In The Spotlight
Thanks to the popularity of rating sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor, every retailer, restaurant and service provider in America is subject to appraisal by its customers. On the whole, this phenomenon is a positive development, even if human nature is such that many folks are more likely to rant about a negative experience than extol an exceptional one.
Even the best operation will occasionally fumble the service ball. Recently, a spate of mountain-out-of-molehill incidents that triggered a chorus of carping inspired one of my co-workers to lament, "I wish we had a way to rate our customers."
While I don't expect this insight to cause savvy venture capitalists to commit billions to its implementation, the comment from my beleaguered colleague made me think, "If I could conceive the ideal, five-star customer for ski gear, what would he or she be like?"
I can sum up the answer in one word: "prepared." (One of the Secrets to Life is that it never hurts to be prepared.) But this begs the question, what does good preparation look like?
Let's suppose you're looking for new skis and boots. Everyone with advice worth following will tell you to first focus on boots, so let's do the same here.
The first principle of boot buying is, "Don't look for a boot; look for a bootfitter." This doesn't mean that there's no value in reading up on the current boot market, only that you can't make a decision based solely on what you read, no matter how credible the source.
Accurate bootfitting that puts skiers in a comfortable, balanced position is an art that can't be practiced long distance. This is another way of saying, don't even think about buying ski boots online. You need to find a shop with which you can have a lasting relationship, not just for boot selection and fitting, but for all the other services skiing requires.
If you want to earn a 5-star rating from your bootfitter, here are 5 tips to help the bootfitting process:
- Bring thin ski socks or offer to buy a pair.
- Wear loose pants that can be rolled up, or shorts.
- Bring your old boots or a picture of same, if possible.
- Have some idea what flex index might be right for you.
- Bring patience, an open mind and a sense of humor to the proceedings.
On the flip side, here are three sure ways to lose a star or two:
- Ask to try on every boot in the store that's in or near your size.
- Grossly exaggerate your ability. It doesn't help your cause.
- Go through the fit process, then announce you'll think about it.
- Repeatedly overrule advice from experts trying to help you.
Once you're in the hands of an experienced bootfitter, all you really have to do to be considered a first-class customer is be open to suggestion, responsive when asked for feedback and decisive when need be.
When it's time to talk about skis, preferred customers prepare by:
- Knowing what skis they own, and which they plan to keep.
- Objectively self-assessing their ability, style and terrain preferences.
- Learning about the various ski categories and narrowing the choices down to no more than two.
- Reading ski reviews and brand profiles to see which models sound like the best fit for their style.
- Cutting the list of models they want to demo down to three.
To maintain a high ski-buyer rating, avoid:
- Steering the conversation off topic.
- Prolonged dithering.
- Insisting on ill-founded advice from an "expert."
In a perfect world, all specialty ski shops would merit a 5-star rating, as would all who patronize them. Alas, nobody's perfect. I confess to bungling a service assignment just last week and I'll probably commit another gaffe or two before season's end.
But it's never for lack of trying. At the end of the day, that's all we can ask of either side of the customer/shop equation, to do the best we can while working collaboratively towards a happy ending.
Skiers and snowboarders will once again be able to snack, sip and ski their way through Vermont’s favorite local food and drink vendors this year with the return of Ski Vermont’s Specialty Food Days Tour. This slope side tour will kick off Jan. 26 at Jay Peak, visiting fifteen resorts over the course of ten weeks.
“The Ski Vermont Specialty Food Days Tour is something that we look forward to hosting each season,” said Adam Rowe, Ski Vermont Marketing Manager. “This tour gives us the opportunity to promote some of Vermont’s incredible vendors all while visiting slope side with skiers and snowboarders.”
During the tour, Ski Vermont will run an Instagram contest where the first five people at each Specialty Food Tour stop to share a picture with the #SnackSkiVT hashtag will receive a Cabot Cheese tote bag filled with vendor and Ski Vermont products. Follow Ski Vermont on Instagram at @Ski_VT during the Specialty Food Days tour to share images and stay up to date with each tour stop’s offerings.
New this season, Ski Vermont has added Vermont Amber Organic Toffee, Good Mix Foods, The Simmering Bone, Vermont Tortilla Company, SAP!, and Fat Toad Farm to the lineup. Other vendors include iconic Vermont brands Ben and Jerry’s, Long Trail, Cabot Cheese, Woodchuck Hard Cider, Barr Hill, Mad River Distillers, SILO Distillery, Kimball Brook Farm, It’s Arthurs Fault!, Ambrosia Confections and Mountain Grove Coffee.
The Ski Vermont Specialty Food Days Tour stops for 2018 are:
Friday, January 26, 2018 at Jay Peak Resort
Saturday, January 27, 2018 at Burke Mountain
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at Mad River Glen
Saturday, February 10, 2018 at Killington Resort
Friday, February 11, 2018 at Pico Mountain
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Friday, February 23, 2018 at Okemo Mountain Resort
Saturday, February 24, 2018 at Bromley Mountain Resort
Saturday, March 3, 2018 at Middlebury Snow Bowl
Sunday, March 4, 2018 at Magic Mountain
Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Quechee Ski Area
Saturday, March 17, 2018 at Sugarbush Resort
Sunday, March 18, 2018 at Bolton Valley
Saturday, March 24, 2018 at Stratton Mountain Resort
Saturday, March 31, 2018 at Stowe Mountain Resort
Spirit Mountain overlooking Duluth and the city’s Lake Superior harbor offers big time skiing and riding for the Midwest with it 700-foot vertical drop.
Its terrain parks feature some of the biggest jump lines in the Heartland, and nighttime views of twinkling city lights far below outlining the harbor and I-35 winding up the mountain as it leaves the city are some of the best you’ll find in the Lower 48. Add in fat tire bike Sundays, the Alpine Coaster and tubing park and you may find it hard to figure out what to do first. Spend a weekend and try it all. Outdoor Magazine named Duluth one of the best outdoor cities in America.
Trails.Spirit offers 22 trails, equally split between beginner, intermediate and advanced, three terrain parks, serviced by five chairlifts, one a high-speed quad, and two surface tows. The trails, mostly wide boulevards, offer long runs with sustained steepness due to the 700 feet drop. Timber Cruiser is a fun, narrow intermediate trail that tumbles down the mountain. Sundays offer lift-served fat tire bikers an opportunity to test some of the slopes and trails. The terrain parks offer some of the best jump lines and features around the Midwest. Big air jumps range from 15 to 60 feet high. There’s also a 22km cross country trail.
Stay. The Mountain Villas are within walking distance of the slopes. Built on pedestals, you climb up to the round villas, which offer comfortable accommodations and panoramic views of the city and harbor, especially at night. You receive one free lift ticket per villa for each day stay and a discount on additional tickets as well as a $6 discount on rental equipment. There are several lodging partner motels listed on the Spirit Mountain lodging page.
Eat. A restaurant and bar is located in the Main Chalet on top of the Mountain, and the Grand Avenue Chalet with Riverside Bar and Grill at the bottom. There is a couple of “don’t miss” options in the city. The Duluth Grill, located in the harbor area, is well known for its Red Flannel Hash, lamb shanks and banana cream pie. If you like BBQ the OMC Steakhouse, Old Town Duluth, is known for its brisket.
Deals. A 2018 mid-week special; lift tickets are half-off when staying with a lodging partner and rentals are $10 off.
Ever have a friend with whom you’d love to hit slopes, but he or she has never skied or ridden before? If so, the annual Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month may just be the ticket.
A national effort to get more newcomers onto the mountains of the United States, month-long discounts for lessons, rentals, lift tickets – and sometimes more – are in play for anyone who has never put on a pair of skis or latched into a ‘board.
Here’s a look at a sampling of offers at West Coast resorts:
North of Lake Tahoe, Alpine Meadows offers first-time packages Monday-Friday through Jan. 29 for anyone 13 or older. Includes beginner lift ticket with priority access, rentals and lessons.
At neighboring Squaw Valley, the Teaching Tykes program focuses on giving parents of kids 3-6 some skills on how to get their children going in skiing or snowboarding.
Just west of Donner Pass, newbies age 4 and up can pre-register online for Boreal Mountain’s three days of half-day lessons. On the fourth visit, the California resort throws in a pass for the rest of the 2018 season – plus a discounted rate for Woodward Tahoe.
Situated between Reno and the lake, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe has first-timer packages for those 10 and older, with lessons in both morning and afternoon.
SoCal’s Mountain High – the closest skiing and riding to the L.A. basin – focuses on midweek lessons, offering a two-for-one half-day package online (holiday blackouts apply) with lesson, rental and lift access on the dame day for two people, ages 13 or older.
In the hills above Fresno, China Peak extends Learn To Ski And Snowboard Month into the rest of the season. After completed a three-day package (for a single price), graduates get half-off lift tickets, half-price rentals and free group lessons through the rest of the season.
Up in Alaska at Alyeska Resort, the ski and snowboard school has a three-lesson program at a deep discount for those new to the sport. Skiers must be at least 6 years old, snowboarders 8 or older, and package applies to same participant only.