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Despite making up over half the population of the United States, women only make up 40 percent of alpine skiers and only 32 percent of snowboarders according to participation data from SnowSports Industries America (SIA). Today, Vail Resorts, the world’s leading mountain resort operator, announced a new company initiative to increase women’s participation in skiing and snowboarding.
“Vail Resorts’ mission is to provide an experience of a lifetime. We can only do this by understanding and meeting the needs of our guests. There is clearly an opportunity to understand what our women guests need to increase their participation in snow sports,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “We want to make the ski experience more accessible to all women, and then empower them to make time for themselves to have the ski experience they desire.”
Over the course of the 2013-14 ski season, Vail Resorts conducted research with female guests, at resorts and online, to better understand the barriers to the ski experience for women. Common themes included being overwhelmed by the process and having their hands full managing the experience for the other members of their group/family.
“We are listening to the voice of our guests,” said Lynch. “We had intimate conversations with women from all over the U.S., Mexico and Brazil, and we’re customizing programs to meet their needs.”
The women surveyed expressed some trepidation around ski school – feelings of being overwhelmed by the logistics of the experience, being out of place either socially or by ability level, and needing to justify the cost for lessons for themselves. Comments included:
“A ski class where I felt comfortable would affect my decision a ton. I’d be pumped to learn with others like me,” said a woman from Menomonee Falls, Wis.
A woman from Dallas, added, “All-female adult classes would really encourage me to take more lessons. I would LOVE that.”
The women also commented on their desire to either have ski lessons that better accommodated getting their children into their lessons, or lessons which included their children.
“It would be nice if there were two offerings to fit all women’s situations – jump into a lesson that started as soon as the slopes open OR select a lesson that started around 9:30 or 10:00 so you could get the kids on their way,” said a Stillwell, Kan., mother of four.
“I want to spend time with my kids, it’s the primary reason we choose to go on vacations,” said a Palm Bay, Fla., mother of three.
The other common theme, specifically from the international participants, was the desire to have someone who could plan the vacation for them and act as an in-resort “concierge,” setting up all the details the women either didn’t know about or didn’t have time to address.
These comments led the Vail Resorts to create a number of new programs and products, available for the 2014-15 winter ski and ride season.
“This is just the beginning for the Women In Skiing initiative for Vail Resorts,” said Lynch. “We plan on continuing to invest significantly in this important segment of our guests.”