Tips From the SnoCoach Twitter Feed

@SnoCoach 1-update yr profile shredbetter.com 2-contact old guests 3-get in shape, 4-write season goals down #ski#snowboard. From: @ShredBetter

@SnoCoach Make the initial connection personal & be a resource. Clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. From: @rchinatti

@SnoCoach – less talk more action; show by doing; keep moving; vocalize with positive tips & encouragement; communicate the joy of skiing… From: @gaburke

@SnoCoach wear old gloves with holes in on a Friday to get extra tips from your guests! #SIA #Lifehack. From: @SIAkaprun

@SnoCoach Get your story on the site and hand out lots of cards! 😉 From: @tcstix

@SnoCoach Follow your passion, listen to your heart and inner wisdom. All answers are found within. Namaste. From: @snowga

@SnoCoach There’s no better reward than positively influencing your students on or off the snow. Glad you are having fun! From: Snowboard_Coach

Tip

Communicate your passion to your students in all you do, the rewards will come.

Camaraderie and Coaching with Club Ski

It’s not often that a seasoned skier gets the chance of a whole day’s instruction with a CSIA Level 3 instructor. So, when offered this opportunity at Sunshine Village, Alberta, Canada recently, I was thrilled to be able to address some of my bad habits and finesse my ski technique while discovering the delights of Sunshine’s black diamond territory.

Ski Big 3 Snow School Supervisor, Ross Hastings is committed to breaking the mould of traditional ski and snowboard lessons, integrating instead an ongoing instructional content alongside all-mountain experience. “Over the past few years, we have found that our average lesson participant has changed; as purse strings have tightened and lessons and indeed ski holidays have become more of a luxury, visitors to our mountains are more often accomplished and passionate skiers, rather than beginners,” says Hastings. “These higher end skiers often stay clear of what they see as a traditional lesson, as they want to ski more of the mountain as opposed to spending hours doing drills and perfecting technique.”devans_20141205-058

Hastings also extends this attitude towards newbies, giving them a holistic mountain immersion from the get go, rather than a static experience. “Any first time skiers, who take the plunge and venture out on a ski holiday, should be given the skills and confidence to experience the thrill of the mountains,” he explains. “This will give them the experience of a lifetime, hopefully making their ski trip the first of many. These beginner skiers and snowboarders, both kids and adults, are the future of our industry, the people who become the aforementioned accomplished and passionate skiers.”

Personalized Perks

Club Ski typically offers a three-day course in which the same instructor guides the same group of skiers around three different resorts – Lake Louise and Mt Norquay as well as Sunshine, all part of Alberta’s Ski Big 3. Hastings feels that this multi-centre experience adds significant value to the vacation, adding to the many firsts that the group experiences as they are conquering their first green, blue or black runs and adding new ski areas to their portfolio. But he maintains that the socialization element is also paramount. Instructors with Club Ski are social facilitators, encouraging guests to become familiar with each other, sharing experiences and stories. And this is taken to another level with the addition of shared lunches, après ski drinks and dinners. “Finishing touches like double checking rental gear, providing advice on new ski gear purchases and suggesting local activities and events can add that little extra to guests’ holiday experience,” Hastings explains.
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Club Ski instruction can also be customized to suit different schedules, ranging from three to six or nine day programs during Ski Big 3’s almost seven-month ski season.

My own day at Sunshine Village was a daring dabble in double diamond descents, with Hastings providing safety tactics for approaching narrow chutes and rocky areas. It was like an epic powder day with a skillful ski buddy who had my back!

Tip: Ask Better Questions

This tip comes from Daniel Pink from his book “To Sell is Human”. I read this highly recommended book to help with growing my consulting practice. Several places in the book Daniel points out the benefits of an interrogative approach, simple questions. The right question gets your client, student, prospect or even yourself to dust off the cobwebs and engage with the problem at hand with a fresh look.

In one example, Daniel presents how cajoling a reluctant teen to study more for an up coming exam or asking the simple question “why?” can set the teen’s mind to justifying their current behavior. Asking these two, seemingly irrational question can bring a new outlook: Question 1) Rate your preparation for the exam from 1 to 10. Question 2) Why didn’t you rate yourself lower? These questions actually gets the teen to start to think about how much work they have already put into the exam, and they will come up with their own reasons to study more. More details at Move People With Two Irrational Questions by Daniel Pink.

I recently had the opportunity to ask a bump challenged student to rate themselves in the bumps; they said they were a 3, I then asked why not lower? This led to a great discussion on their understanding of proper balance and tactical choices. We started the lesson by building on past accomplishments and a list of their skills to bring to the lesson instead of a more negative list of past failures and fears.

Find Better Questions

The first question often asked when meeting someone new is “What do you do?”. Which might work ok for a business networking event, but it sometimes gets a cold response on the ski hill. The client may not like their work or want to get away from their job while on holiday. Ask around find out what your fellow instructors use as opening get to know you type questions. One I like is “What keeps you busy?” This allows the client to respond with a work or recreational answer.

There are lots of sources for questions. Daniel presents the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) from the folks at rightquestion.org. It is their belief that teaching educators and students to ask better questions can improve our educational system and build a stronger democracy. Our ambitions might not be so high, but taking the time to develop better questions will improve your student’s engagement, leading to more returns and private requests.

Tip

Just as with any other tool in your teaching quiver, take time to improve the questions you ask. Then listen to your student’s answers.

Natalie Terry and the Magic of Sugarloaf

When new skiers take their first lesson, will they return to the sport, or say “never again?” The ride to the resort, the ambiance, the gear guys and the ski instructor contribute to the decision-making process. Natalie Terry at Sugarloaf was not my first instructor, but she was the one who made me fall in love with the skiing. In fact, it was Natalie, combined with the “Sugarloaf Mystique,” that made me forget my first horrific skiing experience.

The Killington Ski Trip From Hades

My first attempt at alpine skiing was an absolute disaster. Many factors contributed to this epic failure:
1. I was working at a New York City gym that sponsored a bus trip to Killington. The bus arrived two hours late, because the drivers stopped to pick up some workers from a Long Island recycling plant, who were also going on the trip.
2. Said workers were already drunk and rowdy. Almost all of them were smoking legal and illegal substances. Beer bottles rolled down the aisles. They showed the movie Rocky Horror Show.
3. I was the only staff member who came along for the trip. The club members were a conservative group, who had brought their kids. I got blamed for the entire debacle.
4. I was a 35-year-old aerobics instructor who had never skied. My students were expert skiers. My pride and dignity were at stake.
5. We arrived at 1:00 AM. The condo managers told us we needed to report any pre-existing damage to our rooms. Failure to do so would mean that we would have to pay for things that weren’t our fault.
6. Waking up the next morning, I looked out the window and cried “What the hell did they do to Vermont?” At the risk of offending Killington fans, this section of Vermont does not appeal to me. Visuals are important. More on this later.
7. The ski class had about 40 people, most of them in their late teens and early 20’s. There were a few instructors – of the same age range – working with the group. None of them wanted to work with “the old lady.” The guys wanted to flirt with the younger chicks. The female instructors showed an impatience that I often see in young women sport instructors. They benefited from Title IX. As such, they had athletic training since elementary school. Women of baby boomer age did not have that advantage. We took home economic classes and learned to make tuna-noodle casseroles.
8. Adding insult to injury, despite my unusually high level of fitness, I was not a natural skier. Years later, more than one boot-fitter would say to me “Nobody would look at your feet and say that you should be a skier.” Ouch!
It took 10 years for me to return to a ski resort.

Round Two: Mount Snow

When my step-kids came to visit us from Florida, they wanted to go on a ski trip. Rather than sit in the lodge at Mount Snow, I gave it one more try. This time, things were different:
1. I loved the Mount Snow ambiance.
2. I had added balance training to my workouts. Thus, I did not fall once the whole time.
3. The instructor was in his 50’s.
4. The class was smaller.
5. The gear guys took their time making sure that the boots fit right.
Success! I liked it. We continued to ski at different New England resorts. However, I was one of those conservative, fearful skiers, who stayed on the groomed greens. In fact, fear, challenge and thrill did not motivate me. I didn’t ski for the adrenaline rush. I skied for the “flow state” and for the stunning visuals found on certain trails. Thus, one year later, I was stuck in the perpetual intermediate zone.

The Sugarloaf Mystique

The Sugarloaf logo is one of the most recognizable symbols of North American skiing. Designed in 1959, it evolved into a cult phenomenon. The mountain’s devotees bring Sugarloaf stickers to remote places in all corners of the globe, and place them on high-profile spots.
John Christie, author of The Story of Sugarloaf, says:
“To me, the logo speaks to the unique configuration of the Mountain and the only lift-accessed snowfield skiing in the East. The fact that it’s been virtually unchanged for over 40 years says something about Sugar loaf’s devotion to tradition and its origins.”
“Ski Guru,” who writes the Boston.com ski blog, writes:
“The Loaf is the closest thing to a ski cult I have ever encountered. There are some rabid Mad River Glen lovers, and some absolute Alta enthusiasts, but their bonds seem more of an old school, anti-snowboard society. Loafers are extremely devoted, even defensive, about their downhill ski resort.
Natalie Terry

The Natalie Terry Mystique

Sugarloaf’s ski instructors are as devoted as its loyal fans. Many have worked there since the 1960’s. Natalie Terry is an example. With over 40 years of teaching at Sugarloaf, Natalie Terry has taught over 23,000 skiers. Now in her late 80’s she has taught at The Loaf since 1969, and she still rips past kids young enough to be her great-grandchildren. Her dedication to each student has made her the most requested private lesson instructor at Sugarloaf. Skiing Magazine recognizes her as one of the top 100 instructors in the United States.
I first heard about Natalie from a group of Boston University college students. Their admiration surprised me. This particular group wouldn’t take an aerobic class from any instructor over 30, but their ski guru was a 75-year-old woman.

The Lesson

With everything I heard about Sugarloaf and Natalie, I wanted to go. My husband nixed the idea, because the drive was too long. I opted for a bus trip with Boston Ski and Sports Club, and rode to Maine with a lively, but well-mannered group of Sugarloafers.

The next morning, I practiced my turns on the trails close to the base area. After lunch, I had my private lesson with Natalie Terry. She asked me what trails I had skied. When I told her that I had been skiing the easy green called Broadway, she said, “You came all the way from Boston to ski that boring trail? There’s great beauty on this mountain, but you’ll never see it if you stay near the base area! Besides, you’re spending more time riding the lifts than you are skiing!”

She had me, there. Short beginner trails mean frequent lift lines and lift rides. That gets old. However, she had already motivated me with the promise of gorgeous views. Somehow she knew that skiing down the gorgeous, 3.5 mile Tote Road inspire me. That’s the secret of an excellent instructor.

In an interview with New Center 6, Natalie Terry says “A good student has to be motivated. You can motivate them, but if they come with more motivation it’s easier on me.”

I would add, if the instructor can sense what motivates the student, it’s easier on both the instructor and the skier.

Catch this video on Natalie Terry.

Tip: Stay Close to The Family Decision Maker

I had the opportunity to attend a clinic of the top ski instructors at my resort reflect on building a private practice. One of the tips that came out of the meeting was “Stay close to the Wallet”. On a crass level that is where the tips come from. But as we talked about it, the deeper meaning is it is important to understand who makes the decisions in the family on how vacation time is spent.

With families, more often than not it’s the mother is the key decision maker. The Father and kids may express enthusiasm for your lesson, however, make sure Mom sees your value. If Mom is in your lesson make sure, she is getting the most out of it and facilitate her understanding the benefits other members of the family are receiving from your lesson or those of other instructors. If she is not in your lesson, find time to talk directly to her about the progress of other family members.

Ask and Listen

A major theme of the clinic was to listen to your guests and respond to their requirements and desires. With this in mind ask questions and find out who the family decider on vacations is. Ask leading questions and listen and act on the answers. Talk with her about the goals of the lesson, even if the lesson isn’t for her. After the lesson make sure, you demonstrate to her how her goals were met. For best results make sure you are direct your invitation to return to the family decider.

Tip

Find out who the family decision maker is, highlight how you responded to her (because it usually is the Mom) goals and needs, even if she is not in your lesson.

Tip: Experience the Power of Gratitude

This tip comes from Tina Mackintosh, a Ski Instructor at Boyne Mountain Resort.

In my 40 years of teaching, I have never failed to show appreciation towards a student, no matter what their age or ability. They are as beneficial to my growth as I am to theirs.

Gratitude is my attitude

The Power of Gratitude

According to Robert Emmons, a pioneering researcher on gratitude, gratitude includes two components. It’s a fundamentally positive mindset, where we recognize that there’s some good in the world. Because it’s always directed at something outside ourselves, it’s also a recognition that we’re dependent on others.

There are two types of gratitude: a momentary feeling we experience when someone benefits us, and a more long-term mindset, where we see everything in life as a gift.

In contrast, ungrateful people see life as a burden. They focus on the negative and see everything they don’t have, instead of what they do.

Tip

Use the power of gratitude for your student and the opportunities they provide to strengthen your engagement with them and enrich the experience.

Tip: Deliver on your Brand

We have discussed that your brand is more then a color scheme on your website or a logo , a brand is a promise between you and your clients and prospective clients.

A successful brand will have depth. It is more than knowing a few progressions that will give your typical clients a quick win, but will involve knowledge about a whole sub-culture of the sport and the resources of that community. Work on delivering on the complete package that your brand implies, be an expert. If you find yourself teaching families. Being a source of knowledge on what the family can do after the lesson has real value. Know what great activities are available for the non-skiing members of the family. Knowing that there is a dog-sled tour is one thing, knowing all about the adventure, where they go, what you’ll learn, whom to contact to book a spot, can be that Wow difference.

Tip

Create a Wow experience for your students by delivering on the promise of your brand.

The 90-9-1 Rule: Reaching Out to the 90

You’ve built your ski instructor Facebook page. But is anyone out there? Perhaps you were expecting long threads, filled with in-depth discussion about powder skiing and mogul techniques, along with lively debates about the merits of New England vs. Western skiing. Instead, you only see a handful of replies to your posts. Unless you make a mistake then a bunch of people jump right in. What’s up with that?
You have just experienced the phenomenon known as the 90-9-1 rule.
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Exploring the 90-9-1 Rule

Simply put, the 90-9-1 rule states:
In any group of 100 people:
– One percent of its members are active communicators. They set the tone, and become the thought leaders of the group. If you started the group, you, along with a few of your friends or fellow ski instructors form the one percent.
– Nine percent are somewhat active, engaging with the other members on occasion. These are usually. Some of these folks either support your philosophy of teaching, and add to the discussion, or disagree with you, and engage in debate. Others are what ski instructors sometimes refer to as professional students. They have many questions, and embrace any opportunity to get them answered.
– 90 percent are lurkers, content to simply listen or follow the other 10 percent. Some are not sure of which questions to ask. Another segment of the 90 percent is simply brand new to social media, and is not yet comfortable with the posting process.

How do these ratios affect your ability to build a brand? Read on to find out.

Lurker or Audience

The lurker status of the 90 percent sparks many a lively discussion. Some social media specialists view lurkers as an audience, who will either applaud or walk out. Case in point: Your post “likes” on Facebook. You probably notice a number of people who like your different posts, but hardly ever engage in the conversation. Liking, however, is a form of active listening. When users like your posts, they are telling Facebook that they want your content to appear in their news feed. Even if they are not participating in the thread, this implies that they see value in what you are saying.
On the other hand, and adverse signal to noise ratio can discourage group members from active participation.

The Noisy Nine Percent

As your Facebook ski page community grows, you will need to identify which of your nine percenters are driving students to your services, and which are creating noise. This is an issue that is common among people who follow a specific technique. You see it in PMTS, CrossFit and bikram yoga communities, where zealots make it impossible to ask a question, or challenge any of the system’s basic methods. Sam Fiorella of Sensei Marketing describes this beautifully:

Volume and reach of one’s social presence becomes less important; the relationships among community members and the context of their dialogue grow in importance. At a minimum, there are greater complexities in managing online communities, identifying influencers, and deriving meaning from those engagements. This is the great paradox of social media marketing: As our communities become larger, the more important one-to-one relationships become. If not the one-to-one relationships between your brand and your customer, certainly we should be paying attention to the one between the customers themselves.

Students in ski class often form friendships that keep them coming back to the same group — and the same instructor — over and over again. The same thing can happen online. Create an environment on your Facebook page where there is no such thing as a stupid question, and where polite debate encouraged.

Don’t be discouraged if your early forays into Facebook land does not get the response you hoped for. Remember there are most likely 10 more people for everyone that likes or shares an article and 90 more people behind everyone that comments on an article.

Some of your 90 percent might keep their silent audience status, but if they like what they see they will continue to follow you work and be a resource for for future social feedback.

Tip: Create a Larger Story with Your Client

To move the business of being a ski instructor up a level, you need to deliver an extraordinary experience for your guest. Bringing them to a place when they look back they say Wow that was great! One way, you can give more than is expected and deliver that Wow is to understand and help your guests reach their larger goals. Goals like Health and Happiness.

Help Build a Lifestyle Not Just A Change In Movement Patterns

Michael Shenkel, a successful ski pro shared with me that snow sports instructors are about a lot more than just changing movement patterns, we are enabling a new lifestyle, a mountain lifestyle as a skier or rider. Make the effort to connect for your client how making the change in their skiing today will advance them forward in their own adventure. This involves taking the time to learn what that larger journey is for your client, well beyond taking that new run. It can be as simple as moving beyond techniques on just how to turn the skis, to model eating and hydration patterns that allow them to feel their best.

Tip

Help your client connect what you are teaching today into that larger story where they imagine skiing will take them.

Building Your Own Website: Is It Worth It?

I have heard from several instructors that maintaining a website hasn’t been a worthwhile investment of their time. I can understand this, especially if it’s an off-the-shelf listing template, but for me it has been an extremely effective part of my strategy.

I don’t expect my website (www.skiwithkev.com) to reel in clients off the web. Its role is an as quality piece of marketing collateral that has provides me street cred. I view it as an organic online brochure, that like my custom business cards, reinforces my “brand” and differentiates me as a professional with prospective & past clients, referrers, and other contacts that send me business.

I use it in maintaining relationships too. I use private pages that I share with clients for them to view and download pictures. I write the occasional blog article that generate as much as 1,000 visits per post. I refer to my articles in custom emails that I send to some of the leading concierges, travel planners, and retailers in the valley.

And while I don’t expect my website to be my cornerstone of customer acquisition, because of the content and it’s links from other publications and directories, it does get me showing up on google and gets my phone ringing.

I put about an hour a week into my site. The big effort was in the one time set-up, but to be fair, it is something I already knew how to do and enjoy spending time on.

Here is an article I just posted, five accessories that have greatly improved my skiing zen… it’s mean to be relevant to anyone planning a ski vacation. I will try to get it reposted on Travelocity and other planning sites.