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Five Ideas for Growing Skiing from Five Brilliant Ski Industry Brains

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I had been looking forward to last week for a while.

Between the people I had involved and the insights they shared as posts trickled in, I knew some good discussion would develop and develop it did. A big thank you again to everyone for sharing your thoughts.

With so many ideas swirling, I wanted to take one post to bring it all together and see if we can identify the core ideas from each perspective.

Mike Douglas
Key quotes:

“The internet and gaming is our biggest threat. I even find myself forcing my own kids to get out on the mountain on the weekends. They love it when they get out there, but getting them off the couch isn’t easy.I told my son the other day – nobody on their deathbed ever says, ‘I wish I’d spent more time on the internet.’ The good news is that Facebook, Twitter, and especially Instagram, are places people often go to boast about what they’re doing. It’s hard to get a good Instagram photo from your couch.”

“The ski industry needs to embrace social media and figure ways to use it to enhance the ski experience for their users. In this day and age you should be able to stay connected while you are on the mountain – or at least have the choice.”

Summary: The industry has much more competition now than it every had. We need to cater to the (tech) habits of the masses and work together to promote skiing.
Read Mike’s full take»

Dave Belin
Key quotes:

“Beyond the weather and the economy, which are certainly very big potential obstacles, one of the biggest challenges I see is for ski areas to remain relevant beyond the existing core group of participants…So much of the industry seems focused on the most passionate, the most committed, the hard core, the season pass holder. But what about the rest of your customer base?”

“The biggest opportunity in the next 10 years is to be more inclusive of all potential customers. By “inclusive” I mean reaching out to non-traditional audiences, whether it is ethnic minorities, older participants, people of more modest incomes, people of size, or other groups who might not feel embraced by the culture of snowsports. There is a large pool of people who are a socio-economic match for snowsports but who don’t currently participate.”

Summary: We need to shift some of the focus away from “core” skiers and toward non-passholders, beginners, and minorities. Then, we need to present a more logical progression from step to step as we get and keep them involved in the sport.
Read Dave’s full take»

Donnie Clapp
Key quotes:

“For those of you who haven’t joined the club yet, kids are like living anchors, dragging behind us as we half-heartedly paddle our boats toward meaningful recreation. Want to go for a hike? Your choices are something way shorter than you’d prefer, fifty extra squirming and whining pounds on your back…Now ask yourself what specialized equipment a satisfying hike requires (hint: none). Easily the most accessible outdoor pursuit in the world, hiking is such a logistical nightmare with a couple of kids that all but the most dedicated among us abandon it as a realistic option. Skiing is like outfitting a private mission to Mars in comparison.”

“Once we come to accept this about ourselves we’ll see that the X-Games and even the winter Olympics—the average American’s primary exposure to skiing—are counter-productive. They make us and our few million extreme-leaning cohorts want to experience our slightly-less-extreme version of skiing someday soon, but for the rest of the country they are a televised spectacle that bears almost no resemblance to real life and makes skiing seem big and dangerous and unapproachable.”

Summary: Skiing has two, huge issues. First, it’s incredibly difficult to do with a family. Second, the extreme side is being so heavily promoted that we’ve created a brand for our sport that makes it feel unrealistically dangerous and out-of-reach.
Read Donnie’s full take»

Mary Jo Tarallo
Key quotes:

“First, it needs to better understand the casual skier or snowboarder which is the bulk of the market place. Only about 3 – 4 percent of the U. S. population participates. That means 96 – 97 percent do not. Second, industry research finds that the majority of newcomers are introduced to skiing and snowboarding by a friend or family member who already participates. “

“Women make 80% of the buying decisions in a family – regardless of their background. If mom is convinced that skiing and snowboarding are good investments for her family then, chances are, the family will start skiing or snowboarding. The industry could do a better job of catering to this demographic and think through what steps can be taken to capture this lucrative market. When and where mom goes, the family follows.”

Summary: We need to do a better job of working together as an industry to get people to bring their friends skiing. We also need to focus more of our marketing on mothers who make most of the decision in families.
Read Mary Jo’s full take»

Troy Hawks
Key quotes:

“But, with skis that retail for upwards of $1000, boots that cost $600, flights, rental cars, lodging, lift tickets, lessons, day care, and $12 hamburgers, I think you have to be curious as to how many young families – now, and 10 years from now – can actually stay actively and regularly engaged with the sport.”

“I also think technology is the industry’s greatest friend at this point (and to be clear, in this arena I am a total neophyte, so this is the student, speaking to the professor). But regardless, I think of my father who owned and operated a cheese and dairy store for 30 years in central Wisconsin. He knew all of his customers by their first name…Today, technology, be it direct mail or email, social media, or what have you, pretty much enables us to say hello to 50 million people by name. “

Summary: We need to address the cost of skiing if we are going to bring in and keep young families in the sport. Technology can also be a powerful ally as we break through the noise and try to develop relationships with our customers.
Read Troy’s full take»

  • James Keddington

    This is a great summary. I really enjoyed all the articles. Many of them resonated with the challenges I face getting up every year, especially as my family has grown. I am no industry marketing expert compared to these five, by any stretch of the imagination, but as I have considered all the interviews there was one thing that stuck out in my mind that I do not think was addressed.

    Local joint ventures.

    I know that every resort, especially the bigger ones, make a lot of money on destination travel, and that they cannot forget it. But they still have a local market. I live in SLC, where over 1 million are within 45 minutes to some of the worlds most notorious resorts.

    Local businesses would love to have joint ventures with these places. These joint ventures can feed new lessons who can afford the TIME to take half the winter learning, so they can shred the other half. Someone at all of these resorts should be focused on local guerrilla marketing tactics like joint ventures, local ski/ board camps via rec centers and YMCAs, Big Brother – Big Sister riding / skiing days, locals only competitions and races, and more.

    • Good thoughts, James. This is sort of a myopic Utah view from the majority of my early skiing days, but I know Wasatch resorts have these partnerships down pretty well. My first 10-15 days of skiing were almost all through Artic Circle, X-96, or 105 (was 105) the END partnerships. The others came from Phillips 66 discounts at Snowbird and KSL free ski nights. I haven’t been in the Salt Lake Valley for about a decade now, but when I was there, those partnership got me on the mountain.

      In terms of YMCAs, Big Brother/Big Sister, stuff, I think the idea is awesome. I have no idea if it would pay off in the long run, but from an altruistic standpoint it’s a cool thought.

  • braveskimom

    As a mom who lives to ski (especially with my evergrowing sons), I think Mary Jo is onto something. Women drive vacation spending for the family. Yet, if you look at most snowsports media and marketing, moms are nearly invisible.

    Donnie raises some great points about the logistical nightmare which can be family skiing. And yet, I hear from moms each and every day who didn’t grow up skiing, but want their families to ski. They ask me how to make it happen and I try to help. There is a passion and desire to ski and ride out there, despite the sometimes outrageous cost.

    Families are skiing, they are making it happen and if you can get families hooked on snowsports, they’ll find ways to afford it. Maybe this means bypassing the marquee resorts for the “Gems” (as they are called in Colorado). I don’t know, but it’s great to see some good minds working on this.


    • Thanks, Ms. Brave. Your point on my point is exactly the point — skiing is so amazing that the attendant headaches are regularly endured by millions of us with a smile on our face. But the numbers might imply that the portion of Americans who have a mindset that enables that tradeoff will always be in the single-digit percentages. So if we want to break the sport out into the slightly-less-willing-to-cope mainstream, we have to figure out how to remove some of the headaches and get people from their bed to a transcendent “wow, this is fun” moment more quickly and with fewer pit stops.

    • It’s a really great point, Kristen and I think one the industry is certainly guilty of. Might have to pick your brain on solutions to that problem here one day :)

      • braveskimom

        Thanks Gregg! Happy to discuss further at any time. Cheers.

  • samvt


  • Mary Jo Tarallo

    Colleagues and friends in the snow sports industry please take note. Many of the comments here should be a wake up call. Getting folks involved in skiing or snowboarding is not so easy anymore. On the other hand many opportunities are available if we work together and work smart.

  • Jarred ‘Allstar’ Haynes

    This is a great read

  • dana greenwood

    Great work Gregg!!!…thanks to the 5 fine folks with some great insight!

    Each have great points and the fact that it’s being discussed in this forum is awesome. I feel like this discussion is always a ‘hot topic’ during my visits with other reps and all of my retail partners.

    It’s clear that we need to do something and some folks are with Learn to Ski Month etc., but I think setting aside the egos of all of us ‘SKI PORN’ folk and coming up with a solution as ‘micro-groups’ would help a ton (I’m sure it’s much different in every market throughout the US and let a long the globe).

    For the most part in my ‘territory’ it’s all about who has the latest and coolest equipment or what zone you’ve skied etc., but it’s about the others (less than 5 times/year and NEW!) that is clearly stated in many of the answers provided in your questioning.

    There are so many things we can do as an industry, but we just need to collaborate (as Mary Jo said) and continue to open up the dialog in order to find solutions.

    I’d like to make it a mission (personally) to pay more attention to the skiers that ski less than 10 days/year and get them to enjoy it even more. There must be a way to do this without an ‘organized group’ or ‘special day’..? Suggestions are welcome. I think if we can dumb down these ideas for a regular ‘ski porn’ person to help our sport, we could make a little impact (which is certainly better than nothing).

    If we continue to make excuses (ie, tickets are too expensive, the snow sucks, the bud lights are $9, don’t have the time), we will never survive; so there MUST be a more ‘grassroots’ approach we can all take..?! Yes, the industry needs to adapt without a doubt; but for some reason I don’t see this happening anytime in the near future…we need a little more sense of urgency.

    Thanks again!

  • Pingback: Step Aside Cutters, Meet the Camp That’s Taking Skiing in a Awesome Marketing Direction | SlopeFillers()

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