This was the very first lecture I went to at Interski! The speaker was Joe Hession, CEO of SNOW Operating; a company who provides Terrain Based Learning (TBL).

He presented an idea of what the future looks like using a slide of passenger in a fast driven car. It showed a clear image of the road in the rear mirror but was a little hazy when looking ahead.

Most of you will have heard of the generation called “Millennials”. Joe introduced us to a new generation after Millennials is the Generation “Z”. This is the technology native generation! A generation who is totally technology smart but also has a short attention span. How easy is it to learn something new using google or youtube? That’s the Gen Z!

Secondly, he introduced us to the four types of fun: Easy Fun, Hard Fun, People Fun and Serious Fun.
Easy Fun… This requires minimum skill but it’s easy to get bored.
Hard Fun… This requires a certain amount of skills and is long term usually.
People Fun… We all love hanging out with mates eh?
Serious Fun… I guess this is our job. We love skiing, we have good skills, this is our passion and our life!

Apparently, in USA 85% of first time skiers/snowboarders do not come back for a second time. Because snow sports require certain amount of skill to have fun, i.e. Hard Fun. Joe Hession came up with this idea of Terrain Based Learning, which is essentially a terrain park for beginners. It includes a lot of easy waves, a very gentle banked slalom and other terrain features to get beginners feeling movement on snow.

Joe has also started YouTube tutorials of How To Try Skiing. They explain how to go skiing from the very first time which is very useful for first time skier/snowboarder.

The reason behind is there are many people who don’t take lessons even though they have never tried skiing ever before. Joe’s analogy was “Would you buy parachute and go skydiving by yourself for the first time?”

A lot of people think that they can ski by themselves. Yes, they can, but the majority of people give up because it takes time to learn skills to have fun (Hard Fun).

So Joe’s concept is to give them self learning materials. Even free ski lessons in a station teaching format.

I absolutely agree with technology side of it. We need to adapt our approaches to the new generation.
We need to learn about technology to be able to use it as a strong tool in our teaching.

Places like Japan and New Zealand, where I have been skiing, have a natural environment which might be a challenge for Terrain Based Learning and YouTube Tutorials watched on smart phones.

I don’t need to explain how much it snows in Japan do I? Or in NZ, when lifts are about to be placed on hold but beginner terrain is still open (which happens quite often), the weather is typically pretty challenging. I don’t wanna pull my phone out and watch youtube tutorials really in these conditions.

My last question; where does that money come from?

The money to improve the resort for Easy Fun, when we still need the Hard Fun environment at the same time. One of the main reasons people are not taking lessons is the cost. Lessons can be expensive!

The nature of business is that if you invest more the end cost typically increases. An increase in lift pass pricing could potentially push more people away from ski resorts.

I am still skiing even though I clearly remember that I didn’t take a ski lesson for my first time on snow, simply because the lesson was too expensive.

There are always some people who come back skiing even though they suffered a little during their first time. I believe there is some part of the Hard Fun of skiing that attracts people, but that’s not the same for everyone. Reasons differ from person to person but maybe finding that uncertain fascination of snow sports is the way to go forward?

Lastly, what I liked the most about Joe’s presentation was that first slide of the rear mirror in the car. The past is very clear but the future is always hazy. However, if we hold onto the past and are afraid to adapt to a hazy future, there won’t be any improvements for the future and we won’t be able to move forward.

My biggest takeaway is to be bold and keep moving forward to the hazy future.

– By Yusuke Inoue