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“Instructors can tell you that one thing that will make your trip better that has nothing to do with your skiing.” – Robin Barnes


Barnes, who also runs the snowsports school at Ski Portillo, Chile,


said she’s constantly reminded of how huge her South American Mecca skis, “even though it looks like a small place on a map.” Tapping into Portillo’s breadth of terrain is often one of the extra benefits in the classes her “profesores” teach. As is even more insider knowledge, like when you might get a glimpse of one of the many famous visiting international ski racers hitting the hotel gym to spin on an exercise bike. As for actually marketing local flavor, Portillo does offer theme


weeks throughout the season, including a Chilean Wine Week when guests can take a sipping tour of some of the region’s finest vineyards as they dine. Barnes says such weeks are specifically designed for North American clientele, which typically includes “some pretty solid skiers,” and from piste to pub, helps to inspire more compre- hensive cultural immersion. But she said the biggest single influence an instructor can have on


a student’s experience stems from the fact that they simply spend more time with guests than any other employee on the mountain. “An instructor learns more about who you are, including what you like, and what you don’t,” she said. “Instructors can tell you that one thing that will make your trip better that has nothing to do with your skiing.”


than just ideas about how to improve their skiing. And since Mad River doesn’t own restaurants or lodging, guests do get pitch-free recommenda- tions about where to eat and stay in the Mad River Valley. Since many of the proprietors are passholders, students may even be encouraged to ask for the owner by name. The school also offers a midweek Mountain Experience Class, “which is really a kind of tour of the mountain, and often involves meeting for drinks afterwards, or going out for dinner,” Friedman adds. “And our instructors will always ask their students what they hope to get out of a class, which leads to lots of conversations about more than just skiing.” Sharing local knowledge can be a key ingredient with regard to


Vermont’s Stratton Mountain Resort embraces a “Guest is the Best” approach for instructor training.


the People Skills corner of PSIA-AASI’s Learning Connection. One area that fully embraces that concept is nearby Stratton Mountain Resort, which introduced a “Guest is the Best” clinic to instructor training sessions this season.It not only lets new instructors know they are joining “an exclusive club,” teaching at a mountain that has welcomed the Kennedys and been home to Jake Burton Carpenter and the birth of snowboarding, it also invites them to enjoy – and share – the good time they themselves are having. “Through our guest service training, we try to emphasize that


local knowledge is really important. People want to know the legends, and the deep history of the area,” said new-hire training director Mike Racz, a 40-year PSIA-AASI member who jokes that he’s like a Vermont black bear, with a 12-mile range from Stratton. “I am sure every resort feels the same way about their mountain.”


Spot-on restaurant recommendations are one example of the sort of local knowledge that guests “eat up.”


THERE ARE INFINITE CHOICES FOR THAT ‘ONE THING’ That “one thing” can include everything from the best boot-fitting shop to the go-to entrée at a local restaurant, as well as what other activities guests can enjoy if they’re not skiing or riding every day. And, for sure, it can be that big bit of info every instructor would like to share with their students – where to get the best rental equipment. “If it’s an all-day lesson, I’ll write all the restaurants I think they


would like on the back of a card. If the student is having a boot issue, I’ll write what I’m seeing,” Barnes said. “When it comes to rental stuff, just having an instructor point you to a shop that’s reputable can make all the difference. I think guests should expect us to share that kind of information.” Eric Friedman, marketing director at Vermont’s Mad River Glen,


agrees. He said, “It’s what we call customer service.” Of course, when you have some of the most renowned expert


terrain in North America, a legendary old-school vibe, and a well- respected ski school, students expect their lessons to include more


32 | 32 DEGREES • SPRING 2019


WHERE ‘SECRET STASHES’ AREN’T SO SECRET At Sugarbush Resort, Public Relations Manager John Bleh said they market clinics with U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame member John Egan (who was inducted into the 2016 class with his brother Dan), based on his insight into the town, community, and mountain. “John said he believes it should be the focus of their time together


as it helps put the client at ease and leave them more open to learn how to improve,” said Bleh. Meanwhile, Smugglers’ Notch may have gone the furthest in the Green Mountain State in pairing a sense of community with


“Whether kids or adults, everyone deserves to ski or ride the hill like a local,” says Mike Chait, of Smugglers’ Notch.


SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH SMUGGLERS’ NOTCH


HUBERT SCHRIEBL/ STRATTON MOUNTAIN RESORT


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