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 🙂
Drop the Scoop and Step Away from the French Fry Machine!
I was speaking with a friend recently who owns a very successful restaurant…..
High end stuff. Everyone in the kitchen wears a white mushroom hat, a blur of perfectly choreographed, artistic synergy. She told me a story about how she went from washing dishes, to waiting tables to vegetable chopper, to Sous Chef, to Head Chef to opening her own highly exclusive restaurant.
So, I have a question in that vein. Which are you? Instructor, Captain Fun, Consultant, Collaborator, or Co-Conspirator? Can you guess which of these makes more money? Well, good. Continue reading if the idea of more money appeals to you.
The “waitstaff” at her place spend time detailing the “possibilities” with you and your party. There are no menus. I put “waitstaff” in quotations because every person waiting tables is a qualified Sous Chef and they all rotate through the kitchen preparing the meals they designed together with you and they personally supervise the serving of the meal.
The Sous Chefs each develop their own following and schedule their own clients. They are essentially their own restaurant within the restaurant. They have a common building and common prep staff. A common mission and a common goal. Everything in between is all completely customized to each diner’s desires.
.There is no rush to “turn you over”. They get inside your head and help you PLAN a meal that doesn’t just taste good and look good. The meal they design with you SAYS something about YOU.
It makes you feel good about yourself because you were involved in a conspiracy with your personal chefto create the perfect dining experience. It is not just a nice dinner. It is a night in the jet-set life.
It is a universe apart from a lukewarm, pre-prepped burger and cold fries dropped into a bag—without a napkin or a straw— and heaved at you through a window.
Does it cost a lot more? Of course it does. You don’t mind spending the money on the meal, because it is more like spending money ON yourself, spoiling yourself. It is NOT the mere intake of sustenance. It is pampering yourself.
It is immersing yourself in a soul-satisfying, sensory swirl of sights, sounds, flavors and aromas created just for you by your personal Chef. We senior skiers like that idea 🙂
It’s the difference between a two minute morning shower and a weekend at the spa in Napa. It is the difference between a candle lit bath for two with champagne and rose petals in wonderfully hot water..versus washing your hands at a gas station.
The business of delivering snow sport instruction has this same range of customer experiences.
How do I know? I have seen the instructional version of french fries hurled through a windowtoo many times. I have also seen instructors who are delivering that hot bubble bath.
I have seen the industry studies that say just shy of 70% of people surveyed immediately after a lesson either “would not” or, were “not likely to” recommend taking a lesson to family or friends.
I know there are instructors out there CONSPIRING with their CLIENTS to conquer the mountain together, to not merely ski better than their friends, but to embarrass them 😉
I know there are instructors who suck. I know many who actually know what they are doing but don’t really care. I know a LOT who know what they are doing and work hard to help clients improve but that is just Prep Cook stuff.
People don’t come back to your restaurant because you do a good job slicing their vegetables. I would know this even if I had not seen it. All human behavior operates on a bell shaped curve. Some suck. Some excel. Most fall in between the extremes.
The only question that means anything is, “What can be done to skew the curve in a positive direction. What is the six sigma strategy?”
The attributes and quality of relationships with customers run along a continuum that transcends vertical industries. Snow sport instruction is no different than selling software or food.
Some people you deal with will sell you software over the phone and really don’t know much about it. Other sellers of software spend time with youand your company. They know your business almost as well as you do.
They know your problems and might even recommend someone else’s product if they think it is the solution to your business problem.
They have invested themselves in your enterprise.
YOUR success is THEIR success.
The relationship transcends mere seller-buyer. They are co-conspirators. It’s you and them against the world and they are going to help you sneak up on your competitors and club them over the head. It’s tag team , Baby! You and your client vs the Hulk and Al’s Run.
Most sales people you deal with are there in front of you to solve THEIR problem, their quota. If your next student EVER gets the feeling that you are there with them to “deliver a lesson”, you are toast. Senior skiers are VERY discerning. They have many decades of experience with people trying to bullshit them. Don’t even bother to try!
What IS the product we are selling? Lessons? Nope, selling lessons isn’t any different than the kid who spends the day getting your hot dog off that little Ferris Wheel machine and dropping it in an over-steamed soggy bun.
Is it “proficiency”? Not really, lots of people are insanely proficient at doing things they hate to do.
Is it “fun”? There are too many things that are more fun than ski lessons. DOn’t invite comparisons. Seems like that word, “FUN” is in every other paragraph, in every instructors manual on the planet. Probably Mars & Venus, too.
Lots of people who have fun skiing quit when they start having families. It might be fun but they can’t or won’t spend the money on it. Even if they do, they don’t go often.
If you are thinking like a drug dealer, you may be on the path to professional perfection. It ain’t about lessons. It ain’t about “proficiency”. It is about giving your clients “a taste”.
Give them that first needle full of snow and you’ll own them. Get them hooked on snow and they will be hanging around the street lamp outside your door at 3am waiting to score another dime.
You aren’t there to “teach” them. You are there to INJECT them with a craving that can never be satisfied. So, stop schlepping around the locker room and go build your own little Psychedelic Shack.
In the next installment we will examine the attributes and behaviors involved in the various levels of relationships and open the discussion of how to move up the snow sport instruction food chain.
We’ll examine why the PGA requires their pros to pass their business curriculum and ask why most bodies who govern snow sports instruction around the globe do not. So, let’s go! Darwin is a busy man so let’s not waste his time…..
Wouldn’t it be nice that when you reach 40..50…60…70…80…90 , the snow sport industry would still be interested in you senior skiers as an active participant? You may not consider yourself a senior skier now but you WILL be one day. Why wait until the last minute to insist the industry will want you around?
In the 1940s and 50s, from coast to coast an idea sprang from the mountains. My father’s generation returned from WW II in Europe with a notion and built the American ski areas. My generation, baby, our generation, built the industry as we know it today. Yet, if you pick up nearly any ski-related periodical or surf the web, you might get the notion that skiing is illegal for anyone over the age of 25
According to the AARP, seniors control 70 percent of the world’s wealth. That makes seniors the third largest economy behind the US and China. In the US alone, the 100 million seniors represent $200 billion dollars in disposable income. They spend 20 percent—that’s $40-billion—of that on their kids and grand kids. Seniors who ski or board spend a lot of money on their families!
We take our families on winter vacations, pay for their lodging, buy the lift tickets and often, rent or buy their equipment. In the immortal words of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, “We are going to be spending an obscene amount of money in here. So, we’re going to need a lot more help sucking up to us…’cause that’s what we really like.”
It turns out the seniors skiing is worth a lot to the industry!
As an age group, we spend 27 percent more time on the mountain each season than any other group. By 2030, there will be 34 percent more people in the 50-plus age group than there are now. Nielson calls us, “the most valuable generation in the history of marketing” but also say less than five percent of all advertising targets our age group. HEY! Ski industry! Time to get in a little practice on seniors skiing, maybe?
Ever since the unfortunate industry report that the senior skiers who built and supported the industry for the last four decades would be dying off in large numbers, the industry has treated the senior skiing segment as a lost cause. As if we are the last seniors to walk the Earth.
Their focus on the 24-40 year-old segment may appear to make sense from an economic perspective, but the industry is being more than a bit short-sighted.
Barring an Extinction Level Event, those young whippersnappers are aging, too. Time for the industry to gain some valuable experience in hanging on to the one demographic that will always control the bulk of disposable income. Yep, you would think so, wouldn’t ya? You would be wrong
Take heart, active, sporting Boomer skiing souls! All is not lost. If you could take over the Student Union in 1968, you can handle a few ski bums. In the upcoming series of articles, we’ll take a look at resorts with successful senior-focused operations in “Right This Way Ma’am, Happy to See You Again”. We’ll show you how to handle a resort deaf and blind to the needs of seniors with “A Girl Scout Could Handle this Outfit”. Once you have your mountain under control, we’ll show how to wring the last ounce of joy from the slopes with “How to Shred for the Nearly Dead”. See ya up the road a piece. Talkin ’bout my generation…Peace….