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Council Tracks – November 2014

The newsletter of NJS&SC                                                                   November  2014

This was intended to be the October issue but due to mental fatigue fighting with the town of Denville to whom I pay far too much property tax, it quickly became the November issue of Council Tracks and the first of the 2014-2015 season.  I began writing this while sitting in my 4th story office at work when the trees had color but since lost all leaves.  During the long run of warm fall weather it was hard to envision winter but several weeks ago parts of Maine got 2 feet of snow and Killington opened 3 trails at the summit to season pass holders.  Now that this issue is late getting to press I can also announce that Hunter, Blue and Shawnee have opened.  Last week Mountain Creek had snow guns blasting and were open for those willing to hike to make first tracks of the season!  I visited Heinos Ski and Cycle in Wayne last Saturday when I was told Mtn. Creek was looking for Patrollers (also to hike up) and apparently there were few if any takers.  Each year, waiting until sufficient intuitive information has deposited itself in the grey matter of my brain, I offer a prediction for the coming winter and now that were close enough I’m willing to take a shot at this season.  So read on……..

Too many people are unaware of the natural environment but I’ll remind you that the past summer was different in several ways.  For the most part it wasn’t overly hot but in the later months El Sol ramped up and things got ugly quick…..mucho caliente y seco (very hot and very dry).  By September local rivers and streams were exhibiting more rocks than water challenging paddlers to find water deep enough for kayaks.  The waterfall of Kaatersill Creek at the hair-pin turn as you ascend the mountain from Malden, NY on the way to Hunter was all but gone with the smallest trickle of water…….barely enough to wet the rocks.  That is NOT a good sign because if the dry weather pattern persists there’ll be scant natural snow this season.  If you can’t get better than a 3% raise because your boss tells you “there’s no money in the budget” then you sure can’t expect snow with no moisture in the air.  Last year, we had the reverse situation with an extremely wet summer and fall.  At that time I told people if the weather pattern continued and the temperature dropped, the only thing that could happen was for snow to fall.  Last winter we got snow every other week and that plus extended cold made for great later season conditions.  Without access to heavenly intervention, I can’t tell you how cold it will get nor when the cold will settle in for good but local night time temps are now low enough to make snow and in recent weeks we did get rain.  Also the run of cold weather of the last few weeks gave the local Mtns. the chance to put snow on their trails.  In addition, the Weather people report that the Siberian cold air mass is bigger and colder than ever before at this time of the year.  This supposedly indicates a cold winter ahead.  So without more enlightenment from the heavens my forecast for winter 2015 follows:

Don’t expect sustained snowmaking temperatures before early to mid-December.  Nights up North should be cold enough for snow-guns to spritz by mid-November but without Nature’s help we won’t have enough machine-made on the slopes to allow Vt. resorts to open significant terrain until after Thanksgiving (no surprise here).  Hopefully recent local rainfalls mean an end to the dry trend if but if that’s short-lived, natural snow could be hard to come by and when it comes may not drop more than a few inches.  With as much rain as we had last year, many major snow storms skipped Vermont and the resorts fought to open.  Mad River Glen which doesn’t make snow was closed for a month or longer.  While anything is possible, consider the following:

  • Over the last couple of years there was no skiing at Thanksgiving and little even by Christmas.
  • NJ Ski Council cancelled Windham ski-skills day 2 years in a row because there was no sustained cold to allow sufficient terrain.
  • Last season it got cold early and everyone thought we were ready to rumble then warm temps returned and skiing at Christmas was hard to find.

Then just as everyone was about to put their skis back into storage we experienced 2 weeks of sustained cold allowing the resorts to put enough snow down to ski by January resulting in the loss of almost one-half of our ski season!  You might not remember it BUT I DO.  After that, Old Man Winter sent the mercury into a nosedive and the snows came regularly.  Hopefully the dry weather is behind us and we’ll enjoy carving figure 8’s on the slopes in 2015!

Change:  I need to talk about this because the transmission has been stuck in neutral too long.  Change never comes easy because humans tend to resist something new unless we are talking cell phones…..then change can’t come fast enough!  If you haven’t accumulated enough wealth to leave the corporate world you know how things are changing in the workplace.  There is more cultural diversity than ever before; more highly educated and technically competent women.  It’s also a fact that people are living and working longer resulting in a large spread in ages between the younger and older worker to name a few things.  The working population has changed and industry has had to accommodate it….ask any HR Manager you know and SHE will tell you how it’s been (if you haven’t noticed, more women occupy HR positions than men).

How does this relate to skiing you might ask……well for the last couple of seasons we’ve been hearing a message, that the number of skier visits to mountains is dropping, the skiing population is greying and the number of young people entering the sport is diminishing.  The National Ski Council Federation who tracks such things agrees…….ski club members are getting older and less young people are coming in.  There are a lot of forces at work here causing the carnage.  Some things are out of our reach, but we might be able to influence others to the extent that it could benefit member clubs.  One thing we have to recognize is that change doesn’t happen overnight and it will take years of work before an effect is felt but if club members and administrators of State Ski Councils pitch in to make change happen I think the clubs stand to gain members and the Council to gain clubs.

Demographics is one area we can’t change and one must realize that the US population is shifting from traditional Europeans coming from countries with skiing to a mixed culture of Hispanics, Indians and Asians many of whom are clueless to Winter and the snowsports.  For them life IS a beach or a palm tree.  I recently spoke with a NYC based ski travel agent who’s been in business for 30 years.  His NYC based ski trip business used to be able to fill 30 buses every weekend with skiers from Manhattan and send them to Vermont.  Now he’s lucky is he can fill six on any given weekend.  Why…..because CHANGE took place while no one was watching!   It’s been referred to it as the “foreign or Asian invasion” where new residents coming from regions of warm climate have no appreciation for Winter.  When someone runs around in Bermuda shorts or a sari all year how do you interest them in snow!  In addition the aging population means older skiers drop out of the sport, some retire and move to Florida and are not being replaced by younger people.

Consider also that younger people today are much different than we were at their age.  Buses might be cost effective but the social charm of a Friday night bus run to New England isn’t what it used to be.  When a single can find a ski buddy or soul-mate on the internet why chance you’d meet one on a bus?  Another factor is that younger people have no interest in the Mom and Pop el cheapo motels that tour operators traditionally used to keep rates low.  Instead they’d rather hustle a last-minute deal on their smart-phone, pack their car with gear and sneak 10 friends into a 2 bedroom slope-side condo.  Anyone who’s technologically connected doesn’t need a travel agent when the internet gives them the capability to make cut-rate bids on Priceline to get a better deal.

Does this mean that we give up and accept that ski clubs will wither and die allowing a sheriffs sale of our Vermont lodges.  No…..but we must admit that the landscape changed over the years and how we market our clubs and the Council to attract younger people and those who ski or might, MUST also change. The state ski Councils and member clubs have to change and re-invent themselves…..there is NO OTHER WAY!!!  Our own Ski Council needs to make changes to carry it and its member clubs through.  How we did business 30 years ago doesn’t matter anymore.  People in the 25 to 40 year old category weren’t around or were too young to know about what we did.  THEN was THEN but NOW is NOW and NOW is different!   NJS&SC must change by doing things differently and here are some thoughts I offer as suggestions for REAL CHANGE:

1)  To attract awareness to the Snowsports we need to get in front of the public eye.

2)  We need to reach those we do not yet reach and to attract younger people to the clubs.

3)  The current EXPO has NO glitz, change the format because to do nothing is ludicrous.

4)  Invite owners of area ski/sport shops to a meeting of the Executive Board.  Ask for their ideas on how to improve the next Expo. Shop owners are the front line marketing the snowsports so why not utilize their knowledge?

5)  Interface with ski resorts asking for input from their Marketing gurus and ask for ideas on how to improve the Expo they are being charged to attend.  Seek their help in promoting ski clubs…..(find common ground).

6)  Capture reasons why joining a ski club is a good idea; put them in the Guidebook and broadcast them on a poster at the Expo.

7)  Recognizing that not everyone skis, market Council clubs as sporting/social clubs with skiing as one of many interests.

8)  NJSSC should sponsor a summer event (5K run or bicycle ride) to raise awareness of who we are and why we exist.

9)  Engage High School ski Clubs and Town Recreation Ski programs because they represent a possible source of current and future members.

10)  Train Council reps. to make a presentation to their local town ski programs then DO IT.

11)  Add a ski race to the Council schedule and circulate it amongst the Catskill Ski resorts as one way to improve relations between the Council and the resorts.

12)  Dispense with the monthly agenda at Council meetings and divide the club Reps. into working groups, assign each group an ‘issue’ to solve……..then DO IT.

13)  Create a strategic planning committee in the Council to create a vision and 5 year plan.

 

These suggestions can work and should be implemented without delay.  As we listened to Susan unhappily announce a downward trend in skier days last season, the huge reduction in the Council’s voucher sales and hear some club members say they are having trouble filling their lodges…….do we sit back and watch it happen OR do we run with the bulls in Pamplona!!  CHANGE, SERIOUS CHANGE IS NEEDED and it can’t be put off for another season IT MUST BEGIN NOW!  Just as the world needs sustainable energy, NJ Ski Council needs a plan to secure its future.  CHANGE NOW should be our new mantra, CHANE NOW and grow!

Did you know:   NJSSC has a beautiful new website thanks to the efforts of our President Susan Donlan who was instrumental in negotiating with a colleague to create it.  If you haven’t logged onto www.newjerseyskicouncil.org in some time I urge you to do it.  The new website is well designed with nice graphics and great functionality.  The home page is loaded with features such as a calendar of upcoming events in the left hand corner and the amazing Find a Ski and Snowboard Club in the right corner where all you do is to input your zip-code and search to find a club near you.  There are a number of buttons across the top of the page including: News and events, Discount Programs, Trip listings, Member Clubs and the Race Program.  The new website was a major step forward for NJSSC and we have Susan to thank for spearheading the effort……THANK YOU SUSAN!

Instant E-vouchers:  A presentation was given by a club member at the Executive Board meeting this month for an enhancement to the Voucher program.  His suggestion is for an E-ticket of sorts where in addition to getting voucher by ordering through your club, a member of a Council club could log onto the Council website, go to the Voucher ordering section, select a resort they want to ski and using PayPal or other method, pay for an E-voucher at the mountain of choice.  In essence it would work like Liftopia where the member prints a receipt to take to the mountain which is redeemed for an already paid lift ticket.  This idea was just presented so has not been seriously studied and being a new concept to the Council no details have been worked out.  In addition the mountains would have to be contacted to see if such a program could link with their websites and our own website would have to be modified to enable such a program.  If possible it could not be implemented before 2015-2016 however, the Ex. Board would like to know what you think about such a program.  Email your responses to Susan at [email protected] or me at the email address below.

A request to all clubs:  Although I am the author, Council Tracks belongs to YOU the Clubs and I’d like it to reflect and promote the interest of The Council clubs.  Please send me articles of interest and pictures you’d like posted.  If your club did something neat last winter, this summer or fall and you have pictures please send to me at [email protected] to get them published in Council Tracks.  This newsletter is a great vehicle to call attention to your club and activities.  Ski –stories such as falling into a tree-well, escaping an avalanche or skiing off the backside and having to get rescued because you couldn’t hike up 5,000 feet in waist deep snow are of interest to all.

As the season progresses I will add the usual columns such as Featured Resorts and Tech Talk.  Also now is the time get your equipment tuned and for you to get your ski legs and stamina pumped up!

 

As we head into the Thanksgiving weekend, on behalf of the Executive Board, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.  While we can afford our expensive sport, think about those less fortunate for whom even a daily meal is a challenge.  Donate food and if you can, spend some time volunteering at a soup kitchen.  It’s a simple way to give back.

Bob Zega

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.njssc.org/council-tracks-nov-2014/