

post #10 of 15
As a skier, I loved it last year when I rode up with one of the ski instructors (in uniform). We had a rather good chat, and I got his card. He made me feel like it would be worth my time to call him and have a priviate. Your idea is very good and I think would pay big not only in the reputation of the resort, but to the people on staff. Will there be dorks? Yes but that can be handled. This is one of those intangable thinks that can really enhance the ski experence.

Another booster at the same resort. I had last year was with my youngest son (15). It was his third time on the hill, and his first time on hard blue runs. As he took off, a saw two instructors chatting and noticed them lookng at him. As I went by I shouted out that it was just his third time on skis. The kid is a natural skier. The instructors took the time to ski down and give him an ataboy. This was far far different from his first time ever class that he hated. He now likes to go ski.
post #11 of 15
I like the idea. Steamboat does something along these lines with its "Ski With Billy Kidd" clinic where people meet at the top of the gondola and make one run with Billy. He gives the group a few pointers during the run which takes about 15 to 20 minutes. I suppose they do this more as general public relations for Steamboat, but I would have to believe that it stimulates some ski school sales.

I also saw something similar at Jackson where instructors took us on a free mountain tour. They didn't offer any pointers, but that may have been because most of the people in the tour group were instructors from another area.

As far as having to pay instructors to do this, if they are paid on a commission basis for lesson referrals, there is no payroll cost to the ski school unless the program results in lesson sales. Some instructors would volunteer in order to earn the commissions so making the program a job requirement might not be necessary. Workers comp might not be affected that much. It must be in effect for training clinics. If the alternatives to teaching are clinicing or doing free evaluation runs with guests I wouldn't think there would be much difference in workers comp cost.

But would management go for it?


[ August 30, 2002, 03:39 PM: Message edited by: JimL ]
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for the input. I think I will present the idea with some of the suggestions added from your posts. This would definitely be a volunteer thing for instructors- at their own risk. I guess the only thing management may balk at is giving discounts, but I think privates are overpriced and as has been said : the goodwill and public relations angle would be worth it. If they don't go for it, I will take Nolo's suggestion which I'm sure they'll jump on !
post #13 of 15
Actually, I am somewhat embarrassed to have not offered feedback on your idea, Snowdancer, but I had just had this revelation, you see...

Anyway, your idea is a good one: try before you buy. I would suggest offering special coupons to the guest as part of the tip--these could include discounts on food, drinks, a ski tune, demos, and, of course, lessons.

A problem I foresee: there may be times when the instructors are too busy to offer the service. Be sure not to advertise the service during such times (have your promotional set-up easy to put up and take down).

Good luck with it, and please tell you manager that he/she's a smart cookie to ask for ideas from the field.
post #14 of 15
I also like the idea, but I have some reservations about Level I (and even some Level II) instructors having sufficient experience to help skiers that have good skills and only need tweaks or highly specialized suggestions. Such skiers will see through the BS immediately. And I hear a lot of questionable advice when I ride chairs with instructors and students near me.
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
In our training clinics , we observe skiers and then do quick movement analysis. I suppose level 1 and 2's could benefit by watching and then hearing the more experienced instructor's feedback. They would have to remain silent, however, or risk being pushed off the chair. Thanks for your suggestions, Nolo, I like the idea of across the board discounts. Snow at Telluride yesterday!!
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