Best Way to Get More People Into Snowsports? 'Bring a Friend'

Call it the buddy system. At the Midwest Ski Areas Association conference at Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs, Michigan, next week, the folks behind Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM) will unveil a new tactic for introducing more people to the magic of skiing and snowboarding.

The breakthrough idea? Asking existing riders to bring a friend the next time they hit the mountain.

“Research confirms that an overwhelming majority of folks are introduced to the sport through family and friends, so the ‘Bring a Friend’ initiative represents a big step toward taking action on what we know about our skiing and riding guests,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association. “It also works in a collaborative way with many industry stakeholders to ultimately introduce, and in some cases reintroduce, more people to the slopes.”

Officially titled the Bring a Friend (BAF) Challenge, the idea of getting people who are already passionate about snowsports to help convert their buddies is just one more component to the message—and increasing impact—of LSSM. The annual January initiative helped generate nearly 100,000 beginner lessons during last season’s dismal snow year, up from the 75,000 beginner lessons recorded during the breakthrough season of 2010–11, when U.S. ski areas recorded an all-time high of 60.54 million skier visits.

The initiative so far has been based on offering deep discounts on lessons, tickets, and equipment rentals, and sometimes even lodging. But LSSM Executive Director Mary Jo Tarallo said she hopes that asking existing riders to bring a friend to the slopes will add a personal element, and remind everyone from on-snow pros to casual consumers the role they play in advocating winter fun. What she is not marketing is the idea that those buddies also teach their friends.

“Current skiers and riders are in the best position to introduce newcomers who want to learn,” Tarallo said. “Our message is ‘share the love by helping your friends and family members sign up for lessons from professional instructors.’”

As every snow pro knows, however, January is just one month in the winter. And Berry said it’s his hope that BAF will help extend the “try the sport” message throughout the entire season. “This initiative augments and propels our very successful Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month initiative beyond a 30-day campaign,” Berry said. “And as we head into the 2012–13 season, we’re very excited to see the ingenuity that participating ski areas, equipment manufacturers, retailers, and other partners put forth as they implement this campaign.”

More details will be announced at the Midwest Ski Areas Association conference August 5–8, and PSIA-AASI will post more information on TheSnowPros.org as it becomes available.

Peter Kray

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