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Growing Skiing
Is the Business of Ski School Holding Back the Ski Industry’s Growth?

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A year or so back I read Edna Dercum’s autobiography. Her husband, Max, did some pretty awesome stuff in the ski industry including the creation of Arapahoe Basin and Keystone in Colorado as well as helping create the Professional Ski Instuctors of America system.

According to Edna (who attended the PSIA organizing meetings with Max)…

“The variety of techniques really confused ski pupils. They might take a lesson at a Arapahoe, then go to Aspen, where a modified Arlberg technique was taught, then to Stein Erickson’s Norwegian ski school over at the Highlands, and then lessons at Sun Valley with a French ski instructor. Something had to be done. The formation of a universal ski-teaching technique was necessary, at least in the U.S.”

There’s little doubt that the PSIA has been a catalyst to the growth of skiing by increasing the success on day 1 and, along with it, the likelihood of ski addiction. And for good reason, if you quickly and correctly learn how to ski, you’ll fall less, turn more, and have a better time.

So, how could that be holding us back? Let me see if I can explain where my thoughts have been taking me.

Another On the List
There are a few disconnects in skiing.

  • We love beginners but make fun of them if they dress wrong
  • We rely on families and boomers but highlight images of extreme skiing
  • We know that cost is a barrier but insist on professional instruction

And why do we insist on taking a lesson with a pro? Well, if we try on your own or have a friend teach us, both of those systems are considered prime territory for failure. And they often are.

But, like many things, I think we’ve drawn a line in the sand and said there are only two choices: you either ski with a friend and fail or pay to ski with a professional instructor and succeed.

Choices, Choices
If I want to learn French, I have dozens of great options…books, community college, videos, you name it. It’s not a matter of either, a) taking government certified courses at the airport before I enter the country, or, b), skipping those courses and stumbling my way through a terrible vacation.

So why is it that we only seem to have that one, solid option in skiing? Why are we keeping the tool that turns non-skiers into lifelongers behind a pay-to-play door?

I don’t know the answer for sure, but I fear it’s because we’ve let ski instruction become too much of a business and too little of a tool to grow our sport. It’s more revenue stream now than education.

Another Way
So what are our other options? I think at the core it’s returning to the fact that ski instruction is education and freeing that knowledge so anyone and everyone can learn.

A few of the ideas that have been swirling around in my head:

  • Turn ski instruction into a series of free, professional quality videos and make these videos available through a well-managed YouTube channel, mobile app, and DVD
  • Give every skier on the mountain the basic ski instruction skill set so when they take their friends to the top of the lift, they’ve tripled the chances their friend will get down with a smile on their face.
  • Or, when they see a newb trying to learn solo, they can have a reason to stop and give them a few pointers.
  • When people pay for lessons, teach them how to teach others – one of the most powerful tools in pedagogy is the idea of learning by teaching

I suppose it’s about giving the opportunity to learn how to ski to everyone.

I May Be Crazy
I may be crazy, but something tells me that if we can make it super easier, cheaper, and faster to learn how to ski, the long term rewards could be much bigger than any hit we take to our ski school revenue in the short term.

If we can give people more people the knowledge, I believe that more will want to use it.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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