Ski School " cash cow on Aspen’s slopes |

Ski School " cash cow on Aspen’s slopes

Scott Condon
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado ” When wealthy folks from places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Des Moines flock to Aspen for the holidays, the Aspen Skiing Co. hopes to do more than sell them an $87 daily lift ticket.

The resort hopes they will drop a few hundred more on group or private lessons and, while they are at it, rent skis or a snowboard at the company’s Four Mountain Sports shops at the base of the ski areas.

Tapping into the wallets of customers is something the resort is good at.

Industry-wide, about 9 percent of people visiting a ski resort took a lesson last season on the day a survey was conducted by the National Ski Areas Association. That number has been flat for the last four seasons, according to the ski industry trade association.

The actual number of people taking lessons as a percentage of people visiting the slopes is dropping, the organization said.

Fewer snowboarders are taking lessons, too.

In the industry as a whole, the skiers and riders who take lessons tend to have lower skill levels and hit the slopes less frequently than customers in general, the survey said.

Throw those findings out when it comes to Aspen-Snowmass. The ski and snowboard school is a vital and growing part of the Aspen Skiing Co.’s business model, said David Perry, senior vice president-mountain division.

About 20 percent of the resort’s destination business ” customers who come from out of state for an overnight trip ” enrolls in classes, he said.

And it isn’t greenhorns who only ski a few times per season who take lessons in Aspen-Snowmass. Perry said 80 percent of ski school customers are return guests, he said.

Perry credited the ski instructors, now known as ski pros, for doing a fantastic job of building strong relations with clients. Many individuals and families have skied with the same instructor for years, sometimes decades.

To get a grip on how lucrative the ski school can be, you have to look no further than the investment the resort made at new facilities for beginners this offseason at Snowmass Ski Area. A $25 million Treehouse Kids Adventure Center opened in Base Village at the bottom of Fanny Hill.

The resort invested additional millions in a beginners’ area at the bottom of the Elk Camp section of Snowmass. It is designed to get skiers and riders higher up on the slopes so they soak up the grandeur of the mountains and get enthused for the sport.

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