Dispatch from NSAA: Resorts gear up for Ski and Snowboard Month | SummitDaily.com

Dispatch from NSAA: Resorts gear up for Ski and Snowboard Month

Special to the Daily/Arn Menconi

Editor’s note: Arn Menconi, executive director of Avon-based youth nonprofit SOS Outreach, is on the road attending various ski and snowboard industry tradeshows and conferences. He’ll be sending periodical dispatches from the events, telling readers what’s new and interesting in the world of snow sports. This dispatch comes from the National Ski Area Association Winter Conference in Snowbird, Utah.


The last two days have been an intensive course on all things ski-industry related at the National Ski Area Association (NSAA) Winter Conference at Snowbird, UT, all set to the backdrop of the rugged Wasatch Range. It’s been fascinating sitting among hundreds of mountain resort executives, marketing gurus, industry experts and those behind-the-scenes magicians who make everything run smoothly on the mountains, talking about the sport we all are passionate about. While there is a storm of fresh powder outside, those who are producing the sport are working inside to improve it.

As Beaver Creek Vice President of Operations Jimmy Roberts said, “I enjoy coming to this because I like seeing what’s the latest and greatest in the snowsports industry.”

Much of the discussion has centered on a much-talked-about topic – getting new participants into the sport, and how to get them hooked. January is national Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, an initiative among the industry to get people who have never tried to the sport to get on skis or take their first snowboard ride.

More than 300 resorts are offering packages that include lift tickets, rentals and instruction for beginners. Industry experts said that as the initiative is entering its third year, it is seeing tremendous success.

“We’re only half way into this month-long initiative to get more kids and families on the slopes, and we’re hearing very positive feedback from participating resorts nationwide who are offering great deals on beginner lessons,” said NSAA President Michael Berry.

Some resorts have seen spikes in Web site traffic as well as jumps in their lesson bookings this January. Looks like Colorado is coming out on top, as far as Web viewers, with their state offers. Resorts in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine offered free, one-day lesson packages and were overwhelmed at the response. Also, some areas in New York offered a 20 percent coupon on a learning package. Organizers said they feel it’s the collaboration between local, regional and national efforts that attracts attention to Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month.

According to the organizers, piquing people’s interest is only half of the equation. Keeping them involved in the sport and coming back to ski or ride once or twice a year is key. Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month Director Mary Jo Tarallo urged resort representatives to keep up the initiative and find ways to market the month for their particular location.

“The success of the month depends on the commitment of all the partners involved. It’s important that it remains flexible so that it can help partners achieve their goals and objectives,” she said.

Speaking of getting new people in the sport, it seems the demographic of skiers and snowboarders is changing rapidly. Predictions from the last decade are coming true in that people are moving to the southeast and southwest. In fact, according to Nate Fristoe, director of RRC Associates, a Denver-based research and consulting company, the fastest growing states are Florida, Texas, California, Arizona and Georgia. Of the top seven fastest growing cities, all but one (Washington, D.C.) are west of the Mississippi – it looks like the Southwest might be the next new frontier for ski industry marketing.

The changes are more than geographic as well. RRC’s report confirmed what many in the industry already know. The minority population is growing, with 50 percent of the babies born this year expected to be minorities. The income gap is growing as well, with the average high-income earner now earning five times as much as the average low-income earner.

Another study found that women control 85 percent of the household income, but the majority of them think that marketers ignore their needs. Maybe ski resorts should be paying more attention to the wielders of the wallets? And women aren’t just the spenders, they are participating as well.

“One of the top reasons different sports in America have grown over the last decade is due to higher rates of female participation and or growing women participants,” said James Chung of Reach Advisors.

Another challenge is getting the younger generation started in the sport. The aging baby boomer population, which makes up a big part of the skier population now, won’t be skiing in 40 years. In fact, skiers represent only 3 percent of the U.S. population. All these statistics have conference attendees thinking about how to keep the sport growing.

SOS Outreach has been a leader in converting kids into committed skiers and snowboarders for years. What I find most interesting here is that the evidence affirms that the long-term relationship with the new generation of youth is the key to sustainability. Tomorrow I will be at the Outdoor Retail winter tradeshow hucking for products and funds for SOS kids and meeting with other non-profits to help get more kids into the sport. Wish me luck.

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