To ski or not to ski? |

To ski or not to ski?

VAIL, Colorado – The best way to grow your business is by taking care of the customers you already have, says a new report from Snowsports Industries of America.

New customers are nice, but the National Ski Areas Association found that even if you do manage to convince someone to try skiing or snowboarding, only about 16 percent stick with it. That, they say, is a poor way to target dwindling marketing resources.

“Let’s face it, marketing dollars are tight, so it’s important to communicate to consumers effectively, said Kelly Davis, SIA’s director of research.

The SIA’s report uncovered a fascinating dichotomy.

First, as skiers and boarders get older, they list “children” among the reasons they don’t get out as often as they used to.

Then again, when people were asked why they were skiing more, they said “family/children.” It turns out that 72 percent of those asked said it’s a great way to spend family time together.

Speaking of families, women must be more front and center in marketing materials, the SIA said.

The report’s authors Googled “skiing,” and of the first 20 images that popped up, 18 were men. Most of those men were engaged in extreme skiing.

“When the images of snowsports are seemingly extreme and hard to reach, average women aren’t pulled into the message,” the SIA report says. “By creating materials that are women-specific, family oriented or simply less extreme, it is likely that women will be more encouraged to come out to the mountain and bring their families with them.”

Next year’s Burton U.S Open Snowboarding Championships is a giant local marketing opportunity. It’s coming to town Feb. 25 to March 2, moving from the east coast.

The event has been running since 1982 and in Stratton, Vt., for 27 years. For 20 of those 27 years, Vail has been Jake Burton’s home away from home, he said.

“We are working with Burton to grow the event into much more of a lifestyle event than just a snowboard competition – that was one of the primary reasons they wanted to bring it to Vail,” said Liz Biebl, Vail Mountain’s communications director.

Some of the details still need to be nailed down, but they envision a Riglet park in town where kids can play and get an introduction to snowboarding, programs with Burton pros for snowboarders to take camps with them, music and all sorts of other wonderfulness.

“The combination of television and other media exposure that comes with the U.S. Open is also significant,” Biebl said. “We haven’t talked much about it yet, but this is going to provide Vail and snowboarding with great media exposure, and we expect to leverage it to interest kids in snowboarding and Vail in particular.”

In 2011, the SIA found 10.5 million Americans who consider themselves skiers and/or riders but don’t do it much any more.

They don’t come back for a variety of reasons: They don’t have anyone to go with, they don’t have time, children, safety, they want to visit warm-weather destinations.

Most of them are concentrated among those of “lower proficiency,” the report says.

That leaves the snowsports industry with a target market of 21.2 million active participants, the report says.

Like most industries, the snowsports industry’s greatest growth potential is persuading people who already ski and board to do it more or those who are lapsed to try it again, the report said.

Yes, last season’s snow was pretty awful, but the ski company still turned a brisk business.

Those who showed up spent an average of 11.6 percent more per visit.

“We are pleased with our ability to successfully navigate the most challenging winter in the history of the United States ski industry,” said Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO, when those numbers were released.

Cumulative snowfall levels for the 2011-12 ski season were down more than 50 percent over the previous record-setting year and down 70 percent in March.

What you sell matters, as well as how you sell it. Vail’s lift-ticket revenue was up 0.7 percent, even though skier visits were down 9.8 percent. Season-pass sales were up 12.8 percent and accounted for 40 percent of the company’s total lift-ticket revenue for the winter season.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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