I especially thank the men and women of the highway crew who do an AMAZING job of making the road up to the mountain safe for us to travel. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is 3 feet of January powder or, a half inch of March ice they make sure we can get there by staying up all night.
Even when my pants are clean, I always hoist my first glass of apres in thanks to the hundreds of people who made the day possible.
It takes a helluva lot of people to make Happy Pants! 🙂
A heartfelt handshake and a thank-you go a long way. If you saw their pay stub, a hefty tip at season’s end goes a fair distance. A beer, or a bowl, whatever suits your style of thanks-giving…..
We have some product reviews coming your way that you won’t want to miss.
You will likely finish reading this installment confused by the many twists and turns and incomplete directions. GOOD…You darned well should be! The ski industry is slowly killing itself and the reasons are as complex as they silly.
Trust me though, I’ll get you straightened out on it all by the end of this season 🙂
What finally shook me out of my summer doldrums were two articles from the same author and source. Both articles referenced “experts” who talked about why the ski industry isn’t growing. I am always interested in that subject and I read them both, several times.
What struck me was not the specific opinions of the two experts but how two experts could be looking at the same industry and come up with conclusions that are perfect opposites. Could it be that the industry is failing to grow because there simply isn’t anyone who knows what is really going on?
The first article I saw was posted by ISPO.com and you can read it here. READ ME.
Basically it claims that skiing is too “elitist” and needs to find a way to get more people from lower income demographics to participate. The article didn’t say it in so many words but I had the distinct impression that the intent was to socialize or, at least, to have governments subsidize snow sport participation.
China plans to grow snow sports in an unprecedented way. If they are successful they would nearly double the number of active participants in the world. I wrote about that last year in…
If the rest of the alpine world is to survive, they may well have to learn how to compete against government subsidized resorts in China and Russia.
From that perspective, I can sort of understand where this expert is coming from. BUT, it seems like “experts” in Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada, and the US are gearing up for what they believe will be a Wave of affluent Chinese coming their way.
Given that China has proved it can build a world class ski resort in less than a year, it is likely that millions of folks from Japan, Korea, OZ, NZ, Canada and the US will pass them in the air…on their way to China...to enjoy government subsidized, world class skiing…on a free seat on government owned Chinese Airliners.
What I am saying is that China would very easily take the decision to offer free everything from travel to lodging to meals and lifts. One or two seasons of that could absolutely trash the ski industry in most traditional alpine countries.
Sometimes I wonder if Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL understand that the 30 some resorts they own between them will be the only ones open in 15 years and are aligning themselves to serve only the wealthiest of the wealthy from around the globe. It’s already cheaper to take the annual ski vacation in Europe than it is to Colorado. How soon before it is even cheaper to enjoy world class powder in China?
First, I am curious to know who gets to decide if YOU are an “elite” or a member of “the masses”. That decision almost never works out for you when you don’t get to make it.
This second article I didn’t spend a lot of time with. From the perspective of industry specific knowledge, the “expert” didn’t seem to have much. It was more like the standard Google/SEO – blast the world with “branding” thing that appears 400 times a day in my Facebook news feed.
From my view, it is really just a guy trying to sell some consulting time. I based that on the claim in the article that in a market populated by fairly affluent people he seems to think that dominating Google is the strategy of choice.
My thought is that the more easily you can define a target the easier it is to hit it. You go on LinkeIn, search keyword “ski” and bang – 1,000,000 affluent skiers that you can contact directly. His claim that “targeting” is dead is foolishly myopic and “tech-centric” and flies in the face of everything we know about how people in those “elite” classes make buying decisions.
Look, I am a free market guy and if you can get someone to spend $40 for a Cheeseburger by putting it on the menu as “Boeuf Haché avec du Fromage”…congratulations! PT Barnum told us many decades ago how that works.
I will make a prediction right now that $40 cheeseburgers and $300 lift tickets aren’t going to save the ski industry. Neither will socialized skiing.
Again, the problems facing the industry in its traditional haunts has been the same problem for more than 20 years. The number of participants isn’t growing and neither is the number of times they go skiing each season. The industry has known for a long time that they need to do a much better job of hanging on to beginners.
The woeful statistic is that 82% of people who try it, don’t come back. NOTHING the industry has tried in the last 25 years has had any significant impact on that number.
According to the 2017 global industry study by Luis Vanat, participation in snow sports has been, and still is, in steady decline in traditional alpine nations.
The only places where it is growing are in Russia and China.
The only demographic data that tracks directly with the decline in alpine sports is the decline of the middle classes in traditional alpine countries.
This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that Russia and China enjoy rapidly growing middle class. It is also supported here in the US that of the 200 plus ski areas lost in the last 20 years most are predominantly small, local, low cost ski areas.
The cost of a day of skiing has grown much faster than inflation during a period when fewer and fewer people could afford even the low end of the cost spectrum.
All that boils down to that the ski industry really cannot have any impact of political and economic models. If current political and economic policies are eating away at your sources of revenue then you have to do something.
There are two ways to make a million dollars. Sell one million people a one dollar item or sell one million dollar item to one person. Between those extremes there are any number of potential blends of strategy and tactics to reach that goal.
So far, all we see are companies inching their way up the ladder. The cost of participating in lift served snow sports has been rising at a rate much higher than wage growth.
At a time when part of your client base is rapidly disappearing to economic policies, driving prices in the opposite direction only exacerbates the problem. Given the shrinkage in youth participation, the industry may well be heading toward a bubble that will fundamentally alter it and leave it no means of recovery.
When I was a kid in the late 50s and early 60s there simply weren’t many ski areas around. There were mountains of surplus military ski equipment that could be used on whatever local bump kids used for sledding. Our family “ski vacation” consisted of driving up Thompson canyon west of Ft. Collins and skiing the roadside ditch. Mom would drive us up and Dad would ski down with the kids. Then Dad would drive and Mom would ski with the kids. I had been skiing 15 years before I experienced a mechanical lift at a ski area. The current growth in a return to those halcyon days of hiking for turns is a breath of fresh air
In many towns these days the local sledding hills are shut down due to legal liability concerns. Kids are less active generally. Thanks in part to the explosion of a million cliff hucking, drowning-in-an-avalanche, GOPro videos, millions of mothers are deciding that skiing is too dangerous for their children.
There seems to be a growing list of reasons to NOT participate. At least, that list is growing faster than the list of reasons to give it a go and stay with it. The high costs certainly make it easier to stay away.
There are a lot of reasons why people don’t stick with it. Costs are certainly a part of that equation. Costs won’t change until the industry feels that is the only way it can survive.
One of the reasons that shows up in the annual surveys is poor proficiency. People think their skiing sucks and who is going to spend their annual vacation money doing something they suck at?
The problem is that there is much the industry can and should do about proficiency but they simply don’t care to do them. Lessons are expensive and will remain expensive, period.
When ski resorts are operating a government granted monopoly, there will not be any competition for the monopoly ski schools. Until there is, instruction will remain as expensive as it is ineffective and customer losses to “poor proficiency” will continue. Collision accidents on the mountain due to poor proficiency and over-crowding will continue to climb.
Sure skiing is expensive. The interesting thing is that once you reach a point in your life where you have the time to go skiing and you can afford to go skiing, the industry isn’t interested in you anymore.
This article in SkiAsia.com truly fascinates me! It’s really hard to pin down an exact number of active snow sport participants in the world. Outside of Winter Olympic news, The whole notion of skiing in China has been mostly off my radar. Bad analyst..Bad analyst!
So, just thinking “out loud”….
Many resorts don’t report visits and many people who haven’t skied in years identify themselves as skiers in blind surveys. The number is estimated at around 100 Million worldwide.
Whatever the real numbers are in traditional winter sport countries, the emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Russia, China and elsewhere are on the verge of swamping existing demographics in a very profound way.
The US has roughly 12 Million active participants who generate about 55 million visit/days each year. It has been that way for a couple of decades.
Now, here is China setting a goal to increase the number of skiers and riders in their country from their current 15 million to 300 million over the next five years!
You read that correctly Three…Hundred…Million…New…Participants.
In Five Years!
The American ski industry has struggled for 20 years just to break even on participation growth.
In reality, the US industry has not created a net gain in participant numbers in a VERY long time. In fact, if you look at this chart, there appears to be a serious “down-bubble” on its way in the U.S. as the number of new, young participants has been shrinking and older participants “age-out”.
According to the 2017 Laurent Vanat report, the recognized authoritative study of global snow sports market data, while Vail Resorts, and Aspen-KSL are making headlines by moving the deck chairs around the Titanic, China has grown to 646 ski areas and Russia to 354 resorts. Sure, many of them are on run with a surface tow but, it won’t stay that way.
A friend of mine from Kyiv just sent pictures of her Ukrainian ski vacation. Good slopes, good snow, great accommodations and the food was 5 stars on any gourmet’s chart. All at the cost of about 20% of a Colorado vacation.
For a long time, in the US, the number of participants and the number of visits per season has been either flat or declining. Western Europe is seeing declining numbers as well. Switzerland is tanking in a major way.
Revenue growth has come almost exclusively from price increases.
Coupled with declining visitation, that model is unsustainable as fewer skiers are forced to pay ever higher prices to float the industry boat. VR and Aspen/KSL may enhance their margins by aggregating revenues and creating some economies-of-scale but it doesn’t change the industry’s foundation elements, declining numbers and rising prices.
Products like the Epic Pass are merely the hand the magician wants you to be fascinated with while he lifts your wallet. With declining numbers of customers, the only way they can keep their investors happy in the long term is to raise prices. They have proven incapable of creating new customers.
Faced with emerging, growing markets with cheap and in some cases, government subsidized pricing, it will be much less expensive to enjoy your annual winter vacation in China or Bulgaria than in Colorado.
Do the math folks. The world’s fastest growing economy plus 300,000,000 new participants plus government built and operated airliners plus millions of acres of new government subsidized ski resorts. They already manufacture an awful lot of the equipment you buy.
Should China decide one winter to offer free flights, lodging and skiing to Europeans and North Americans, what might be the result? Overnight, the entire western snow sport industry might well become what has been sneeringly referred to as a “feeder resort”.
The pressure on prices in the western industry will be tremendous. In the short term, the pressure on publicly held North American consolidators may well be more than investors are willing to bear.
Certainly there will be downward pressure on pricing at destination resorts as more options become available in emerging markets
The good news is that small non-destination venues that do not rely on snow making will enjoy a significant competitive flexibility. If they can cover the costs of operating the lifts, they can stay afloat. Highly leveraged operations will struggle…unless…
Unless, large western operations can involve themselves in development of resorts in these emerging markets…(They probably have and I have just been focused elsewhere) It certainly puts the Whistler acquisition in a whole new light for me!
And, it makes sense for them to do so. Pricing in traditional western markets has been treading the tipping-point of the supply & demand curves for a long time. Growth in participant numbers are flat or declining.
Conversely, Eastern Europe, China, and Russia are creating new snow sport participants in very large numbers already. Now that China has made snow sports compulsory for kids in Beijing, the number of new participants may grow as much as 40% year-over-year for the foreseeable future.
Let’s talk about Brain-Drain.
You cannot pack 300 Million new people on the existing slopes. There is going to be a whole lot of building going on.
North American resorts are ALREADY having trouble finding enough ski instructors to cover the demand.
China and Russia and Eastern Europe will need expertise and the only place to get it in a hurry is from the mature markets of Western Europe and North America.
With Snow-Job wages in the US as ridiculously low as they are, it would not be hard for subsidized, emerging markets to drain off the best and brightest. Resort design, engineering and construction talent, snow making experts, resort operations and travel experts, all of these skilled workers, and many more, are targets for predatory hiring practices.
American snow sport organizations such as NSAA and PSIA already spend a lot of resources on fishing for new instructors on college campuses. The North American instructor corp is already an aging population.What happens to the supply of new, young instructors should China decide to offer a one year paid internship with free housing on American campuses..or worse..to already certified instructors?
There are a variety of competitive responses available to western snow sport operators, not many, but some very interesting possible outcomes. The one that I find the most worrisome is this…
The NUMBER…..300,000,000 new participants is mind boggling, breath taking.
Add that to growth in other emerging markets and who the heck cares about a paltry 12 million Americans?
If I am Vail or Aspen/KSL I get over there and develop a cut-rate feeder market and drive North American skiing development into THE destination for the global elite. Private gondolas and $20,000 per night rooms….THAT kind of “elite”.
Broad based North American participation from the middle class would no longer be a significant business consideration. If you can consistently attract 60,000,000 visit/days out of the world’s wealthiest skiers, who the heck cares if Joe the Plumber can afford to ski?
What bugs me is that current operations such as Aspen/KSL and Vail are already boiling that frog. Pass prices are going down but the cost of everything else associated with a ski trip are going up at rates higher than inflation.
Slowly as the glam and bling rise, and the western middle-class declines, snow sports are increasingly out of reach for a growing number of traditional participants.
But, with millions of new participants on the near horizon there may be enough of the world’s newly minted millionaires in China and Russia that the western ski industry can afford to simply walk away from it’s traditional base.
The article doesn’t spell out HOW China will create these millions of new skiers and riders. Even if it is just all grade school kids, they will grow up one day.
Time will tell and I will be watching closely from here on out. Now if you will excuse me I have to go read Benny Wu’s market studies on the Chinese snow sport industry….
A reader, obviously an instructor, posted this comment to an article last week. It raises a number of interesting dynamics within the profession of snow sports instructions so, I thought I would go through it piece by piece. We all see the world through the lens of our own experience but, when their are customers at stake we cannot afford the luxury of living inside that bubble. We must look beyond and take a cold hard look at the facts and make sound business decisions from them. So here goes….
“So I’m wondering why the assertion that traditional ski schools still use a wedge and focus on the outside foot? In all three schools (at Aspen now) I have taught for in CO the direct parallel/inside foot initiated turn has been the move of choice in beginner instruction. My teaching career started 15 years ago. I will use a mild gliding wedge for people who struggle to balance in a parallel stance. The turn is still initiated one of two ways, inside foot steering and/or simply pressing the little toe side of the inside foot flatter. Also I recall way before I taught skiing, in the 70’s in Aspen they used the GLM combo of a very short (120cm if I recall) ski and a direct parallel progression to ski parallel the first hour let alone the first day! I have no doubt there is a small area or two somewhere and a few out of touch instructors who may be what you say. Let’s not take that as dogma industry wide as it assuredly is not!! Clendenin Method has a mogul skiing focus to some extent. Moguls are a skill blend reuiring a lower edge angle and skidded turn shape. Harb is more focused on carving so an edge biased method is an obvious result. All mountain skiing requires a varying blend of both edging and rotational movements along with varying blends of the three pressure skills: fore/aft, foot to foot, and magnitude. 5 skills, quite simple actually and that is current PSIA tech. A rigid “cookie cutter” approach to beginners would totally ignore the guests fitness level, coordination, learning style, fears, level of self esteem, age and expectations. You are a good example prefering as you say above to go out and be shown and try vs the wordy explanations in the Harb materials. There are those out there that love and need that stuff too. I have never had a guest ask for a formulaic lesson. If that happened I would point out that progressions can be regarded as an outline that is then customized to guest movement needs, level of skill, desired outcome, daily snow conditions, age, fitness and reachable expectations. Custom on the spot for the person in front of me or a formula? The choice is obvious.”
Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) is the organization that is tasked by the National Ski Area Association (NSSA) to create and promulgate industry standard practices that pertain to the teaching of snow sports.
What most people don’t know is that “PSIA” is actually 10 separate organizations. A ‘national” organization and nine regional divisions. The national organization creates manuals and defines the testing and certification of instructors in all the various disciplines.
The nine divisions may or may not adopt all of the national standards. Many have their own tweaks to the processes of training, education, testing and certification. Further, every resort ski school has it’s own in-house training program that may further change the standard practices defined at the division level.
In the case of corporations, they may have their own policies and practices that may or may not be tweaked by individual resort schools.
It’s like that game “post office” we played as kids. PSIA (national) whispers into the ear of the divisions … the divisions whisper into the ears of the corporations … the corporations whisper into the ears of the resort schools … the resort schools whisper into the ears of instructors….and the instructors have their own individual implementations of the standards.
By the time the “standard” reaches the ears of a customer, it may or may not reflect the original intent of the standard…any built-in efficacy may be lost.
“So I’m wondering why the assertion that traditional ski schools still use a wedge and focus on the outside foot?”
Below is a screen shot of a Bing search on the terms “PSIA Required Tasks”.
“Required Tasks” are those movements a candidate must perform correctly to be considered qualified for certification” If you open and read these documents, it is readily apparent that everyone has their own take on the subject of testing and certification.
It is also readily apparent that Alpine instruction candidates at all three levels must demonstrate proficiency in wedge and wedge-christie skiing. There are no required tasks that would indicate that the instructional organizations, as a whole, require proficiency in teaching “Direct-to-Parallel” methods.
To buy into the commentator’s notion that wedge based learning is NOT pervasive would mean you also have to believe that all ten of the various PSIA entities are wasting a lot of time and money publishing, distributing, testing and certifying methods that no one uses.
I applaud Aspen and any other resort who is adopting Direct to Parallel (DTP) methods. If there were broad, top-down efforts across the PSIA-driven instructional industry to adopt DTP methods, guys like Harald Harb and his PMTS methods wouldn’t be out there accrediting ski schools.
As far as the outside foot thing goes…find me a video by any of the experts that says anything at all about the inside foot and I will show you 100 that do not.
To make sound business decisions we must take the facts as they are rather than what we believe them to be.
Fact 1: The wedge and wedge-christie are still the beating heart of ski instruction decades after Direct-to-Parallel methods were first developed.
Fact 2: We know from the reader’s comment that not all resort schools are created equal and that “standards” are more like “guidelines” and subject to a significant degree of modification.
As a customer, it behooves you to ask a lot of questions before you plunk down a large pile of dead-presidents when deciding on where to take a lesson.
“Also I recall way before I taught skiing, in the 70’s in Aspen they used the GLM combo of a very short (120cm if I recall) ski and a direct parallel progression to ski parallel the first hour let alone the first day!”
I was there. Been there. Done that. The t-shirt is worn out. But, this is my point, DTP methods have been around a long time. They were, for a short time, pervasive but were dropped and are now..40 years later, slowly coming back into vogue.
“GLM” stands for “Graduated Length Method”. It was created by Clif Taylor, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division in WWII. You would start off on really short skis and as your skills improved you moved up in length. Back then the Spademan binding and matching boots allowed you to switch skis with out having to adjust the spacing of the heel and toe pieces. During a lesson, if you felt your student was ready for a longer ski, you could just go grab a pair and set them to the right DIN with a pocket screwdriver.without having to take a lot of time away from the lesson. Really handy!
Not only did GLM get people skiing in parallel very quickly, the associated Spademan binding saved a lot of labor in the rental shop. One has to wonder why something that was so effective came and went so quickly and why, today, the instruction industry is still not committed to Direct to Parallel methods. There seems to be a persistent willingness to resist anything that makes learning easier.
“I have no doubt there is a small area or two somewhere and a few out of touch instructors who may be what you say. Let’s not take that as dogma industry wide as it assuredly is not!!”
I first want to pick the bone that “small area” is a bad thing. Small schools are usually family or community owned so they tend to be much more client-focused than the massive corporate areas. They know their customers intimately and have the freedom to work with new ideas that corporate school directors may not. So, could we please drop the ridiculous idea that big and glitzy is always better? I’m OK now…let’s move on…
Let’s ask Merriam-Webster…
Definition of dogma
1a: something held as an established opinion; especially: a definite authoritative tenetb: a code of such tenets pedagogical dogma
Definition of Pedagogy
the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept:
Wedge and wedge-christie movements are still the documented and pervasive required tasks across the instructional industry. Movement patterns that suggest a Direct to Parallel methodology are conspicuously absent from lists of “Required Tasks”. I would contend that the industry’s commitment to snowplow teaching methods are still dogmatic in nature. There has been some progress in the 40 years since “GLM” but it has been glacial in nature.
“A rigid “cookie cutter” approach to beginners would totally ignore the guests fitness level, coordination, learning style, fears, level of self esteem, age and expectations.”
This is exactly why the snowplow teaching method is still pervasive. Assessing whether or not a beginner is ready for Direct to Parallel methods is beyond the skill set of many Level 1 instructors. The snowplow IS the cookie cutter. I suspect that if you asked a few “risk-management” folks they would tell you they would prefer that the school sticks with the snowplow, less liability.
“I have never had a guest ask for a formulaic lesson.”
Many customer expectations, across many vertical industries are never articulated. By “formulaic” I mean that the process of how to learn and what to learn should be consistent from school to school, instructor to instructor and it isn’t.
I keep going back to facts…
Fact 3) According to a study conducted by NSAA, roughly 70% of people just leaving a lesson said they “would not” or “were not likely to” recommend the experience to a friend or relative.
Fact 4) According to an NSAA study, roughly 10% of skier “participation days” result in a visitor taking a lesson. Many of those students may not have volunteered for school but were put there so their parents can ski alone for a few hours.
Translate these numbers to other industries.
Municipal Water Service – 70% of the people who drink it once won’t drink it again
General Motors – Only 30% of the people who buy their cars from GM, like their cars. The other 70% tell their friends and relatives that GM cars suck.
Con-Edison – Your lights and the refrigerator work 7 hours and 12 minutes per day.
Are there good, fully committed professionals teaching snow sports? Abso-frickin-lutely there are! LOTS OF THEM…However, looking at the facts that define the quality of the ski instruction “product” in the US one can only conclude that, on the whole, the facts represent an astounding customer service failure.
Proficient skiing..or lack of it..is part of the problem. Poor technique is tiring and as people age the athleticism that poor skiing requires has many people quitting in their 30s and 40s. A frustrating lesson for a beginner sends them packing never to return.
People don’t plan their vacations and spend thousands of dollars to do things they suck at.
The great part about having a government granted monopoly is that responding effectively to these kinds of problems isn’t as much of a priority when the competitive element is removed from the equation.
All ski schools are not created equal. Part and parcel of the King’s Wardrobe of standards is that there are, in fact, resorts with schools with very progressive methods and deliver a high quality product. There are also resorts whose schools process customers through like cattle. Employees are disengaged by poor wages and poorer treatment.
W. Edward Demming is considered the father of modern quality assurance. He defined “quality” as the adherence to defined standards. In as much as standards are subject to change at several levels of the hierarchy, and the adherence to standards of any kind are highly localized, we have to conclude that the value to the client of an over-arching “standards” organization is limited.
Unfortunately, like choosing a doctor, it’s nice when you finally find one you like and want to go back to. You just pray the search process doesn’t kill you first…
Unless and until, the instructional side of the industry adopts a customer driven business model and a commitment to consistent standards, I am certain the 70% failure rate and 10% attendance will continue to be facts of life. Poor proficiency will still be a limiting growth factor in lift-served snow sports.
The problem with all these industry studies is they only ask “what” is going on. The questions and methodology never delve into “why” something is happening. Until they do, it leaves business managers and industry organizations to stumble around a darkened room fumbling along the wall for the light switch.
In an exchange between instructors on a social media site, they were talking about how things haven’t changed much since the 70s, except that instructors don’t get the respect they used to.
Even after all the big, high profile acquisitions and all the real estate and the $35 breakfasts, there aren’t anymore snow sport participants today than there were 20 years ago.
In any other industry failure to grow is failure, period, yet the lift served market keeps chugging along and prices grow at rates higher than inflation. Make me wonder why it isn’t growing. There are two ways to grow revenue. Get more customers or get more money from the customers you have. But what happens when those customers finally stop coming?
So, what is so unique about these three screen shots? Can spot it?
One organization represents the people who protect the public while they ski. The 26,000 members of the National Ski Patrol have one job, to make skiing and and snow boarding as safe as possible When people do get hurt, get them to help as soon as possible. Thousands of people are employed by ski resorts for this purpose.
The address of their headquarters 133 South Van Gordon St. Denver, CO
The second has the responsibility to teach people to ski or ride proficiently and safely. PSIA-AASI claims more than 30,000 members who are known as instructors, employees of the many ski resorts.Their address is …
133 South Van Gordon St, Denver, CO.
The last is the association of all ski resort owners in America. Their members are the employers of thousands of ski patrollers and instructors. Their address..is…yep…you guessed it…
133 South Van Gordon Street in Denver.
Am I the only person on the planet who has a problem with two organizations that represent employees of ski resorts, whose sole responsibility is the safety of the skiing public, sharing an office with the organization that represents employers and voracious new coporate interests?
Does the AFL-CIO share a headquarters with General Motors? Does the IBEW share it’s office space with Verizon? Probably not, yet, here is NSAA, whose members enjoy government granted monopolies, which operate on public lands, sharing their headquarters with two organizations that represent employees of NSAA’s members.
PSIA-AASI will be the first to tell you, loudly, that they are not a union. OK, fine..whatever. They have been granted an effective monopoly to collect money from its members. Members have no choice. One can only hope that money is utilized to serve the needs of those members. Yet, in some cases resort schools pay LESS to maintain their PSIA accreditation than individual instructors pay for their certifications. That doesn’t sound right to me.
If the US Forest Service wants to hand out monopolies that’s one thing. Forcing people to pay membership dues to work in that environment, on public land, is somethings else all together.
While the costs of membership to NSP and PSIA are borne by their members, the VALUE of that membership accrues to the resorts. That ain’t right. Their members pay what amounts to “union dues” but get no representation. The resorts profit by it.
Do Aspen, or Vail, or their share holders really need their employees money that badly? Perhaps the glory of all the recent acquisitions ain’t so glorious when billionaires have to live off the backs of their servants simply because they can get away with it.
All is not well in the fife. The serfs are slowly revolting. Most senior skiers have no idea how instructors get paid. Although they are required to obtain and maintain expensive professional certifications they often make less in a day than the kid running the french fry machine. This article from 2 years ago spells out the trouble in paradise.
It’s high time to make things right. Senior skiers are asked to pay hundreds of dollars for a lesson and ALSO pony up a gratuity to subsidize the low wages paid by large corporations. You pay $900 for the lesson Vail get $700 to $800 of that and expects YOU to make up half the instructor’s income for the day.
I have been told employees have to sign what amounts to a gag-order, with dire consequences for speaking to the media without permission. Some are willing to talk anyway. Several instructors have told me that Vail’s response to the wage issue was to put up signs asking patrons to tip more. Really??
These Multi-billion dollar snow sport companies operate on the same labor model as a 19th century coal mine. People work at Vail and get paid minimum wage and turn around and pay it back to the company for slum living?
Local taxpayers wind up subsidizing mega-corps while their share holders profit. That just isn’t right. Beaver Creek patrollers voted to unionize and a movement is underway to unionize instructors at Vail. If all was bliss and light with Vail, these things would not be happening.
What can you say about a company that would fire an instructor with 18 years of experience because they couldn’t balance on a sponge? What kind of bureaucrat dreams this stuff up? Seems like Vail tries to implement all kinds of 19th century labor polices and then has to back track when they can’t find enough people to work for them.
Astronaut John Glenn famously said, “I guess the question I’m asked the most often is: “When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?” Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
Monopolies never serve their customers’ best interests. Monopolies serve the best interests of the monopoly. When a major resort has to offer it’s employees a $1000 bonus to pirate a ski instructor from another resort, something just isn’t right. If it takes that sort of measure to get people to work there you have to wonder if you are getting the best service available. Instructors at Vail make a lot less than instructors are paid at Aspen. You have to wonder which place might offer the best learning experience.
There can be no question that, from an economic perspective, seniors skiing at these resorts would be better served if there were competition for on-mountain services.
Is this truly the future of American skiing? As a customer, do you really want to entrust your multi-thousand dollar family vacation to a mega-monopoly who treat their employees this way?
After last week’s examination of the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut, Vail Resorts, (Senior Skiers Sound Off – Vail…Beauty or, the Beast? ) I had planned to put out something a tad more light-hearted. After all, the season is winding down and we need to maintain the stoke for the 2017-18 season, yes?
Does this signal a head-to-head slug fest? Crown versus Katz, in the street at high noon, for primacy in the North American snow sports market? Will this touch off a kind of Corporate Chinese Downhill where competition serves the marketplace by driving down prices? Doubtful.
As we have seen with VR acquisitions, traffic goes up and prices go up. While season pass prices have gone down compared to 20 years ago, the total cost of a ski vacation has risen.
As Aspen enters the corporate snow sport fray, we won’t know how they intend to manage these new properties until they actually begin operations. If they are to echo the Aspen Experience, we have to assume they will want to draw their business from the higher income brackets. Today’s announcements that not much will change seems carefully calculated to insure stability in share prices until the merger can be completed.
To think a management team, driven in the public eye by the Aspen name, will go off into the future without even taking advantages of economies of scale is naive in my view.
From Wikipedia, In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreport Health Effects of Gentrificationdefines the real estateconcept of gentrificationas “the transformation of neighborhoods from low value to high value. This change has the potential to cause displacement of long-time residents and businesses … when long-time or original neighborhood residents move from a gentrified area because of higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes. Gentrification is a housing, economic, and health issue that affects a community’s history and culture and reduces social capital. It often shifts a neighborhood’s characteristics, e.g., racial-ethnic composition and household income, by adding new stores and resources in previously run-down neighborhoods.”
What we are likely to see in the coming years is an economic stratification, which also implies racial and ethnic stratification, in lift-served snow sports. Those who can afford the Disney-esque immersion, that is now being called “experiential” skiing, will likely appreciate the up-market move.
But, this up-market move does two things. It relegates those who cannot afford the “experience” to venues who will struggle to keep the lifts running, and it vacates the mid-priced segment.
In other industries that has tended to pull prices upward across the board. In an industry that has struggled to find new customers for 20 years, it does not bode well. It is an industry for which the cost barrier for new client acquisition is already significant.
Should the gentrification of snow sports pull prices upward away from its blue-collar roots, it may well accelerate the closure of down-market venues; more crowding, and further economic stratification, as the industry bleeds customers from the lower income brackets. Perhaps the Alt-Ski community will see some growth ( Seniors Skiing on the Cheap – An Alt-Ski Community )
In that light, numerous programs to introduce poor urban kids to snow sports almost becomes a form of mockery. “Hi kiddies and welcome! We hope you love skiing and riding now because you will never be able to afford it when you grow up”. My more libertarian sensibilities cringe at the notion of public lands being used to enrich the lives of a relative handful while driving their availability to others downward.
“From All according to their lobbyists, To those few who can afford them” – flies in the face of American democratic traditions.
As snow sports become less and less affordable, the Aspen-Vail cage match may well create a hue and cry that endangers these government granted monopolies that operate on public property,
The “multiple use” policy of the US Forest Service ought to have limits that serve the interests of all. In the same way that a vacation to a national park has become corporatized, less affordable and less enjoyable through government granted monopolies, so too may seniors’ skiing.
In the last 20 years the number of active snow sport participants has held steady at around 12 million per season. According to the National Ski Area Assoc. there were 622 ski resorts in the 1988-89. Today, according to a chart at the Statistics Portal there were 463 during the 2015-16 season.
That’s the same 12 million people skiing and riding on 159 fewer resorts and a LOT less acreage.
We seniors skiing on these crowded slopes can testify that you have to have the vigilance of a combat veteran to get through the day. Eyes in the back of your head and your head on a swivel, just isn’t fun. Senior skiing ought to be about a sense of freedom…not survival.
With over-crowding and collision injuries on the rise today, if this trend continues, the remaining slopes promise to only bring a degradation of the snow sport experience. And, that drives down demand (fewer skiers) and drives up prices even further. Up to a point that perhaps not even the Godzillas and King Kongs of corporate skiing cannot afford to remain in business.
Many people have reported a marked increase in congestion at VR acquired resorts. Aspen’s entry into gentrification may well accelerate the twinkly-light, gourmet-dining but over-crowded “experience”. Where you are seen in ski togs becomes more important than the quality of the on-snow experience.
Shops and hotels and restaurants in these acquired areas love the increase in traffic but that increase also adds unforeseen burdens on public infrastructure. Everything from constructing parking to traffic management systems to sewage and trash collection costs more in government expenditures.
Tax increases always happen whenever governments see the opportunity. Increased taxation tends to drive out locals on the lower economic strata. Homeowners who have lived in these town all their lives can no longer afford to remain and Gentrification becomes complete.
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the focus of “smart money” in snow sports stopped being about skiing and started being all about real estate development in the area around resorts. Now that that fad has hit the wall and slid to the floor, I see this “corporatization” as an extension of that trend. It is just that the only remaining, available real estate in a ski town these days are the resorts themselves.
Once this fad has run it’s course and the stocks in these corporate giants stagnate, what will “smart money” do? Leave? Then what?
While the costs of a season pass might go down in the short term, the long term social costs in terms of diversity may well be unacceptable and unsustainable.
We do have a feel for where the upper limit is with this Gentrification movement. The once ballyhooed ultra-posh private Yellowstone Club near Big Sky has changed hands more times than a Christmas fruit cake. As Vail and Aspen probe upward looking for that line they dare not cross, the less-than-posh can only wait and ski.
Many people herald these acquisitions as if they represent the cavalry charging over the hill to the rescue. Well, the cavalry eventually retires back to its fort and we all know what a herd of horses leaves in the yard….and who has to clean it up
So Geezer Guys & Gals, senior skiers aren’t any different than our younger counterparts. We want to be in control, have fun and look good doing it! To accomplish these goals, it might be a good idea to schlep off for a specialized senior skiing lesson lesson once in awhile or, apply ourselves the process of self-coaching. It isn’t as difficult as some folks think to teach old dogs, new tricks.
But whoa Nelly! Not every ski school out there has certified Senior Specialists. PSIA-AASI is the organization that develops standards for instructors and administers proficiency testing. Actually, PSIA-AASI is 10 separate companies, one “national” company and nine regional divisions.
Each has its own tweaks to the standards and to top that off, on-resort training staff may add to or modify some aspects of the training process. The idea of “standards” in that environment has to be loosely interpreted.
Only the Western and Northwestern divisions have programs that certify “Senior Specialists”.
The Northern Rocky Mountains division has been using examiners from the Northwestern division to certify people in their division.
I have attempted to make contact with clinicians and education staff members at division levels and the national organization in regard to senior-focused programs, with no response.
Whatever it is they offer to senior skiers seems to be a closely guarded secret. If you want to know what it is, you have to pay for the lessons. I recommend you call ahead to the snow sport school where you will being skiing and ask them what they have.
The manuals can be summarized this way; “Senior skiers are risk averse, mentally and physically challenged and tend to get cold easily” There is almost nothing in the manuals about how to modify movement patterns for someone who experiences joint or back pain when they ski.
Some ski areas have instructors who operate clinics especially for senior skiers but these clinics aren’t standardized. It is not clear if they offer anything new or different, in terms of movement patterns, from the usual ski school fare. Many of these clinics are simply social in nature, a chance to ski and learn with people your own age.
The problem is this, many of us have sore parts.Skiing can be hard on your back, hips, knees, and ankles.
It is important to have an instructor who knows how to modify standard ski school methods to alleviate the aches and pains.
Back in 2015, I was fortunate to chat with some folks from The Over the Hill Gang (OTHG) at Steamboat Springs in Colorado.. In 24 hours, 35 of them had snapped up all the slots in two camps put on by the coaches from the Clendenin Method ™ organization. After the camps were completed, they were uniformly giddy about the transformation in their skiing. So, what sets CM ™ apart from any other method out there? John Clendenin.
Clendenin Method offers a way for seniors to ski smoothly and comfortably.
John Clendenin is not your ordinary senior skiing instructor. He is a two-time World Freestyle Champion, winning back-to-back in 1973 and 1974. In April of last year, he was inducted into the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. John knows a thing or two about skiing.
The mogul competitions in those days were wild, edge of insanity affairs. The body takes a lot of abuse skiing that way. John told me, “I realized that if I was going to keep skiing later into life, I had to find a way to take the THUMP out of skiing. We all have a finite number of THUMPS and mine were all used up.”
John studied the masters, Killy, Stenmark, Brooksbanks, Mosely, Plake and many others and distilled the essence of their styles into his trademarked CM. He opened his own school in 1994, and is still headquartered in Aspen. He now offers camps in Aspen, Steamboat, Park City, Beaver Creek, Portillo, Chile and Val d’Isere..
The skiing method he created is totally, visually unique.
In an industry full of gorilla-shaped images carving arcs with knees crooked and hips dragging through the snow at breakneck speed, CM stands out.
It is controlled, graceful, upright, and effortless, exactly what we senior skiers are looking for!
His method has been distilled and simplified into a formulaic progression comprised of four key words and 9 drills. If you master them you will master the method. No more mysteries or millions of moving parts that require endless, pricey trips to school.
It can take you anywhere on the mountain, on-piste or off and in any kind of conditions.
Most mogul clinics focus on tactics, but without the unique skiing method, moguls will still wear you out.
According to Tom Saddlemire of the OTHG, “What amazed me is how easy it is to learn. There are 4 Words ™ and 9 Keys-to-the-Kingdom™ and you don’t need an doctorate in anatomy to understand it. In over 1000 days of skiing, I have taken 50 days of instruction and none of them transformed (he used that word a lot) my skiing the way that 3 day camp has.” That is a pretty strong recommendation, and it is echoed by every CM graduate I have spoken with. Their 50 percent return rate speaks for itself.
I can make a high recommendation that you get the book and DVD and give it a try. As part of my role as your Crash-Test-Dummy, I spent the whole of the 2014-15 season focused on learning this method.
Over the previous two seasons I had begun to develop pain in my knees by mid day. I am happy to report that CM ™ has put an end to that pain AND made more of the mountain available to me.
Clendenin Method is unique in DIY senior ski lesson arena in that he has a book, a DVD, multiple ski camps you can attend, and he also offers remote video coaching. Send in a short video of your skiing and he will analyze it using the latest in movement analysis software, overlay his voice recommendations and send it back to you.
So, a few days ago I posted this sample ad on several ski industry groups on LinkedIn
“Instructors Wanted : Wages are $80 to $240 per hour.”
Immediately and predictably someone commented with the usual stuff about Forest Service leases and monopolies and getting arrested…yada yada blah bla blah. PIRATES! POACHERS!! That is just so very inside-the-box. Inside-the-box for so many decades that few are even aware the box HAS an outside. SO Cap’n Mike is going to shoot the locks off the treasure chest for you Yo HO!
Or, a Genie-in-a-Bottle with the ability to render borders and monopolies and insular, national organizations asunder? I contend it is the later.
Imagine! The PSIA D team and USSA racers in your boots, on your phone and in your ears!
With 3D accelerometers, 3D gyro-sensors and an insole that maps pressure changes on the bottom of your foot, we can now see what is going on inside your boots. If you couple that with an inexpensive phone app that has a full progression of video lessons, drill videos AND, a voice that coaches you WHILE YOU ARE SKIING!!! ..if you are doing it right or not…well…live ski instruction has a very serious competitor.
Why? Live instructors cannot see inside your boot/ This gizmo can. So why is this something you need to take seriously? Read on dear Reader..Read on…
What does a ski instructor do? They watch you ski and try to pick out that one thing they can work on that might give you a break through. It might be a flat-light day and the snow is blowing. Seeing exactly what is up with your skiing can be tough sometimes.
Good skiing starts with the feet. The one thing NO instructor can do on the snow is look inside your boot and see what is happening…UNTIL NOW..and the fun part is that this technology separates you from the need to be in the presence of the client.
Your coach can be on the other side of the world and look into your boots. You send them a video and they can do a much better analysis OFF the mountain than they could ever do in the snow.
How?? So glad you asked!
The skiing modeled in the Carv app is PSIAstyle skiing. According to their CEO, the skiing modeled in their software is the direct result of joint development with PSIA and USSA. This includes Freestyle skiing and being able to evaluation your best jumps, grabs…everything including the height in the air.
The voice their users will hear in their ear is, for all practical purposes, the voice of the PSIA Demonstration Team..shhhhh! It’s sort of a secret.
So what, you say?
Because…the app and hard-technology can be in ANYONE’S boots. From ANY country, at ANY time, from ANY where in the worldthe client is having issues, to where YOU, their favorite instructor, happens to be.
From Chile to Canada. From the Alps to Australia. From Vail Resorts to Aspen. There are senior skiers everywhere, year-round..Artificial barriers that have locked customers into the ski school at the resort they are currently skiing..NO…Longer…Exist.
A French ski coach in Megeve can now reach out and work EFFECTIVELY with a client anywhere in the world.
A lot of people are skeptical on the value of technology and remote coaching, but it has already started and products like this are the kind of techno that seniors love to load up on and they have the do-re-mi..
I had a couple of senior skiers, a guy and his wife from New Zealand, in a lesson a few years ago and was able to do them some good…It rolled like this…..
Mr And Mrs NZ : “…(praise) yada yada..wish we could take you home with us..blah..blah”
Me: “Yes well so do I. It has been a pleasure spending the day with you.”
M& M NZ: “Why don’t we send you some video once in a while and you can look at it and see what you can do with it….”
Me : “Umm….sure..OK…”
So, we trade email addresses and phone numbers (something you should do with every client) and I thought that was the end of it… until a week later when I got an email from them with an attachment. It was a video of their skiing…with the Matterhorn in the background! I was frying eggs in Montana 5,072 nautical miles away.
M&M NZ: “We are having fits with the heavy deep crud here..HELP!”
My thought was that without being able to show them what was wrong it would be hard to help. A simple voice-over would not be much help. So, I went a-Googling and found a cheap phone app called Coach’s Eye that allowed me to do the voice over plus slow motion, stop action, montage. draw lines and circles and boxes and more. So, I loaded their video into the tool and did the analysis. It took about 15 minutes. I sent them the Movement Analysis and a link to an old Youtube video of a drill that would help.
They were beyond happy. They sent me an email asking for my snail mail address and I didn’t think much of that so, I sent it to them. I was thinking I was going to get a postcard from Switzerland or maybe a box of Toberlone..To my surprise, I got a small box with …a postcard, two sticks of Toberlone and a check for $200.00.15 minutes…$200 you do the math. That was late March of 2014
Over the course of the summer, I got videos, postcards, candy and money from them in Australia, NZ and Chile. I also got requests from them to help a friend here, a friend there. Friends Here and There sent me postcards, candy and checks.
I now have Paypal and Hubspot and 3 dozen happy seniors skiing all over the planet. At $20 a pop for five minutes work,it can add up fast. A session can take 5 to 15 minutes. That’s $80 to $240 an hour.
Some might view the Carv product as a direct competitor but I don’t believe that is the case. They will be going to market with the consumer model in November 2017 to be followed in the Spring of 2018 with a “coaches version” that will hopefully include an embedded Movement Analysis tool and a rudimentary Customer Relationship Management app (CRM). AT least that’s what I suggested to them. If they don’t, other tools are readily available and very affordable
This suite of tools would give you everything you need to help your clients no matter where in the world they are. You will stop being just an “instructor”. You become their ski consultant. A collaborator conspiring with them to take on any mountain, anywhere.
About 90% of the folks out there either use DVDs, books or free Youtube videos to teach themselves.
Even if they don’t buy the boot hardware, the phone app provides a set of tools and a common progression of lessons that can be used to structure their practice and your relationship with a client. Maintain contact, direct their progress, get them through hard times and you have a customer for life.
When they are away they can send you a 30 second video and a note like “Having trouble with Exercise 21.b #crap” (or whatever) and you will know immediately and exactly what they are talking about and how to approach the Movement Analysis of the video clip.
If your senior skier does have the boot product then you are home free. The data from the boot sensors give you a highly detailed look at what is going on over there half way around the world. Sync the video with the data and BAM!
Carv could be a threat to on-snow coaching or it could be the best thing that ever happened to your wallet. You might as well get on the band wagon or, some more enterprising snow coach in Chile or Oz or NZ just might be poaching your regular client from you with these tools!
Technology like Carv give you the opportunity to maintain contact with your clients when they aren’t with you. It will help you to CONSPIRE with them to take their game through the roof! And, when you both feel it is time for some in-person work, you guide them to make that decision together with you. That’s a world away from saying good bye and hope they come back someday.
No,Carv isn’t a competitive product. It can be the best thing that ever happened to your coaching career. It can mean the difference in struggling with cash through each season to
Living large Coaching-from-Your-Couch
If that sounds like a good deal to you, SUBSCRIBE to this blog and Share it with other instructors. There will be a series of articles over the summer showing you exactly how to build your client base, and use software tools, and social media marketing.