Learning to Ski or Snowboard … Should I spend all that money?

As a ski shop owner I’m interested in understanding what’s going on in the snow sports industry to entice new skiers and snowboarders into our sport, and to encourage existing skiers and snowboarders to hit the slopes more frequently.  I’ve been in the ski business a long time and I remember back when a ‘learn to ski/snowboard’ package at many mountains was $49!  That included a rental, a full-day lift ticket and a lesson!  Unfortunately those deals are virtually non-existent these days.  Learn To Ski/Snowboard packages are often well over $100.  Talk about a financial hurdle!  Thankfully New York’s ‘I Ski NY’ Programs are aimed at making skiing and snowboarding more affordable with a variety of programs from ‘Learn to Ski’ month in January to free skiing for third and fourth graders.

I’m not entirely sure why but ski areas seem to believe that keeping their ‘learn to ski/snowboard’ packages at steep prices makes sound financial sense.   Smuggler’s Notch is $99 (for a half day program) for the 2014/15 season, Sugarbush is $99 but only includes a ticket during the lesson, Whiteface’s ‘Parallel from the Start’ program is $129, and Jay Peak appears to have the best program in our area at only $85 for their package.  Skiing is pricy but why not keep that at least a little bit ‘behind the curtain’ until someone gets out on the slopes for the first time?

The fact that ski areas charge more than a token amount is somewhat surprising to me given the importance of bringing new skiers and snowboarders into a sport that has seen little growth over the last decade.  Snow sports are so much fun that once someone slides down the mountain my guess is that nine times out of ten they’re hooked!  And that means they’ll do whatever it takes to get out on snow as many times as possible, even at quite an expense.  But when the cost of entry is prohibitive, many people never even get to the funny hill a first time down the slopes.

Step in New York and their ‘I Ski NY’ Programs.  As per their website: “Ski Areas of New York, Inc. is dedicated to the continued growth of the New York snow sports industry by working on behalf of its membership to promote fair legislation, develop marketing programs, create educational opportunities and enhance the public awareness of snow sports throughout the State and region.”

They have a host of programs to promote skiing and snowboarding in NY.  Let’s start with getting our kids out on the snow.  With the ‘I Ski NY’ program, third and fourth graders can ski or ride FREE at most of New York’s ski areas this winter (when with a paying adult).  And if you’re a third or fourth grader and you’ve never skied, the Learn To Ski or Ride Passport is available for FREE. (There is a $25 processing fee for current skiers.)

Additionally, January has been designated as ‘Learn to Ski Month.’  A number of participating ski areas are offering special deals to entice new skiers and snowboarders.  For example,  Holiday Valley if offering a two for one program and Titus is taking $10 off their program making it only $49!

We need more programs like New York’s ‘I Ski NY’ initiatives if we hope to see any real growth in our business. Skiing and snowboarding are some of the funnest things to do in the world!  Granted that’s my opinion but I think it’s shared with many!  Get someone out on the hill and they’ll want to do it again and again.

With so many other entertainment options available, and many of them don’t have the financial ‘barrier to entry’ of skiing, we need to make it easier for people to start sliding down our slopes!  Thanks to all the resorts that are offering deals through ‘I Ski NY’ and other programs.  Hopefully these efforts will deliver the right financial benefits and ski areas will help grow the snow sports industry over the long haul by encouraging new skiers and snowboarders into our fabulous sport!

To learn more about ‘I Ski NY’ and their terrific programs go to:  www.iskiny.com.

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