Revisiting skills and safety on the resorts (letter)
Last season, I wrote a number of letters on the subject of skills and safety on Vail Mountain. My passion is all about making the mountain experience both more friendly and safer, coupled with more challenging and exciting. My interest in these seemingly at odds goals was recently re-ignited while riding the chairlift. Here I discovered a new Play It Safe series message as part of the trail map and other information on the retention/safety bar.
To the best of my recollection, the Play It Safe message said “Are you in control? Slow down … Your skills are not just shown by going fast.” Firstly, a skeptic would say going fast is not a skill. Secondly, this sounds like the old “Space Not Speed” motto as part of Vail Resorts continuing sincere effort to change the ways of the public on the mountain, Finally, just what are the other skills that are implied?
It seems the key implied other skill is called turning! This sort of plays back to the suggestion I made to Vail Resorts last season of adopting the motto “Skiing and Riding are all about turning.” It’s the sort of motto that can be used in a variety of situations, such as “Com’on man, rurn,” rather than “Slow down,” which usually gets you a negative response.
So how do you motivate the public to savor “turning”?
For skiers: As a former ski instructor, I remember one of my idols in the profession saying he “only liked on average one of three turns.” This mindset adds challenge and excitement to skiing every day, whether in boring or challenging conditions. Hence, an opportunity to promote “the joy of turning while skiing.”
For snowboarders: Before “shaped” (bigger sidecut) skis were available, only snowboards could truly carve a turn. Snowboarders would work on that skill, putting to shame skiers who could only skid a turn. Unfortunately, the skill and pursuit of turning seems to have been lost as too many riders simply go straight. Hence, an opportunity to promote “the joy of turning while riding.” For those who complain about snowboarders, remember they were the first to look on wearing helmets as being “cool.”
So what’s the summary and bottom line of all this? Simply, if you want to change things, in this case the public’s “ways” on the mountain, you can start out with a catchy motto or mission. But then it has to be backed up with a comprehensive, wall-to-wall program.
In this case, the messages need to be evident as part of ski & snowboard schools; trail maps and signage; free, outreach hints and tips sessions — sharing what ski and snowboard schools teach; local K-12 school programs; yes, national advertising; safety-specific, “how are we doing” guest survey questions; internal performance measurements; and fire-in-the-belly support from senior management.
“The joy of turning” might just be one motto worth building on? P.S. I have no pride of authorship for any of my suggestions, so there’s no problem in adopting any of my out-of-the-box, wacky notions.