One of the major challenges in the snowsports industry right now is student retention. It was fitting that addressing this issue was major theme of Interski 2015.  As you may already know NZSIA/SBINZ has challenged and changed their most basic model of Safety, Fun, Learning; to Safety, Fun, and Achievement to aid student retention. 

Rhys Jones and Tony Macri were tasked to present an on-snow clinic on this very topic on behalf of NZSIA/SBINZ. Here’s their wrap up on the clinic.

With several nations in attendance we began with a simple chairlift question.  Do you have a similar model in your association in your country such as Safety, Fun, Learning?  By the top of the chair the discussions were passionate and people were chatting about their similar models.  From here Jonesy took over taking the group through a game of “Jib”.  This is similar to a game a horse for those of you that have played basketball.  The object is to call out a trick and then you have to do it.  If you land that trick, the others in the group have to try it.  If any fail they get a letter.  The first one to lose three times and spell out “Jib” is the overall loser.  This game took us to the bottom of the run.  After some smiles and laughs with a bit of banter from each other within the groups Jonesy asked the groups to ride up the chair and just reflect on that experience.

Jonesy getting the game of JIB going

Jonesy getting the game of JIB going

At the top of the chair Tony took over.  First asking everyone to hold onto those thoughts from that experience.  Then he mentioned that he was going to teach everyone a frontside 360 off their toes.  He proceeded through a very defined clear progression.  Some people could already do it while others were learning something new.  However both Tony and Jonesy knew that wasn’t the point.  As he worked through the progression he was very purposely giving different types of recognition.

Now that the group has been through two different experiences Tony again asked the group to reflect on that experience.  At the bottom of that run they then spent some time comparing the two different experiences.  This was key, as some people enjoyed the more freedom they had with the first experience while others liked the more guided experience.  Now we wanted to really show the Why’s and the How’s.

From here they went back up the chair.  When they got off Tony quickly asked the group to follow him and try to stay as close as possible to the person in front of them.  Tony rode the group quickly into the trees.  Riding through some tight yet very capable lines he brought the group down to where they came out of the trees and stopped the group.  As both Tony and Jonesy observed and listened to the reactions of the group.  They heard “Wow that was crazy”  “Man that was a little scary”  “That was so fun”  Tony then summed up that segment by telling the group that in New Zealand we take safety very seriously but instead of just preaching the responsibility code to our students we like to work through the three “C’s” which is Comfort + Confidence = Commitment.  The people that were comfortable rode behind Tony into the trees and were able to commit to the run and enjoy it.  The ones that weren’t stopped or slowed down.  Before moving onto the next segment we spent a little bit of time discussing how we could have made people in the group more comfortable, and then more confident and therefore more committed.

From this point Jonsey got everyone back into their groups from the game of JIB. The focus here was for each of the groups to select one of the JIBS they enjoyed most from the earlier run, the highlight JIB. The person who’s JIB it selected then had to show the rest of the crew the trick and explain WHY this was chosen by the group. Here we really wanted to look at the FUN of the Safety, Fun, Achievement model. Some of the reasons the particular trick was chosen was that it was FUN, challenging and something new they hadn’t tried before.  Everyone in the workshop had a go at trying the tricks. We put back to the group and asked “how can you measure fun?”

The group came back that they felt it was hard to measure fun and how and when people should be having it, as it’s a personal thing.  And as a result we have come up with The Fun Scale as a way to quantify and identify fun. We broke the fun scale into three types of fun:

Type One: This is where you are enjoying the experience having lots of fun at that precise moment in time and you can’t wait to do it again.

Type Two: Having a good experience but with some hardship possibly frustration or boredom.  But after the event and reflecting back you would like to do it again.

Type Three: Glad they tried it but wouldn’t be in a rush to do it again.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger were some of the comments thrown out.

We looked at the Fun scale and discussed that we strive to create an environment of type one fun.  This leads to higher levels of customer retention as they are more likely to go straight to the Snowsports desk and book you for another lesson straight after.  Opposed to type two or three fun where they may or may not come back.

We rode to the bottom of the run and asked the question. “What do you think is the difference between Achievement and Learning”?  This turned out to be a great topic for conversation and got some good discussions going.  Some of the answers that came back were:

“I can’t remember learning how to do a 360 but I remember when I stomped my first one”.

“I can’t remember what the whole season was like as I was training towards my full cert but I definitely remember when I passed it”.

Tony running through 360's off the toes

Tony running through 360’s off the toes

For the next run Tony got everyone to break up into pairs and the challenge was to show the other person something they were working on in their own riding.  This could be a trick, freeride task, or anything within snowboarding. We took this down to the bottom of the run with each partner having the opportunity to present their task.  After reviewing the run, some questions Tony put to the group were:

-How did the other person present the task?

-Was it more like the first experience, the second experience or a combination?

-Which did you connect with most?

-Was there a sense of Fun?

-Did you feel a sense of achievement?

-How were you recognised for your achievements?

-Would you like to take a lesson or ride with that person again?

The answers varied from person to person and really highlighted the need to identify each individual’s personal preferences when it comes to Safety, Fun and Achievement.

As we got to the end of the workshop Tony introduced Nicholls Achievement Goal Theory from 1984. This looks at where motivations come from and how success is measured? Is it Intrinsic (Mastery of a task, more personal) or is it Extrinsic (Ego driven, striving to be better than someone else). Again this being essential for us as instructors to understand so we can create and maintain a motivational climate and adjust out teaching to understand and connect more with our students to tailor a lesson to create a more positive experience.

Jonsey talked to the group about kids being a big part of NZ snowsports industry.  Local schools, holiday programmes, overseas and internal visitors and how this can often determine where a family will spend their vacation.  We explained some ideas we are working with and trying to come away from the feeling that the kids are in a school style lesson and giving the feeling of delaying the “Lesson” and working on skills and drills to achieve tasks as opposed to set progressions.  We also explained that Snowsports NZ have been working alongside NZSIA/SBINZ and have created a pathway of development and achievement through The Fundamentals program to Attract and Develop the students from the basics of Snowsports all the way through to competitions and maybe one day the Olympics.   This was met with lots of positivity and interest.

Words and images by Tony Macri and Rhys Jones