Recent innovations in equipment and
technology make it easier to learn than
ever before, but newbies don’t necessarily
know that. When you take the time to
raise your students’ awareness about new
equipment and how it aids learning, you
provide a confidence boost they can carry
into future lessons.
According to industry research, most
people report that “spending time with
family and friends” is the single most
positive aspect of snowsports. And yet skiing
and snowboarding are often portrayed in
the media as being challenging and hard
to learn. You can help dispel that notion by
providing fun, safe, and effective lessons.
It’s interesting to note, too, that many
people report “not having someone
to go with” as the main reason for not
participating in skiing or snowboarding.
Maybe there’s an opportunity to tout
lessons as a means to explore the mountain
with other like-minded skiers and riders.
NSAA’s Recipe for Success
As you might expect, the National Ski
Areas Association has long been at the
forefront of efforts to promote the growth
of skiing and snowboarding in the United
States. In its Conversion Cookbook, the
organization offers 10 recommended
strategies for boosting beginner conversion.
1. Provide information to new
participants about what to expect
2. Improve the arrival experience
with signage and greeters.
3. Focus on boot fit and providing
extra attention in the rental shop.
4. Make lesson registration easy and
limit class size.
5. Group lesson participants by
athleticism and learning goals.
6. Focus on personalized lesson closure.
7. Provide roving instructors on
8. Staff beginner lessons with the
9. Follow up with ski and ride school
students and invite them back.
10. Create a resort culture with all
staff valuing beginners.
Clearly, many of the winning strategies
(which are more fully outlined at http://
cookbook.pdf) put a lot of stock in quality
lessons. You and your fellow instructors are
crucial to the health of the ski and snow-
board industry going forward. According
to SIA, the data continues to suggest that,
“When the consumer feels their proficiency
at skiing/snowboarding is increasing, they
feel more confident, they participate more,
and they spend more dollars.”
So, What You Can Do... Now?
As a skilled instructor, you can adjust your
lesson plans to streamline the learning
curve for each student and make them feel
like they’re making real progress. Here are
a few suggestions for how you can make a
difference at your resort.
n Expand your bag of tricks and learn
a variety of ways to teach skills to
n Work with your fellow instructors to
be creative with class handling options
that allow guests to progress at their
n Utilize magic carpets to avoid
sidestepping when possible.
n If your area includes terrain-based
teaching features, learn how best
to use them. If your area lacks such
features, look for natural terrain
features, such as undulations in terrain
and banked areas, to fit the bill.
n Stay current with industry initiatives
like Learn to Ski and Snowboard
Month and the Bring a Friend
n Attend professional development
clinics and/or pursue another level
We as instructors have the potential to
have a lasting effect on creating lifelong
ski and snowboard enthusiasts. Are you
up for the challenge?
PSIA Alpine Team member Heidi Ettlinger
has devoted her career to growing the
snowsports industry. She is an ambassador
for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month,
develops and leads instructor training
programs, and produces resources for the
trade ( gearingtogo.com) to improve the
retention of new skiers and riders.
“NSAA Model for Growth – Next
Generation.” NSAA Journal,
Convention Issue 2013.
“Model for Growth: Focus on
Conversion.” NSAA Journal Oct/Nov
“Revisiting Growing the Snow Sports
Industry.” SnowSports Industries
“Many Happy Returns.” Winter Sports
April 2013, 23-30.
PROFICIENCY = PARTICIPATION
According to SnowSports Industries America, most beginners report that “it’s not
fun unless you are good” and that they want to “get better faster.” This, of course,
is where quality instruction can have the biggest impact. Here’s a quick peek at
what many areas, as well as PSIA-AASI, are doing to address this.
● Terrain-based learning features built in the beginner areas are helping first-timers
achieve the thrill of sliding without feeling like they’re out of their comfort zone,
with skiers and riders often reporting huge success on their first day.
● In addition to providing the education materials and certification pathway that
support an American teaching approach second to none, PSIA-AASI once again
threw its support behind Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month and the Bring a Friend
Challenge. Both initiatives are credited with boosting participation in lessons and
the overall snowsports culture.
● In PSIA-AASI’s Central Division, a new program is underway to educate member
schools on how to deliver “Great Beginner Lessons.” The division has partnered
with the Midwest Ski Areas Association to provide these clinics in several states.
● The Eastern Division’s “More Fun Starts Here” initiative is spreading the word that
we are the leaders of fun, and educating the public on the value of professional
— Heidi Ettlinger