With the winter in full swing, Canadians are hitting the slopes to carve some powder, take in some fresh air and maybe cap it off with hot cocoa or cold beer. You might wonder, though, when you’re sway on the chairlift making your way up to the top of the mountain, how ski hills run successfully. To a certain extent, owners of ski hills rely on Mother Nature for a bit of good fortune – news that a hill has received a dump of fresh snow is sure to boost ticket sales.
But there’s more than just environmental luck at play. The whole operation seems to run so smoothly, from the chairlift attendants to the first responders, instructors, slope groomers and chalet workers – and that’s because a successful ski hill understands that there are multiple moving parts that go into making someone’s experience a positive one. And in order to fund it all, they hedge against bad weather by offering a big price break on season tickets.
Kevin Smith, the Vice President and CFO of Whistler/Blackcomb, puts it this way: “Creating packages is fundamental to our business. Especially if families pre-commit to a package that includes lift tickets, lodging, and ski school, we lock up that business before the snow falls.” Doing it this way, even if there isn’t a particularly good snowfall, the hill has already sold close to enough tickets to fund the operation. But, of course, selling the tickets is only half the battle, and to create return customers, ones who’ll come back year after year, you have three key tenets in working order: security, maintenance and hospitality.
Security is a big concern on the ski hill, whether it’s the ID cards that allow people access to the hill (you can check out Avon Security Products for more info on ski hill ID cards, if you’re curious about implementing your own system), or the ski patrol paramedics who are onsite to make sure that anyone hurt receives immediate medical attention (a process you can learn more about by visiting the Canadian Ski Patrol website). People want to feel safe, and they want to know that their investment – whether it’s a season pass or just a day pass – is exclusive.
The next major tenet for a successful ski hill is maintenance. It’s tempting to think that the wind just blows all those pretty moguls and cleared paths in place, but in fact it’s the hard work of groomers either driving a piste basher or hand-raking moguls. Having a dedicated maintenance staff goes along way towards promoting the image of a ski hill – after all, the snow is the real “face” of the business.
Finally, a ski hill wouldn’t be what it is without the surrounding hospitality – for most, that means restaurants and bars, but for others that can mean cozy hotels. Understanding the different demographics is a large part of making the ski hill inclusive; it is important to have places for youngsters who want to party as well as families who want a fun, relaxing atmosphere.
Whether you run a ski hill, or are just curious how it works, these are the important practices and features that go into a successful ski experience. Next time you’re ripping up the Black Diamond run, don’t take for granted all the hard work that happens behind the scenes!