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Growing Skiing
What if you could save $5,000,000 while solving skiers’ most frustrating problems?

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We all want to make the skier experience better. And while there are myriad means to that end, some data I got the chance to look at recently completely caught me off guard as to what that would take.

First, though, a huge shout out to Joel Gratz and OpenSnow. After taking their end-of-year survey and noticing a couple of intriguing questions, Joel didn’t just satisfy my curiosity about the trends within some of those answers, he sent me every…single…response. More than 4,400 in total full of fascinating insights into what makes skiers tick.

And that’s what led to me being so caught off guard. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Lifts, Lifts, Lifts
Every resort in the country seems to be in a race to make every lift on their mountain a high-speed six-pack or quad.

As an industry, we seem convinced that what skiers want is faster and faster lifts. So, sitting on a list of 4,400 responses to the question “what do you dislike most about skiing” and “what would make skiing better”, I decided to see if the results supported that.

Sure enough, as I sorted through the answers I started to see it coming up.

“Less crowds, faster lifts.”

“Shorter lift lines, faster lifts, less people on the slopes.”

“Uphill access everywhere. High speed lifts.”

But as I started to add things up I found that only about 24 people mentioned slow lifts (as a downside) or high-speed/faster lifts (as something that would make things better.

Let’s say this another way: Skiers were given an opened-ended chance to say what would make they days on the slopes better, and about 0.5% of them mentioned the speed of lifts.

So what did they talk about? I’m glad you asked.

Just as Often
Let me start with a few things that appeared just as often as lift speed. That is to say, these are things that are on the minds of skiers just as much as fixed grip triples.

  • People smoking anywhere at the ski area (0.4% mentioned it)
  • Better moguls (0.3% mentioned it)
  • Live music during the ski day (0.5% mentioned it)
  • Cheaper on-mountain food (0.6% mentioned it)
  • Fewer assholes (0.3% mentioned it)

Do you see what I see? For a (relatively) few bucks (or no bucks) you could solve a half-dozen things that are as equally aggrevating to skiers as something that would cost millions of dollars.

And if this idea sounds vaguely familiar, it should.

To use Rory’s words, we’re trying to solve the skiing experience problem with engineering, not creativity.

Add up in your mind the cost of cheaper on-mountain food, no smoking, reserved mogul runs, live music, and publicly booting out the random asshole. Now, amortize that over the life of a $5,000,000 high-speed quad (+ maintance). What do you get?

An Opportunity
Now, I’m not saying that high speed quads are worthless, they’re not. I’m simply pointing out that the data suggest that we’re grossly overestimating their worth in the eyes of skiers.

So when I see Whistler’s plan to spend 1/3 of a billion at the same time you think about the cost of what skiers say would improve their experience…

…well, it gets the wheels turning, doesn’t 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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