A while back, wanting perspectives on growing skiing, I reached out to a few familiar faces in the industry for their thoughts and ideas. One of those Switchback Entertainment's, Mike Douglas. As the “Godfather of Freeskiing”, Mike probably doesn’t need much more of an intro than that, so let’s get to it.
Gregg: What do you think is the biggest challenge for the ski industry in the next 10 years?
Mike: Keeping people involved. Thirty or forty years ago there was nothing else to do on winter weekends. You either went outside and embraced winter or you sat around your house bored. Nowadays, there are a hundred different ways to entertain yourself on the weekends and most of them don’t involve going outside in the cold. 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.
Gregg: What do you think is the biggest opportunity for the ski industry in the next 10 years?
Mike: It’s similar to our biggest challenge. Now that people are staying inside more, going skiing is becoming a bigger deal and a more special and unique experience. 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.
Everyone in the ski industry should be helping to showcase what this sport is. Not just for their own small piece of the pie, but for the sport as a whole. Let’s try to make the pie bigger. Does your content help the sport as a whole? I think the most successful ski & resort brands are doing this. There have never been more ways to spend leisure time. We need to work together to ensure skiing stays in the front of people’s minds.
Gregg: What will need to happen for skiing to gain momentum and start growing significantly?
Mike: I think I partially answered this in the last question, but the other half of the equation is access. Skiing is becoming very expensive. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the small local hills stay in business. Not every ski area needs to be Whistler Blackcomb or Aspen Snowmass – those are the dream destinations and they are pricey because they have absolutely everything and offer a world-class product. A lot have ‘Mom and Pop’ hills have closed over the past couple of decades and that’s a disturbing trend. We need those type of ski areas and it’s very important that the ‘$30 lift ticket’ still exists in this sport. We actually look at the changing landscape of ski areas in an upcoming episode of Salomon Freeski TV called, ‘The Architect’. The good news is that with the advent of the urban freestyle scene and the rise of ski touring, you can learn to ski without going to a ski area, and the beauty of the mountains will continue to draw us in whether the economy is strong or not.
Gregg: What can marketers do now to start getting that ball rolling?
Mike:They can start by doing some of the things I said in answer 2, but we also have to find better ways to market ‘Learn to Ski’ programs. In my opinion, the current marketing efforts being made to get school kids into skiing are laughable. The grade 5 learn to ski program is great, but the way it’s marketed is so out of touch. It’d be great to see each resort take a serious look at the ‘learn to ski’ program in their area and figure out how they can make it better.
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