skip to main content
Got 2 minutes? I'd love your advice. Take the 2018 SlopeFillers Survey→

Meet the “Camp” That’s Taking Skiing in an Awesome Marketing Direction

divider image for this post

Last year I made a plea to ski entrepreneur to find a big, hairy problem and solve it.

We have enough apps, we have enough clothing and ski brands, we have enough of just about everything except real solutions to our industry’s biggest challenges. We need ski entreprenuers to dream big.

One of our biggest hurdles manifests itself in the fact that of all first time skiers, only about 15% ever return.

The Chosen One
Looking across our industry’s landscape, there’s really only one entrepreneur whose efforts I’d say fit what i was pleading for.

Joe Hession.

He’s come up with a simple approach to teaching skiing that is solving this problem. At Mountain Creek, his “Terrain Based Learning” approach saw a return rate of 65%. I’ve often looked for ways to grow skiing, and this is about the best I’ve ever seen.

The Patterns
All the signs around Joe’s effort make me think he’s onto something big.

From pricing that removes the conversion-killing ski school upsell to getting into the mind of the beginner and more, it’s little wonder why NSAA’s Michael Berry said his approach was:

Not a bad endorsement, eh?

Go to Camp
In March comes the piece of Joe’s story that make me most excited. Joe and SAM Magazine have partnered to put on the very first Conversion Camp.

For all the doom and gloom stats circulated each year, there is a severe lack of discussion about solutions…perhaps because we haven’t had any in the past.

Thanks to Joe, I think we do.

What I’d Do
My schedule won’t let me go this year, but you should. Seriously, do some math on what your bottom line would look like if you could increase your conversion rate by just 10% and then register.

This is a discussion we need to have. We need to take our best solution to this conversion dilemma and put it in the hands of as many resorts as possible so they can iterate and improve.

I am totally pumped that this camp is getting started and couldn’t be happier that Joe is at the helm.

  • Lloyd Garden

    Have you heard about the FIS bring children to the snow campaign and one of its projects World snow Day? its an initiative by FIS to help resorts with part of this issue. Specifically the first step, getting the kids to the resort. With percentages being low at the time its good to increase the number of “never have I ever’s” as well.

    Check it out: and

  • Hugh Reynolds

    I had the pleasure of working with Joe on launching terrain-based learning for the masses at Mountain Creek two years ago. It was an amazing team effort between the resort executive team, Burton Snowboards, SPT, marketing, sales, operations and most importantly our ski and snowboard instructors. It was and probably will be one of the most exciting and fulfilling opportunities I’ve had in my career. It has been amazing to see how these changes have improved the first time snow experiences for our guests at Mountain Creek. We are proud of the results we have been able to produce and the accolades the industry has bestowed on us. We are also humbled by the amazing amount of support and buzz the terrain-based learning movement has received in the last two years, all in no small part to Joe’s commitment to champion this need for change. Congratulations Joe! All the best on the conversion camp. I’ll look forward to seeing you this spring.

  • Joe Hession


    Thank you for the kind words, this initiative is part of a much bigger team effort. Hugh hit the nail on the head; I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest to create programs that have moved the needle.

    The project at Mountain Creek was a full team effort and without the support from all departments and ownership, our gains wouldn’t have been possible. I am so proud of their work, their continued success, and to call them a resort partner.

    It would be unfair not to mention Burton Snowboards, specifically Jeff Boliba and Shaun Cattanach. They, along with the Burton team, have put an amazing amount of passion and investment into making TBL a success while giving us great tools and resources to help develop the Mountain Creek program.

    The project at Mountain Creek helped create Snow Operating, a company committed to increasing industry conversion rates. We have partnered with Chris Hargrave, a pioneer of traditional TBL. Together working with Chris, SPT, NSAA and PSIA ASSI trainers, we have developed a program that gives the resorts the ability to grow conversion rates by working together as a team. Our truly inspiring resort partners are listed on our website, We are so privileged to work with them on a daily basis.

    Snow Operating is a proud member of the NSAA. During the spring of 2011, I witnessed Michael Berry award the Conversion Cup to Snow Time, Inc. This moment opened my eyes to our industry’s conversion issues. Michael’s leadership has helped create and grow the TBL program.

    I often say we didn’t invent Terrain Based Learning – the first person to ever ski probably looked at the steep hill and decided, “Perhaps I should try this less steep part first.” They invented Terrain Based Learning. Our goal is to implement and sustain a program focused on delivering safe and fun experiences for the first-time guests and the dedicated instructors that teach them.

    I hope to see you all at Conversion Camp.

    Thank you,


  • toosketch

    I’ve always wondered if ski resorts can actually handle the increase in capacity should conversion rates be higher than 15%. It seems lifts are already at full capacity as is, with lines up to 40 minutes at some resorts at times…

Get the weekly digest.

New stories, ideas, and jobs delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.

Take the 2018 ski resort social media marketing survey→