A Lesson from the Ski Resort Industry Any Business Can Apply

We all have periods of time when business feels slow and we’re not feeling great about the prospects for growth even in the busiest and best-run businesses.

Imagine though if you ran a business where the entire business itself was facing the possibility of dying off. Maybe not this year, maybe not next, but it sure seemed to be heading that way. Certainly, if you just continue to operate business as usual you will soon be out of business. So, what do you do?

This is the situation the ski resort industry is in and for the basic reason that there are fewer and fewer snow days overall. Yes, some years are still good but the overall trend is less snow and even fewer days cold enough to be able to make snow.

This is bad news for an industry that relies on snow to have a business at all and has huge fixed costs and investments in this they can’t easily change – the lifts, lodges, leases of land, and whole staffs of seasonal and year-round workers who rely on the resort for their living.

But as it turns out the ski resort industry has actually done a pretty good job of changing things to help themselves not only stay in business but grow.

The single biggest change is selling ski passes to the point where now on some mountains 75% of the people there have an annual pass instead of a day pass. The benefit to the resort operators is they collect the money before the season even starts and they are not giving up revenue if there are fewer snow days that year.

Skiers and snowboarders are willing to put up with it because the passes let them visit lots of places for the price of a few days at just a single mountain and make it seem less painful if they don’t have a great day on any given day. After all, they can “ski as much as they want”.

Resorts are also working on more off-season activities, making better snow-making equipment, and joining forces with resort groups that have locations scattered around the world so hopefully they don’t all get hit with a bad snow year at the same time.

Of course, this won’t save them forever but it has given them a much longer lease on life than they might have otherwise had. And I don’t doubt they are still working on even more ideas to help fend off the inevitable changes global warming is bringing with it. 

If someone can invent a true artificial snow – a cost-effective material that feels like snow but never melts and doesn’t get damaged by being run over by skis and snowboards then they’d really have something. You could ski year-round and never have to worry about the weather. Until that day though I expect they’ll keep coming up with other ways to keep as many resorts running as possible.

What if you aren’t a ski resort though and you’re not quite facing an existential threat?

Well, there’s still something any business can do that may unlock more value, more customers, and more profit without costing hardly anything to implement.

The first ever multi-mountain ski pass, the Epic Pass, started at Vail Mountain and gave people the option to ski there or several other mountains, upending the normal way things were done where you bought a day pass each day at the mountain you happened to be at then.

The idea was just to look at the thing people were currently paying for and how they were paying for it and combine it into new options that may better meet their needs or offer more value or more options.

The way you can use it in your business is to do the same thing! Look at what customers are currently buying from you, how they pay for it, and what they are getting, and then brainstorm other ways you could offer than and more and other ways they could order or pay for these services.

Just start asking yourself questions and try not to shoot down ideas or limit how you think about them until you’ve really looked at each one from all angles.

  • What pain points do you solve for customers and what are left unsolved?
  • Is there a way to cut the price in half – what would you need to leave out?
  • Is there a way to justify doubling the price- what would it take?
  • Is there a way to turn it into a recurring service?
  • Is there a way to add a lot more perceived value without adding a lot (or any) more cost?
  • Is there a way to sort customers into groups and create offers that appeal to the different groups’ interests or needs?
  • And so on!

For example – suppose I had a florist business. My main problem would be I’d have a surge of demand around certain holidays – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. but I’d never know how much and I wouldn’t want to run out of stock but I also wouldn’t want to overstock. I also have a lot of downtime between holidays with not much demand.

But what if I also sold a flower pass? When someone comes in to buy a bouquet for a birthday or anniversary, instead of just buying the flowers for that one occasion, they can buy a Happy Life annual pass and give us the birthday, anniversary, and a few other special dates they’d want flowers sent, plus we could send a few “just because” arrangements and then they’d have a few “I messed up and need some now” credits for bouquets, gifts, chocolates, etc.

They could even hand-sign the cards on the spot for future events.

Then they don’t have to run in at the last minute on each occasion and try to get something fast – delivery is already guaranteed for each of those events and they don’t have to do any extra work. Plus they save on the cost of buying individually and the stress of remembering. You could pay for it upfront or even with a monthly subscription or a payment plan.

Of course not everyone will go for it, but I’ve got the opportunity to sell something that now guarantees me predictable revenue and I can plan for and it didn’t cost me anything extra to offer, I just had to invent another way to sell what I am already selling.

It’s something you can do with any business and if you come up with the right formula you can wind up doing very well. If you have some ideas that are a miss, well, the only cost was the time to make up the alternative in the first place, which was just some time and maybe a new web page!

Take a few minutes now and think about what you do and how you charge for it and see if you can come up with some alternate ways you could operate. Be creative. Let your ideas flow. At the end of it, take the most promising one and give it a try. 

If the ski industry can figure out how to make more money with less snow, you coming up with some different pricing and offers for your business that will work shouldn’t be any harder! 

Spread the word:

Similar Posts