Despite being the primary vacation planner and chief decision-maker both before and during a winter vacation, many women report not participating as much as they would like in the main purpose of the trip – skiing and snowboarding. As part of the Vail Resorts’ ski and snowboard school initiative designed to improve the on-mountain experience for women, the Company has announced a re-imagined version of its specialty women’s programs, incorporating guest feedback to give busy women or moms the ability to enjoy a guilt-free ski vacation themselves.
“Women’s participation in skiing and snowboarding is critical to the future growth of the sport. As a leader in the industry, Vail Resorts is committed to continuing to listen to what our female guests want and need in a ski vacation and investing in ways to enhance their enjoyment of it,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “Piloting the Women’s Ultimate 4 lessons last season helped us learn more about barriers that keep women from skiing and riding more and we applied those insights to enhance and expand the program for this season.”
Over the course of the 2013-14 winter season, Vail Resorts conducted surveys and focus groups with female guests at its resorts, online and in several U.S. and international cities to better understand the barriers to the ski and snowboard experience for women. Common themes included being overwhelmed by the process, having their hands full managing the experience for other members of their group or family, and being too intimidated to try the sports. One important insight the company learned, for example, was that by the time moms had finished getting their kids into ski school lessons, the regular adult group lessons had already begun.
In response to the research, Vail Resorts piloted a new “Women’s Ultimate 4” lesson at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone during the 2014-15 winter season. The Women’s Ultimate 4 was developed exclusively for women and taught by female instructors in a small-group setting with only four students per class. Lessons took place during a four-hour time period well after kids were dropped off at ski school and ended before pick-up.
Key takeaways from the Women’s Ultimate 4 lessons included:
- The women enjoyed female-led instruction in a less intimidating environment
- The timing of the lessons better accommodated their schedule
- They probably would not have taken a lesson without this environment
“We are listening to what our guests want and are modifying our offerings based on what we’re hearing from them,” said Lynch.
As a result of the success of last season’s pilot program, Vail Resorts is expanding the availability of Women’s Ultimate 4 lessons, offering classes at its four Colorado resorts as well as Park City in Utah, and Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe. The lessons will be designed to instill foundation-building basics while navigating beginner trails and developing on-mountain camaraderie in “first-timers” through advanced-beginners (ski and snowboard ability levels 1-4). Classes will take place at all resorts between 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. local time Dec. 26, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016, Feb. 12-21, 2016, and March 4-April 4, 2016 (all dates by reservation only). More dates may be available at specific resorts and guests are encouraged to check the desired resort’s website for additional offerings via www.snow.com.
The response to the Women’s Ultimate 4 and other women-specific programming inspired each resort’s Ski and Snowboard School to create a number of new events and classes for the 2015-16 winter season, including:
- Vail Mountain’s new Women & Wine FAC (Friday Afternoon Club), a new event in January featuring demos, clinics and VIP experiences exclusively for women; Outdoor Divas, a new women’s snow sports shop in Vail’s Lionshead village; plus equipment demos, clinics and more throughout the winter.
- Beaver Creek’s Women’s Social Tour, a complimentary program designed to welcome women skiers and riders to explore the mountain together in a more casual, social atmosphere with one of the resort’s female Ski School Ambassadors.
- Breckenridge’s Women’s Ski Week, Feb. 14-20, 2016. This week includes five new women-specific ski school classes, wine pairings, gear demos, First Tracks, a ski day and more.
- Keystone’s Betty Fest, a two-day program aimed at facilitating on-mountain camaraderie with women who will enjoy on-hill instruction, as well as video analysis and lunch at the Alpenglow Stube, Keystone’s on-mountain, fine-dining restaurant.
- Park City’s Women’s Camp Feb. 26-28, 2016, offering small class sizes with female instructors and the same group and instructor for each day.
“In terms of getting more women on the mountain, Vail Resorts is just getting started,” said Lynch. “The ultimate goal is to make sure women are having just as much fun as everyone else in the family on their winter ski or snowboard vacation at our resorts.”