Tag Archives | Branding

They’ve Got Brand: These Ski Pros are Doing it Right!


In Kate Howe’s branding video, she gives an example of two different ski instructors with very different brands. If you don’t know the Aspen Ski School staff, you probably don’t know who she’s talking about. However, everyone who did know them nodded their heads emphatically. Why? Because these instructors have created a recognizable brand. If their brand is recognizable to their colleagues, it’s also recognizable by their ski school director, and by their clients. This means that they are always working with their ideal client. This article will present examples of ski instructors who have elevated branding to an art form. Follow their lead.

The Four Questions of Branding


Here are four questions to ask yourself when developing your brand:

1.What do you want clients, peers and supervisors to associate with you when they think of your name?
2. Is there a certain type of skiing or terrain you want people to associate with your name?
3. What do you want your voice to be?
4. What is your story?

Your story is the most important question, because it encompasses your passions, hobbies and lifestyle. An engaging narrative makes you more interesting to potential students. Consider Leon Joseph Littlebird’s story.

Leon Joseph Littlebird: Colorado Authenticity

Leon Joseph Littlebird is a Summit County Colorado icon. Everything from his Native American heritage, his music and his ski instruction embodies what it means to be a native Coloradan. It’s this authenticity that draws his students. He’s also a man with a story. A cancer survivor who lived beyond his doctor’s expectations, Leon is an inspiration. When he’s not teaching skiing, he performs Native American concerts, and officiates over local wedding ceremonies.

Thanks to his ability to blend these aspects of his life, Littlebird has a distinctive brand. Although he’s a PSIA trainer/examiner, his signature teaching style requires students to feel the movements, rather than analyze them. In fact, Leon makes fun of the techno-babble that many instructors favor.
In an interview with the Summit Daily, he describes the connection between skiing and composing:

They’re the same. It’s about freedom and self expression. I love writing and performing original music because there will be an idea, a brand new seedling and it will start to grow. All of a sudden there is a song, where before there was nothing. It’s like when you hike up to some amazing place on your skis and look down at a virgin powder field. Then you take off your skins, tele down and leave your signature on it.

Kate Howe: Inspiring and Versatile

Her blog is called “Skiing in the Shower.” She’s a ski instructor, a yoga teacher, a massage therapist and an artist. When the lifts stop turning, Kate travels to India to explore the culture and teach yoga. Furthermore, she has a story. Kate started teaching skiing when she was 35 years old, and 60 pounds over weight. Herstory inspires anyone who thinks that age, weight and parenthood limit your possibilities.

Mermer Blakeslee: Conquering Fear and Empowering Students

Mermer Blakeslee wants her student to have a conversation with fear. In fact, she wrote a book on the subject. Mermer is also a novelist, and an avid gardener.
Her brand is so established, that she earns good money for her workshops at Windham Mountain.

These three instructors share one thing in common: Their names come up on the first page of a Google search. This is what happens when you devote enough time to developing your brand, and letting people know who you are.

If your name is hiding on Google’s back pages, it’s time to take control of your ski instruction business, and develop your unique social media strategy!

Foiling Fears

Most skiers consider fear a debilitating factor in ski progression. And there are many different fears involved: fear of heights, fear of speed, fear of falling, fear of failing, fear of fumbling or just looking foolish. But according to Kristen Ulmer it is not a question of getting rid of or conquering these fears but rather of turning them into useful assets and allies.

The 48-year-old former big mountain extreme ski star runs a series of mindset-only camps in Utah every season as well as heli-ski trips to Alaska. Her aim is to enhance a camper’s experience on the slopes through mindset rather than technique tips. “We don’t meditate, nor is it about therapy, it’s about getting to know what’s going on in your unconscious mind, and packs quite a punch,” says Ulmer. Day 1 is all about setting campers free from unconscious patterns that keep them stuck. Next day, different states of consciousness are experienced in order to discover which work best for each camper.


Entitled Ski to Live, the Zen camps are geared to intermediate to expert skiers or telemarkers of either gender, aged 14 and above. They kick off with an evening group session at The Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge at Alta, the camp’s hub. “This is an important first gathering to meet each other and set the tone for the experience,” says Ulmer.

On the Saturday, participants are grouped into similar abilities with their own guides for the first hour or so. “This is an opportunity to burn quick laps and explore technical questions,” Ulmer explains. Everyone then congregates at base where Ulmer leads an exploration of Shift: The game of 10,000 Wisdoms. “This game is a faster and more fun way to access where you’re stuck than say, sports therapy or mediation, and can offer a powerful perspective on a camper’s life they never considered before,” she says. The skiers ride the same lifts together, gather at the top and bottom of each run, yet each group will ski different terrain appropriate for their ability with their guide.


After communal lunch there are four different options: skiing with Kristen and exploring your mind further, skiing alone or with friends, going for restorative massages, or off-slope decompression time. A 90-minute facilitated evening event with refreshments is then followed by après ski and story-telling before dinner. “It’s a fun, wild ride and the experience lasts and shifts the way you experience not just skiing, but just about everything,” says Ulmer.

Under contract with Harpers and Collins, Ulmer, who was recognized as the best female big mountain skier for 12 years, is currently writing a book on Fear, entitled “My Love Affair with Fear”. Her approach to fear is diametrically opposed to traditional techniques, and, she says, it works brilliantly to alleviate stress, anxiety, irrational fear and more.

SkiLive  146 - Version 3

Elevating Female Skiing at Jackson Hole

Girly grit taking over from timid turns, trusty teamwork eradicating harrowing hang-ups – just some of the reinventions made possible at Elevate Women’s Camp. With many strong intermediate and expert female skiers lacking likeminded and motivational ski buddies, Elevate offers a networking solution as well as inspirational instruction.

Held at Jackson Hole, the camps attract up to 65 women at a time divided up between a team of 12 female ski instructors and three female freeskier pros who troubleshoot each group. During the challenging four-day course, the famous freeskiers – Kim Havell, Jess McMillan and Crystal Wright – circulate among the ability and attitudinally-matched groups. Their role is to elevate mental and motor skills via extreme-ski example.


Instructor Christina Cartier says the pros add so much to the camp on many different levels: “I think that it is always eye opening to realize that amazing athletes are women just like ourselves who, for a number of individual reasons, have taken their passion of a sport to a full time and rather extreme level. They help us understand that fear is a natural component of big mountain skiing, without it having to limit us.”

Hard-core in a semi-soft sort of way, they also push the campers, inspiring in them the confidence to take their skiing to the next level, says Cartier – “whether that means a steep couloir or jumping off of small cliffs, or even just getting off piste for the first time.”

But it is the repetitive reinforcement of having the same female instructor for the entire course that really facilitates technical improvement among the four and five-women groups. Cartier has been working with Elevate for nine years. A Jackson Hole transplant with French and Swedish heritage, she is a meticulous instructor, focused on finessing technique in order to provide a security blanket of skills for double diamond skiing over Jackson’s tough topography. “The two biggest things I have experienced with most women is that they will not attempt something new or challenging until they believe that there is a 100 per cent chance of success,” says Cartier. “The second piece of the puzzle which is mostly relevant to the camps is that they actually do well being pushed a little in a group once trust has been established.”

Group dynamics is important to Cartier who is happy to take more of a backseat at times, while different group members help each through the frustrations and fears of adopting new skills in tricky terrain. “It is critical to set the group up to be supportive rather than competitive,” she explains.

With an emphasis on teamwork, the level 3 PSIA instructor also gives each camper individual feedback, aided by video analysis, to improve movement patterns as well as mental and tactical approaches to skiing. “My hope is that at the end of the four days, each participant feels that she has skied hard, and ideally has felt a tiny or large ‘butterflies’ moment when looking ahead at something she is about to ski that is visually challenging to her,” she adds.

One of the things Cartier has noticed since becoming an alpine ski instructor in 2008 (she taught Nordic before) is that women are hard on themselves. Because of this, her job can involve emotional buttressing as much as technical tampering. “Finding a way to help them improve while giving them room to not be perfect and still enjoy the sport is a delicate balancing act,” she says. “Every other camp I seem to have at least one, if not more, campers break into serious tears of either fear or frustration.”

With improvement varying among participants, changes over the four-day course can often be subtle. But, says Cartier, stronger skiers typically only need slight tweaking to take them to the next level. “Some of the improvement is not always visible, but more in the mental/psychological game part of the sport,” she explains. “I suspect that many women end up enjoying terrain they previously dreaded, or come to realize that the skills they already had actually carry over to more than they ever imagined.”

Ski Instructor Brand Development

If you watched Kate Howe’s video on Branding for Ski Instructors, you know that brand logos personify their product.

What do you think about when you see the PSIA logo? A document on The Snowpros Website explains that the logos represent the PSIA brand personality, which encompasses the following traits:

Hopefully, as a member of PSIA , you identify with these traits. However, as Kate points out, these character aspects do not distinguish you from the other red or blue instructor jackets on the mountain. Branding makes your unique personality traits stand out, in a manner that attract your ideal client. But who is that client? Marketers call this the “buyer persona. For the purposes of this article, let’s refer to the buyer persona as “ideal ski student persona.”

Ski Student Persona

Marketers developed the concept of the buyer persona in 2002. Marketing expert Tony Zambito elaborates on the definition:

Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions. (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)

Check out the “Sample Sally” image from Single Grain. What can you guess about this skier from looking at the image? How would you fill in the different categories? Does this ski student persona match you brand? If not, who would you refer her to?
Use this type of chart to create your own ideal ski student persona. Once you put it together, you can build your brand according to this student’s needs.

Defining Your Brand

Raymmar.com has an insightful article on brand definition. The author identifies some of the essential elements of defining your brand:
1.Mission Statement: A clear and concise definition. “My mission is to have fun while teaching students new skills.”
2.Vision: This describes your goals on the horizon: “Students who ski with me will become mogul-meisters.
3.Essence:Refer to the exercise in Kate Howe’s video. Choose one word to describe your teaching brand. Examples: Motivating, Patient, Fun, etc.
4. Unique Value Proposition: What do you bring to the table, aside from your teaching experience? An advanced knowledge of gear? Secret stash spots on the mountain?

The article also mentions personality. This requires its own section.

Uncover Your Brand Personality

Big Brand System offers a free worksheet to help you develop your brand personality. Download it here and print it out. This is what the chart looks like:

Personable and friendly___________________________________Corporate, professional
Spontaneous, high energy __________________________________Careful thinking, planning
Modern or high tech___________________________________Classic and traditional
Cutting edge___________________________________Established
Accessible to all___________________________________Upscale

Examine the different brand personality aspects, and place dots closest to wherever your brand personality falls along the spectrum.

If most of your dots are to the left, you take a contemporary, fast-moving and energetic approach to ski instruction. You’re a risk taker, with a friendly and approachable communication style.
If most of your dots fall to the right, you prefer an established method of instruction. Your professional style of communication appeals to an older, corporate client.
Here’s how these traits translate into ski instructor personality types.

Ski Instructor Personality Types

Ski Instructor Brand Personalities

This photo shows examples of four basic ski instructor brand personalities.
1.The Nurturer takes a maternal or paternal approach to ski instruction. He or she works best with fearful skiers, or skiers who started in their later years. Lift conversations often revolve around family.
2. The Professor finds joy in the science and biomechanics of skiing. He or she works well with students who want to know why things are done a certain way. Lift conversations are often about the mechanics of skiing.
3. The Ski Bum lives for the thrills. His or her motto is “just do it!” This type of instructor works best with advanced, adventurous. Lift conversations will revolve around local bars, gear shops and ski town lifestyle.
4. The Fashionista,also known as the Sophisticate, works at upscale resorts. This instructor brand has skied around the world. So have their clients. If they’re lucky, their clients take them along on European ski vacations. Lift conversations might revolve around travel, or upscale restaurants in the area.

Keep in mind, these are generalizations. Many instructors will fall into more that one brand personality. However, problems arise when a student persona clashes with an instructor personality. Unless you have developed a distinctive brand personality, your ski school director might inadvertently assign you to someone who is a bad match. As Kate Howe says, developing your brand helps out your ski school director.

What Is Branding and Why Do Ski Instructors Need It?

There comes a time in every ski instructor’s career when they will attend a resort branding pep talk. Kate Howe, an instructor-trainer at Aspen, took this concept one step further. In a video titled Building Your Brand, she talks about branding for ski instructors. Kate argues that in order succeed as a ski instructor, you need to treat your instruction as a business. In other words, you need to become the “CEO of Ski With Me Inc.” A business, however, must have a brand. This three-article series will help you build, define and evolve your brand. The first article will pose some questions. There are no right or wrong answers. Respond as honestly as you can.

Branding Is About Belonging

Maslow Needs
Kate uses Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to describe the basic principles of branding. The physiological and safety needs apply to all ski students. They all need hydration, fuel, and a chance to use the restrooms before class. They all — even the moist adventurous students — need to know that there’s a relative level of safety. Things get interesting at the third level of the triangle: Belonging. In fact, the sense of belonging is intrinsically tied to the next level: Esteem.
Case in point: The Level 4 Student who puts himself in a Level 7 ski class. His sense of self esteem is tied into the idea of belonging to the Level 7 group.
People Identify with specific brands because they want to belong to that group.
Kate uses examples of political campaigns, along with products such as Coke and Pepsi to show how different compànies design their brand for different groups.

Branding Examples

Check out these two car rental companies. Notice the difference in branding.


At the top of the Silvercar page, you see a bold headlines that reads: CAR RENTAL THAT DOESN’T SUCK AT DEN
Scroll down, and you’ll a picture of an Audi — the only car they rent — and a picture of an iPhone. They offer free satellite radio and free wi-fi. The Trunk Show, at the top of the page, links to the company’s blog, which features articles about the FIS World Championship at Vail and the Audi in pop culture.

The Hertz page is rather stark. Its extras include baby seats, infant seats, booster seats and “skierized” vehicles. These two companies obviously appeal to different types of people.
Two students arrive at Denver Airport. One rents from Silvercar. The other, from Hertz. Which one would choose you as their instructor?

Now let’s compare ski jacket manufacturers:



What do these jackets say about the students who wear them? Which student matches your teaching brand?

Re-branding Hillary Clinton

An article in the Washington Post asks: “Is Hillary Rodham Clinton a McDonald’s Big Mac or a Chipotle burrito bowl? A can of Bud or a bottle of Blue Moon? JCPenney or J. Crew?”

Apparently, as Hillary prepares for her 2016 presidential campaign, she has recruited a team of consumer marketing specialists. Their mission: “To help imagine Hillary 5.0 — the re-branding of a first lady turned senator turned failed presidential candidate turned secretary of state turned likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.”

Sealey, who is credited with the successful “Always Coca-Cola” campaign in the 1990s, said that Clinton, like Coke, “has incredible top-of-mind awareness, and it’s a huge asset.”

“The issue is: What is her promise?” he said. “With Mercedes, it’s quality. With Volvo, it’s safety. With Coca-Cola, it’s refreshment. If you can get her promise down to one word, that’s the key.”

“Look at Budweiser,” said a former campaign adviser to President Obama, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly. “That’s what Hillary Clinton is. She’s not a microbrew. She’s one of the biggest, most powerful brands ever in the country, and recognizing that is important.”

What’s your promise to your ski students? Describe it in one word. If you were a beer, what kind would you be? Do you have “top of mind awareness” at your resort, or are you just another red jacket?

The Evolving Brand

Throughout the video, Kate stresses the importance of a continually evolving brand. We leave you with this analogy:
Branding is like a pair of skis. They need to make you look good on the slopes. They need to make you feel good. Since brands are aspirational, they can be a little bit long. But not so long that they make you look silly.

Presenting Your Personal Brand

Brand is visual, brand is written, brand is word of mouth, brand needs to be communicated.

These are the four basic “B’s” of branding. Once you establish your ski intruction brand, make it visible on your social media profile. Offer written content that describes your ski teaching philosophy. Embellish your posts with images. If well-written and visually engaging, your ideas will spread by word of mouth. In this article, you will learn how to present a visual manifestation of your brand on your Facebook Page, your business card and your email signature.

Brand Design

Brand design must embody:
– A logo that represents your teaching philosophy
– A color scheme that appeals to the types of students you wish to attract
– Photos of yourself teaching
– A teaching motto
– A name for your technique
– An appropriate s font for your email correspondances and business cards.
Important: All of these items must harmonize with each other. Aspen instructor Weems Westfeldt has mastered the art and science of brand harmony. His website includes his descriptive Edgechange logo, his motto, Brilliant Skiing, Every Day and his technique name, The Sport Diamond.
Branding is a package. What’s in your package? Do the pieces fit together? Look at your package and determine what works, and what seems out of place.

Font Appeal

Times New Roman was once your only font choice. Times have changed. Now, you have hundreds to choose from.
Font Chart
Bold and powerful fonts make your business cards stand out – as long as they’re readable. For best results, choose fonts that resemble traditional lettering styles, but are bolder, thinner, taller or slanted. When designing your business card, power fonts make your name and tagline stand out against the rest of your information. Choose a consistent font style, and use it in your business card, email and newsletter communications. This practice helps enhance brand recognition.

Creating a Logo

Fiverr offers logo design at prices that ski instructors can afford.
Logo Types
– Font Based, like IBM
– Action Based, could show a pair of skis
– Abstract Graphic Based, like the Nike swoosh
If you use the abstract graphic design, you must work harder to communicate its meaning.

“Such a symbol is meaningless until your company can communicate to consumers what its underlying associations are.

Americus Reed II, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, as told to Entrepreneur.

Logo Considerations

Does it express my teaching philosophy?
Is the design simple enough?
Does the design have enough contrast to stand out?
Will it work black and white?
Will it work when it’s super small, such as in email?
Does it look too much like any other ski instructor logos?
Will it be relevant five years or ten years down the road? (imagine if your logo had a pair of straight skis!)

An insightful article on Wisestep.com discusses the use of color in your marketing strategy.
This chart represents the most conventional wisdom on the topic:

Color Emotion Guide

Although the chart works as a guideline, avoid stereotyping and generalizations. The colors that your favorite students wear to the slopes provide some insight about your color best scheme.

Wrapping Up the Package

Incorporate these branding concepts into your email signature, your business card, your blog and your social media pages. After you create your Facebook page, look for ski related groups and articles on Facebook. Join groups. Comment on articles. Show people your brand.