NSAA President Michael Berry will be speaking to PSIA-AASI leaders from across the country on Thursday, Oct. 25th. Prior to his presentation, we wanted to sit down with him to discuss NSAA’s Model for Growth—the blueprint for growing participation in skiing and snowboarding—the impact of Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM), which resorts he feels are leading the way in terms of converting new guests to the sport, and what he sees as the main benefits and impact of professional ski and snowboard instruction.
PSIA-AASI: Michael, thanks for taking the time to talk to PSIA-AASI. NSAA’s Model for Growth really woke the ski and snowboard industry up in terms of what we are—and are not—doing to grow the sport in the U.S. What’s the greatest opportunity we have right now?
Michael Berry: What the research tells us, and what we’ve known for years, is that our greatest opportunity is a four-letter word: k-i-d-s. It’s clear that Baby Boomers have been the driving force behind our overall visitation for decades, but we have now reached the point at which they will increasingly be hanging up their skis and snowboards for greener (or sandier) pastures. Kids aged 17 and under have trended down slightly on the national level for the past three seasons, from 30.6 percent of participants in 2008-09 to 28.9 percent of participants in 2011-12. This is a critical metric that we cannot take our eyes off, particularly as more Baby Boomers begin exiting the sport.
PSIA-AASI: What is the single biggest factor in encouraging new skiers and snowboarders to first try, and then to keep going with the sport?
For some, it might be finding an affordable avenue in the form of a discounted season pass, continued lessons, or an equipment lease program, while others will seek out opportunities to join a ski or snowboard club or regular on-snow clinic or camp. Some of our lesson takers will look for promotions that they can cash in for the remainder of the current season, while other guests who live farther from the slopes will seek out incentives that they can take advantage of again next season. All of this requires that we do a little more work on the front end in understanding the motivations and goals of our ski and snowboard students.
National programs such as LSSM, and now BringAFriend.org, are great initiatives for getting people to try skiing and snowboarding. How well are they working, and how do you see them growing in the future?
Through the years the industry has tried various national growth initiatives, some of which worked for a little while, and then faded, and others that simply did not work at all. With LSSM, we feel we found the formula, and a big part of that is flexibility. It’s left up to each of our ski area members to define what LSSM is, and how it fits within their operation and their brand. As a result of LSSM, more than 250,000 people have taken lessons during the month of January in the past three years. And with more and more partners coming on board, including equipment manufacturers, the retail community, and ski and snowboard clubs, we feel we are just getting started.
Bring a Friend is a natural extension. What we all know, and what the research supports, is that the vast majority of us came to skiing and snowboarding through an invitation and encouragement of friends and/or family. So with Bring a Friend, we are asking current participants to “pay it forward,” find a friend, and help introduce them to this incredible sport. And as a reward to participants, our partners have produced some pretty incredible prizes, including 4-day ski/snowboard trips, skis, and other equipment. (Note: Learn more about Bring a Friend at http://www.bringafriend.org
, and LSSM at http://www.skiandsnowboardmonth.org
Where do you see ski and snowboard instructors—PSIA-AASI members—in the overall vision of the Model for Growth
To a large extent, instructors are our foot soldiers to the cause. At the end of the day, it’s the experience that will drive return visits and repeat lessons. Of course we’re talking about the entire resort experience—from the parking lot, to the rental department, ticket window, learning center, lift line, cafeteria and back to the parking lot—we have to deliver a remarkable experience each time and at each touch point. Nevertheless, given the time spent with our guests, and the intimacy of that interaction, instructors will always serve as a key force in delivering a lion’s share of that memorable experience.
What importance do you place on PSIA-AASI—how does the association help your resort members present an effective instructional service across the country?
PSIA-AASI members can be confident that their national association is serving them well. Whether it’s attending NSAA’s annual National Convention or Winter Conferences, or through support and involvement of LSSM and Bring a Friend, the PSIA-AASI national board and office association continually illustrates its commitment to the long-term health of the industry and the business of its members by staying current on recent trends and issues, and heeding the subsequent call to action identified by ski resort operators, and providing educational materials and programs. Certainly a primary function of any national association is to keep its members apprised of unfolding issues and necessary responses, and it’s clear that PSIA-AASI continues to serve this role through its many outlets including 32 Degrees
, the PSIA-AASI website, videos, and other media.
What are you looking forward to most this winter)?
I’ve got to kick that one back to LSSM and Bring a Friend. One of our newest partners, Warren Miller Entertainment, has graciously agreed to highlight and promote Bring a Friend at each of its official tour stops for unveiling its newest movie Flow State
. Word has it that this event created quite a buzz during its first stop in Utah. This is an exciting new partnership and we really look forward to what other industry partners and entities can bring to our efforts to grow the sport.