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…..
Anyone who reads these tropes of mine regularly know that I am a huge supporter of educated feet. All “Good skiing”, no matter how YOU define the terms, gegins at the feet.
I almost stayed home.It was blizzard conditions up top, 4 degrees, snowing hard, and blowing hard. I conjured the voice of Me Dear Ma and dressed accordingly. Bibs are something you wear when you mother gets cold 😉
I actually made first chair and first tracks on my favorite warm up run and, on six inches of yummy coldsmoke. That was unusual enough.
Things only got better.
After 3 runs the chair lift had to be shut down for repairs. I went to ski elsewhere. After lunch, I just happened to be first chair AGAIN when they fired the that lift back up. There was six MORE inches of powder and the wind had filled in all the tracks from the morning.
First Chair… First Tracks…TWICE…on the same Pow day!
As the legendary coach Cal Cantrell said, “It’s the feet, stupid!” Yesterday, my feet proved the value of a good education. None of my other sensory tools were available.
It was snowing at a rate of two inches per hour. The Southwest was wind at 20 mph and gusting as high as 35 mph. The top half of the run took me straight into it’s teeth.
There was no sign of the separation of Earth and Sky, nothing to mark the way ahead but the ghostly gray suggestion of pines along the fringes…only the most vague sensation of gravity provided any evidence of the effort.
There was no sense of forward motion.
The snow was so soft and quiet that only at the end of my turns, where the pressure builds, did I really feel a connection to the planet.
A feeling of weightlessness dominated my senses. It was almost as if I had ceased to be and I had became part of the storm. It was like living inside a frosted light bulb. It was college-in-the 70s all over again..deja vu…surreal. (who needs a pot shop when you own skis?)
The weather had deprived me of sight.
The wind howling in my ears robbed me of my hearing.
It was like skiing in a sensory deprivation tank. The only part of me that provided any clue as to my whereabouts, was my feet. They spoke. I listened. Call it “skiing sole-fully.
I became deeply aware of every inch of skin inside my boot. If I felt the pressure on the inside of my left foot, I surely MUST be turning right? Well, maybe but, once I decided not to care, I stepped through the Looking Glass into a world I had never experienced before.
My eyes tried to probe for obstacles ahead, trying to focus on a scene that my camera refused. The auto-focus only whirred in confusion. “Help us Landru!” (gratuitous Star Trek reference)
There was nothing out there to focus on. No objects. No light. No dark. No shadows. Just white. Opaque. Impenetrable.
I wonder if GoPro or, NASA might mount a radar to a helmet? Infrared would be of no use. Nothing ahead but raw, white cold.
The snowing finally slowed and the sky lifted just enough to see ahead 40 or 50 yards. The rest of the day was a joy of Freshness.
Twelve inches of uncut powder, in places punctuated by shots to the face, as I blasted through hip deep wind drifts and knee deep board slashes.
Deep Harbor Chop crud had always been a nemesis. I didn’t ski it well. I avoided it. The problem is that crud is everywhere. NOT skiing it closed off a lot of the mountain.
This year I made a goal to change that. I find the nastiest snow I can and force myself to stay in it. Learn it. Embrace it.
Discovered new ways of using this ancient body. It works.
As it turns out, that junk snow is actually a heck of a lot more fun. There are slashes and cuts and piles to provide a launching pad. I move from feature to feature as if running down a dry creek bed hopping from rock to rock.
Rediscovering the power of play. Every turn is different. Every turn has new and different vertical dimensions. New shapes. Leave the drudging, dreary sameness of corduroy turns behind and go play. Go BACK young Senior Skiers! Go BACK!
If I get to a section where the snow looks like something new or difficult, I slow down so my feet can learn to feel it. A new bit of code for my skiing app:)
And so, here they are. Happy Feet.
Tired and cold feet to be sure but, feet whose “eyes” and education made the day.
Six hours of the rich taste of fresh snow and cold air does something to the aroma of wood smoke and the flavor of a glass of Pendelton (neat) that I am sure the distillers never counted on….But then…they weren’t me…Not on a day like today 🙂
Like the golfer who makes that one hero-shot keeps going back to the grass in the hopes of making two such shots the next round. (My personal golfing goal is to play 18 holes without cursing)
Every once in awhile, Mother Nature decides to reward us and despite the prospects of another day on New England Blue…we go…and go again because…..you will just never know…unless you go. And, listen to your feet. Just because the are smelly doesn’t mean they aren’t smart 🙂
There is no telling what the North American ski industry would be like today if American soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division had not been trained this way and seen service in Europe. Many senior skiers knew these heroes personally and their legacy will never be forgotten!
For our poor and snow-deprived friends in the southern hemisphere, it is hard to imagine skiing whilst floating about a pool in 99 degree heat. OK..no…it isn’t that hard.
But, as every year before, I start wondering what that first run of the season will be like. It’s like that first tee shot in the spring. It might go down the middle of the fairway or it might well fly into the woods, ricochet off a gopher and roll into the men’s water closet. No doubt, some practice sessions will be required.
Here is an article from Derek Tate of the Irish Snowsports Instructors Assoc. on how to make your practice sessions more productive. Last winter I put up a series of articles on a few things I do to be more productive.
I know many of senior skiers prefer to teach themselves. Even if you do take lessons, remember..you are not with your coach every day. Most days, YOU are your own coach. Having the skills to structure your own learning sessions is absolutely essential to effortless, effective…FUN!
About the author, Derek Tate holds a postgraduate diploma in Sports Coaching and has completed the first year of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). He holds the BASI International Ski Teacher Diploma and the IASI Alpine Level 4 Euro Ski Pro. He is a former trainer of ski instructors for the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) and current Head of Education for the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI). He lives near Chamonix, in France where he is director of British Alpine Ski Schools (BASS) in Chamonix and Megeve.
The man knows what he is talking about. Here’s Derek…
Statements such as ‘correct practice makes perfect’ and ‘practice makes permanent’ are commonly used in relation to improving skills and there is no doubt that without sufficient practice you cannot expect to develop your skills to a high level let alone achieve mastery.
But practice needs to be more sophisticated than simple repetition. It needs to be purposeful and if possible deliberate.
In this lesson I will look at what purposeful and deliberate practice are and how you can ensure that the time you spend developing your skiing skills is time well spent. I will also look at what ‘mastery’ is and how you can remain motivated to achieve such high skill levels. What is purposeful practice? Anders Ericsson (2016) differentiates purposeful practice from ‘naive practice’ in that the latter is where you simply do something repeatedly expecting that the repetition alone will improve your performance.
Purposeful practice, on the other hand, is thoughtful, structured and focused.
There are several key aspects to purposeful practice;
Well defined specific goals, focus on the task in hand, ongoing and immediate feedback and getting outside of one’s comfort zone .Goal setting is vital in so many areas of life and the acronyms SMART and SMARTER (Lockerbie & Tate, 2012) are well established pathways to both setting and achieving your goals. Your goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, broken down into chunks of time, create enthusiasm and have some kind of benefit or reward.
Focusing on the task in hand was covered in detail in the first lesson titled ‘Focus Your Attention’ (Tate, 2017) and by developing this skill you can ensure full engagement on skills that you are practicing.
Without feedback there is no way of measuring your progress or knowing how you are doing. Essentially, feedback can come from an extrinsic source, such as a teacher or watching video playback, or an intrinsic source i.e. from you, as you are doing the task. The latter is very important especially as the skill becomes more reflexive and ultimately is more likely to lead to optimal experience (flow).
Getting outside of one’s comfort zone “ is perhaps the most important part of purposeful practice” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.17). It is too easy to stick with what is familiar and comfortable but in order to improve you need to challenge yourself beyond what you can already do.
There is a clear link here with the ‘challenge skills balance’ aspect of flow (Jackson & Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). What is important is that the challenge is just enough to stretch your performance rather than push beyond your limits. Which areas of your performance do you need to practice most?
Can you allocate sufficient time to this practice?
Will you practice with others or alone? What makes practice deliberate rather than just purposeful?
Deliberate practice includes all the components of purposeful practice plus the following; guidance from a teacher or coach, rigorous formal training methods, a well developed field with experts who have achieved mastery and effective mental representations
Guidance from a teacher or coach can not only help you to learn what and how to practice but also helps to ensure you learn the correct fundamental movement patterns from early on, reducing the need to unlearn bad habits.
For this reason finding a good teacher is important. One of the suggested defining outcomes of deliberate practice is, that because it demands rigorous formal training methods, it is not always fun! You are often required to work outside of your comfort zone and at “near maximal effort” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.99).
July, 2017 by Optimal Snowsports & Parallel Dreams Coaching 2
“The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016)
Deliberate practice also requires a well developed field with experts who have achieved mastery. A sport like Alpine skiing clearly has such a field with experts who perform to an exceptional level across a number of disciplines.
Finally, deliberate practice needs effective and sophisticated mental representations that are developed over time to correspond to external reality. In skiing this takes the form of mental imagery and forming these mental pictures comes from a combination of knowledge, understanding, seeing and feeling.
Higher level performers often use mental imagery as an integral part of their practice.
What is Mastery and where does talent fit into the equation?
It has been widely publicized that to reach mastery in any domain takes around 10,000 hours of quality practice (ideally deliberate practice). The actual number of hours required is difficult to nail down but suffice to say “nobody develops extraordinary abilities without putting in tremendous amounts of practice” (Ericsson & Pool, 2016 p.96).
Mastery can be defined as comprehensive knowledge and/or skill in a particular domain.
For us, in skiing, this translates to ‘expert performance’. The are many examples of expert performers but one that springs to mind is the American slalom specialist, Mikaela Shiffrin who also epitomises the importance of deliberate practice. See 7 Keys to Drill Mastery https://youtu.be/96VN_Brmnz0.
The nature vs nurture debate often comes up when discussing ‘talent’. The best description that I have found on talent is by Scott Barry Kaufman who says, “Instead of treating talent as an ‘innate ability’, with all the knowledge and skills fully present at birth, I think talent is more accurately defined as a predisposition and passion to master the rules of a domain (2013, p. 247).
So, the good news is that no matter where you start you can get better with purposeful practice.
How do you maintain motivation?
It’s been established that to become an expert performer requires a great deal of quality practice, but how do you maintain motivation? Once again goal setting is all important here.
If you follow the SMARTER process then you are more likely to maintain interest and it is interest that shapes your motivation. Understanding your learning style will also have a positive impact on how you structure your practice and even better if you can build learning flexibility where you move through the learning cycle using all nine ways of learning (see Peterson & Kolb, 2017 for more information).
Developing ‘Grit’ can benefit your ability to keep practicing and pursuing your goals.The components of grit are passion and perseverance over the long term despite set backs and failure (Kaufman & Duckworth, 2015).
Ultimately falling in love with the activity will fuel your motivation and help give you grit. Remember: Learn it, Love it, Live it.
Kolb Learning Style Inventory 4.0 to find out more. http:// learningfromexperience.com
About the author Derek Tate holds a postgraduate diploma in Sports Coaching and has completed the first year of the MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). He holds the BASI International Ski Teacher Diploma and the IASI Alpine Level 4 Euro Ski Pro. He is a former trainer of ski instructors for the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) and current Head of Education for the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI). He lives near Chamonix, in France where he is director of British Alpine Ski Schools (BASS) in Chamonix and Megeve.
Want to improve your performance this winter and learn how to practice more purposefully? Then book a lesson with Derek at BASS. To find out more go to http://basschamonix.com/ lessons2
Tony Robbins would have to admit that backing out of the Paris Agreement is a genius leadership move…
Ya, I know what you are thinking. But really…
I already went off on Vail’s climate announcement so I won’t repeat that (read it here)
Predictably, Aspen today announced they too are “#StillInIt” and all about living up to the Paris Agreement (PA) even if the evil Orange Dragon isn’t putting the federal government in the game. I am still at a loss about why on earth they aren’t saying, “Thank goodness!”
I will get to reasons why the lift-served snow sport industry ought to be thanking Trump for pulling the US out of the PA. I promise….
Most people, meaning those for AND against the PA, have no idea what is actually in it. (many will read it and still have no idea what it says)
So, how can they make an informed decision? Truth is, most people don’t. They take whatever collection of 15 second sound bites they have from whatever sources they prefer and they follow that.
We live in an “Information Age” but most of what we consume as “information” isn’t really information. It is a collection of other peoples’ conclusions. In the same way that computer models produce conclusions NOT “data”, consuming news only gives you the chance to vote on their conclusions it doesn’t give you “information” you can use to make your own decisions.
So, I read the PA It isn’t very long. Here is a link to the December 2015 version. Paris Agreement. (I can’t make the URL link work. I found it with the search terms “Paris Agreement Document) If you don’t want to read it, I’ll just tell you that someone at the DNC photocopied the first page and used it for the party platform.
The PA does nothing less than take for itself all the responsibilities of a government. The PA is going to eradicate poverty, promote LGBT rights, fight for the ubiquitous “social justice”, “climate justice”. Lots of justice in there. They will 3D print sliced bread, canned beer and real sex partners for everyone on the planet. The only shared feature of their various definitions of “justice” is the transfer of money.
Some people say. “It isn’t binding so why not just sign it?”
The obvious answer is that if it doesn’t actually DO anything then why bother with it at all?
If you were buying a car, the PA is that moment when the sales guy says, “Just sign the work up sheet here and I’ll go ask my manager to approve you”…unh huh….
But, the reasons run all they way down to our constitutional roots. It is deeply tied, believe it or not, to the current travel ban broo-ha-ha. If you recall, a judge held that the travel ban was discriminatory in its “intent” not because of the language of the executive order itself but because of things Trump said during the campaign.
If SCOTUS should uphold that decision it sets an interesting precedent. If Trump had verbally supported the PA, any regulation that doesn’t fit the PA mold could be overturned by citing the Travel Ban decision and Trump’s verbal remarks would carry the full force and legal weight of a treaty DOMESTICALLY without ever having passed a two thirds vote in the Legislative branch. That would essentially neuter the Legislative branch and turn the Executive branch into the hand maiden of the judiciary branch and effectively give any entity foreign or domestic the opportunity to circumnavigate the Constitution by filing a lawsuit. Any Ork with a pile of cash and a lawyer can become “President of Middle Earth for a Day”
Another popular meme is, “But only Syria and Nicaragua haven’t signed it”
My Mom used to say, “Just because all the other kids are jumping off the bridge does not mean YOU should!”
Ya, whatever, Mom, but seriously..read the PA. If you are the dictator of Bumfuckistan and you get millions in free western cash and are NOT bound by the PA to spend it on anything related to the climate, why the hell would you NOT sign it??”
The world is NOT a collection of unconnected dots, people. There are NOT 195 nations overflowing with love for the planet…yer gonna have to trust me on that..
All the PA really does is establish the global pecking order and loosely define the nations who will pay the bills and which nations will receive payments. The winners and losers have already been determined.
One thing is does communicate clearly. It does NOT like free-market solutions. It prefers money raised by taxation.
MOST of the payments will go to support the massive global bureaucracy that the PA calls for. In order to manage their involvement in the PA, every country will be forced to develop it’s own bureaucracy. Ka-Ching!
In the US that would have meant a new cabinet level position and many thousands of pages of new regulations. Ka-Ching!
Surely, those mountains of regulations would mean that cities, states and counties would have to have their own new bureaucracies…. Ka-Ching
Individuals and businesses (such as Aspen and Vail) would also have to pay the direct costs of compliance with all these new regulations as well as the incremental tax increases associated with the PA… Ka-Ching
Businesses such as Aspen/KSL and Vail would have to hire an army of people to cover the army of government employees who would want to see their plan, approve the plan and monitor the plan, receive massive reports on the plan. ..Ka-Ching
Because the technologies to make a huge reduction in energy consumption are not cheap, businesses would have to raise prices to customers, reduce headcount, reduce benefits, reduce pay raises…in short some pretty tight austerity measures…Ka-Ching
Or, receive massive government subsidies….KA-CHING!
We already know that folks in countries who have gone whole-hog for the renewable technologies have seen unsustainable increases in their electric bills….Ka-Ching
The price of fossil fuels, petroleum in particular, were predicted to rise 300-400% by 2030. We know that is a political target anyway. It was part of the Obama platform in 2008 and 2012. I can’t put that all on the PA.
When China surpasses the US in oil consumption, the trading currency would likely switch from dollars to yuan. The PA would simply accelerate the inevitable change. With US domestic oil production reduced and in many cases, blocked, the US doesn’t have a strategic fall back position…KA-CHING
The economic pressure of high fuel and electric prices is going to mean the end of vacation travel for millions of middle class households that currently participate in snow sports...Ka-Ching
You are maybe wondering who are all the beneficiaries of all this Ka-Chinging?
The simple answer is that if you love lift-served snow sports..it ain’t you…OK?
If you are a skier, YOU are the Ka-Chingee!
The cost of getting to a ski resort is going to go way up…Ouch
The cost lift passes and staying, eating and apres-skiing there is going to go way up…Ouch
There are going to be millions fewer customers who can afford to ski. Guess what happens to everything the resorts charge for and who will pay for that?…Ouch
Perhaps this gloomy economic outlook is the strategic driver behind the flurry of acquisitions? In the potential scenarios created by the PA, only a few resorts will survive. Only the top economic demographics will remain as customers and the dramatic increase in prices won’t affect their participation habits much. But what about all those small businesses in those ski towns who think The Consolidators are the savior returned? What about all that public infrastructure built to support twice the capacity?
Perhaps the “consolidation” craze is just preparing Aspen?KSL and Vail (who already own that market segment) for the inevitable and crushing demise of the lift-served snow sport industry. They intend to own the few resorts they believe will survive.
I was scratching my head over Vail and Aspen volunteering to live up to the PA…
But, if they can suck the budget-skiing resort owners into a “climate war” or influence legislation and regulations in a way favorable to their strategy, it would hasten the demise of those smaller venues, that’s a win. They are already positioned financially and, as they grow larger, will enjoy more political influence. A huge chunk of the funding for the US Forest Service already comes from VR and Aspen/KSL.
If you are one of the millions of participants who struggle or make sacrifices so you can go skiing or riding, there is absolutely nothing in the PA for you to be happy about.
People yak about building “awareness” and take fat donations to do that. I am just wondering if the problem is awareness or “careness”. Everybody from Kindergarten on up is aware of climate change….not that many people care.
The battle cry on the slopes these days is “save our winters!”
My question is, “For Whom?”
But let’s not stop there. Let’s spin the dreidl again and see what turns up.
Even though they are not going to be REQUIRED to suffer all the slings and arrows of outrageous legislation (and YOU won’t have to pay for it all)…
Aspen and Vail just said they are going to do it anyway, which means you will pay for it in one way or another.
BUT…because they won’t have the heavy burden of regulatory compliance and exponential growth in fuel and electric bills, it makes a nice strategic and tactical windfall. They have the opportunity to take the money they had set aside for the effects of the PA in their long range plans and put that money to good use reducing their elephantine carbon clog hoppers.
Aspen says they are STILL in it. That surely means they were ALREADY in it before today. I wonder how they were planning to deal with all the requirements of the PA. Let’s take a look at just some of the things that Vail, and now Aspen, have committed themselves to fund. I don’t mean “support” or “signal intent” or lobby or protest…I mean PAY FOR..send money…..moola…dinero….scheckles
Payments to “The Convention” to be distributed to foreign governments to;
fight poverty…. create food-security… support LGBT rights…create climate justice, social justice..the list is really long. How will Aspen and Vail determine how much money to send off every year? Without a government to tell them how much, it should be interesting to watch. I want to see a photocopy of the checks…
Maybe we are seeing the emergence of a Vail v. Aspen Slugfest (click here to read it)“climate competition” that would blow the roof off their goals. Wouldn’t that be something if free enterprise took the lead over tax driven, ineffective government bureaucracy?!! I mean, after all, the War on Poverty and the War on Drugs worked out so well….
So, I am heartened by these announcements by various companies to toe the PA mark and soldier on alone.
As Tony Robbins has often said, “Real leaders don’t create followers. They create new leaders”
+It just might be that backing out of the Paris Agreement has lifted America from becoming a band of dogged, slogging followers and created all these new leaders.
Rather than having surrendered “American Leadership”, the Orange Dragon just broke away from the pack of followers and unleashed these new leaders on the world.
To be fair, it just might turn out to be the most genius leadership move ever.
Thanks to you, the Senior Skiers’ Network is growing like a weed. As our three months anniversary approaches we have 8,633 readers in 82 countries around the world! Each of you reads more than one article when you visit, with a very low “bounce rate” of only 11%.
You prefer news about the snow sport markets around the world by a 3 to 1 margin. That kind of surprised me. The most popular articles concerned the Vail Resorts and Aspen/KSL acquisitions
Articles about inexpensive alternatives are the second most popular, followed closely by Do It Yourself ski instruction.
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….