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An alternative to Jerry: What if we stopped taking pictures and started helping instead?

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Last year I did something that completely changed my skiing.

There was a woman, very novice, who wasn’t sure how to get back to Bachelor Gulch at Beaver Creek and asked me for directions. We were a few hundred yards above a spot where two cat tracks cross and, to get where she wanted to go, she’d need to make a hard left that was easy to miss.

I gave as clear a description as I could, rode down a bit further, realized just how invisible the turn was and decided to stop.

After a couple minutes she came around the corner and I waved at her with one arm, pointing where the turn was with the other. For that moment, the look of terror on her face disappeared and she smiled a genuine “thank you.”

This woman, by all counts and definitions, was what our industry calls a Jerry. A gaper. Someone who doesn’t dress, ski, or act like the rest of us. She didn’t have that jacket [Insert Big Name Skier] was wearing last season, she bought whatever she thought looked comfortable or nice looking or warm but, ultimately, not in line with our sport’s unwritten style guide.

Typically when we see such a skier, we snicker, laugh, and, most likely of all, take a picture. Or even try to make a few bucks off of it.

Source: Powder

But that photo didn’t come from one of the countless outlets that have a laugh at these folks’ expense, it came from an article by Powder’s John Clary Davis called, “In Defense of Jerry” in which he succinctly describes the flaws within this phenomenon.

My goal this season is to be more of a Jerry. Why? Because Jerry’s are less vain and self-conscious, and because I think the opposite of a gaper is probably an asshole.

Skiing has a whole lot of really tortuous gear that makes even the most simple tasks, like walking and urinating, much more difficult. If you think there is a right way and a wrong way to go about looking and acting while skiing, and if you insist on spurning those who are new to the sport or do things differently, you’re missing the point.

And this ridicule isn’t just reserved for the echo-champers of Jerry-of-the-Day sites, when the winners of a heli-trip looked more gaper than core, the comments section in a Powder Facebook post let them have it with all the stereotypical name-calling you can imagine.

Today, I want to suggest an alternative. An alternative that, if we promoted together, could have a profound impact on ski culture and our industry’s health.

The Simple Proposal
Here’s the idea.

The next time you see a Jerry struggling with something that we’ve long since dialed, offer them a friendly bit of help.

This happened the day I first tried Sherpa with the Copper team. I’ll never forget it, we were approaching the base of the mountain where the pitch increased and the snow hardened. A beginner had fallen in some soft snow on the side of the run and was struggling to get back up. Austyn Williams rode over, offered her a hand, got this snowboarder on her way, and rode off.

That was it. What Austyn may have missed, however, was how the frustration painted on this skier’s face quickly changed to a big, grateful smile.

I would wager that every day at every mountain in every state there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these opportunities.

What if we, as an industry, changed our tone. What if we created a culture of helping those who are way our of their element instead of making fun of them? What if instead of snapping a picture of that guy with his skies cradled in his arms, we took 30 seconds out of our day to give him a quick tip? What if the next time you saw someone on a run that’s way beyond their skill level, you gave them some pointers on linking turns instead of cursing them as you skied by?

With so many alternatives to skiing, what if we were the only sport that welcomed beginners with open arms and, together, helped them to learn the tricks that make a day on the slopes that much more enjoyable?

One resort making this effort could be a game changer, but just imagine if we all did.

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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