The What and Why of Building Your Brand as a Ski Instructor

Have you ever noticed that the most successful instructors on your mountain seemed to be having a great time? At the end of the lesson, they are still chatting with their students, because they enjoy their company. As if by magic, these folks automatically draw their favorite types of people to their classes. They’ve established their personal brand, which in turn attracts the kind of students they enjoy working with. How does a ski instructor — who essentially works for a corporation — develop his or her unique branding? Read on to find out.
Happy Ski Instructors

What is a Brand?

Marketing specialist Heidi Cohen asked 30 business experts to define the word brand. Here are some of the most enlightening comments:

Brands are shorthand marketing messages that create emotional bonds with consumers. Brands are composed of intangible elements related to its specific promise, personality, and positioning and tangible components having identifiable representation including logos, graphics, colors and sounds. A brand creates perceived value for consumers through its personality in a way that makes it stand out from other similar products. Its story is intricately intertwined with the public’s perception and consistently provides consumers with a secure sense that they know what they’re paying for. Heidi Cohen

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. Seth Godin

A brand is the essence of one’s own unique story. This is as true for personal branding as it is for business branding. The key, though, is reaching down and pulling out the authentic, unique “you”. Otherwise, your brand will just be a facade. Paul Biedermann

What Does This Mean For Ski Instructors?

A few key concepts stand out in all of these brand definitions:
– Stories
– Emotional Bonds
– Promises

Let’s start with stories. Ski instruction is not a traditional career. What brought you here? Many instructors went into to teaching based on their own struggles with learning the sport. Really successful people in any business tell their stories to the world. Best example: Richard Branson. Your story helps you create an emotional bond with your students. Based on this bond, you can make realistic promises about what you will give them in the learning process.

Who You Are vs. Who Your Ski School Director Thinks You Are

Problem: Your typical client helps you shape your brand identity. New instructors are often unaware of who their typical clients actually are. If you do not have a teaching brand identity, your ski school director will use sterotypical parameters — such as age and gender — to assign students to you. This has a 50-50 percent chance of working. That means that you have a 50-50 percent chance of being happy with your teaching situation.

Harmonizing Brand Resort With Brand You

  • Your resort establishes the company colors
  • The logo
  • The slogan
    Where did you choose to teach? Although location played a key role in your choice, the resort’s corporate branding and philosophy were probably influencings factors. Alta and Snowbird offer a distinct example. These physically connected resorts differ dramatically in ambiance and branding.

Exercise 1:

Think about two resorts within your region. What factors influenced your choice for employment? Aside from the instructor perks, how much did company colors, logo and slogan affect your decision? What about the terrain? To use the Alta/Snowbird example, if you choose Snowbird, never-evers are probably not your specialty! In contrast, Alta’s back-to-basics approach to skiing appeals to a different type of person. Write a list of the reasons you chose this resort.These reasons provide clues to your personal brand.

Beyond the YASKI

Once you establish how you fit in with the resort brand, you must determine what makes you unique. Are you a YASKI (yet another ski instructor) or a unique brand of ski professional?

Here’s an example of a ski instructor who has the branding thing down pat.
Richard Eisner — aka Ziggy — taught at Copper Mountain, a resort known for its “I am a playmaker” nametags. Ziggy’s personal motto is “Think like a kid, ski like an expert.” Likewise, he introduces an element of play into his lessons.

Another Copper instructor is also an actor and a director. When working with fearful students, he uses the concept of acting from the outside in. This approach involves mimicking the stance, alignment and posture of a confident person. By changing the outer physicality, you change the internal emotion and thought process.

Exercise 2

What unique outside skills and personality traits do you bring to the mountain? How can you apply them to your teaching brand? Write down your thoughts.

Visualize Your Ideal Client
Create Your Motto
Create a social media presence on Facebook and use your page to tell your story.

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