In my last post I talked about four different kinds of friction found in business. Lets take a look at what happens when an industry faces too much friction.

StockSnap_S7ONPDUDT8Speaking as a new skier, trying to learn how to ski is intimidating. As a first-time skier, collecting rentals, putting on the gear and walking out to the lesson is enough of a challenge. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) is reporting a 2.5% decrease in skier visits year-over-year. That’s why they created the Conversion Cup.

Each year, ski areas across the nation create programs designed to convert never-ever skiers to lifelong skiers. Successful programs create some kind of bundle that includes rentals, lift ticket and a discounted re-occurring lesson. Additionally these programs include an incentive for finishing. Here are the winners for the last 6 years:

2016 Wachusett Mountain – Massachusetts
2015 Killington Resort – Vermont
2014 Camelback Mountain Resort – Pennsylvania
2013 Mountain Creek – New Jersey
2012 Mt. Bachelor – Oregon
2011 Snow Time Inc.

In 2011, Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) submitted their case study of the StartNOW program. Students could purchase a lift ticket, lesson and rentals for $25. Out of the 3,000 beginners, 66% of them returned a second time. Since then, PCMR was purchased by Vail, the program was discontinued.

This competition proves that ski areas can effectively reduce the barriers that face beginner skiers. The catch, ski areas have to sacrifice their bottom line until the skier becomes an intermediate. In turn, the industry is asking ski areas to play the long game.

If ski areas are converting new skiers to life time skiers, the industry will recuperate the loss. But it isn’t that simple. As skiers reach the intermediate level it is fun to explore new resorts. So the mountain that made the original investment, doesn’t necessarily reap the rewards from the same skier.

My question, is this still a win for the ski area or is it just a win for the industry?

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