Have you ever seen the industry, particularly New England, discuss how many skiers learn at feeder hills vs larger resorts?
With respect to the dismal retention rate you mentioned, I see a lot of casual experimenters giving it a try at the resort, like you might try tubing, a zip line, or get a ride on a horse drawn sleigh. It's one activity of many on a Vermont weekend for someone who has no long term interest, doesn't like the cold, is not involved in any other outdoor activity whatsoever, any part of the year. The likelihood of retention on that person is very low right out of the gate. For those people a ski lesson is a day's diversion, nothing more. And how does the industry measure retention if they spend their first lesson with you and their second and third closer to home in NJ? I bet the real number is higher than what you measure.
I wonder what the retention rate is on kids that were introduced to skiing by their parents. Or High School kids that take more than one bus trip to a resort. Or with kids that go to a feeder hill after school once a week for 6 weeks?
I have not, but I am confident that the smaller feeder hills are incredibly important for all of us and many of them are doing well. In our back yard Cochran’s and Bolton are great examples. Wachusett in MA is another good example that has a great school program. If they are smart and well run smaller areas can afford to make the necessary investments to remain sustainable. I am very positive about the new indoor ski areain the NJ Meadow lands. They expect 650,000 visits with 2/3rds first timers. One thing the industry is focused on and unified on is growing and maintaining first timers.
On thing the Cheddar prodcast did not include was the fact that we Baby Boomers are aging, but we are skiing more and have a “Peter Pan” complex so we are not going away as fast as some thought.
Ps: Thanks for the nice Killington Zone comments.