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As One Vacation Door Closes a Bit, Other Doors Open By Bob Wilbanks, NSCN

For the last decade, we have heard ski industry sales people complain that the days of ski club business are numbered because of the advancing average age of ski club members. I submit to America’s ski clubs — and to the ski industry — that those comments express a “glass half empty” philosophy. Yes, America’s ski clubs are getting older and very gradually the numbers of members who still ski are getting smaller, but we have not quit taking vacations and now that more and more of us are retired, most of us vacation more than ever. That’s the glass is half full philosophy.

Many U.S. ski clubs are changing their names to ski and adventure club or ski and travel club and even those clubs that have not changed their name are taking more and more non-ski trips. Cruises, bike and barge trips, safaris to Africa, scuba trips to Australia or Belize are becoming common among America’s ski clubs. That change is creating the second stage of U.S. ski clubs. Our members are still active and like to vacation together. Most of our members still ski and those who don’t ski are still doing active things when they go on vacation, like snowshoeing and X-C skiing in the winter or bicycling during the summer.

I suppose stage three will be laying out on some beach or sitting in an expensive spa somewhere, but I don’t see too many ski clubs running those kind of trips at this time. Perhaps that day will come — but not yet. Ski resorts and tour operators shouldn’t count ski clubs out of the picture. We are changing, most of our kids are adults now, and some of us are retired — but we have not left the vacation scene. Resorts should cater to those changes if they want to keep ski clubs as profitable clients. Keep selling us ski trips — but include some less strenuous activities two or three days of the week. Start showing America’s ski clubs what’s at your resort during the summer and fall if you don’t do so already. Yes, we’re getting older and some of us can’t ski full speed six days a week. That spa might just look good to some members on Friday and riding snowmobiles on Wednesday is starting to look inviting, too.

Clubs and tour operators should pay more attention to non-ski trips; the Texas Ski Council is already spending more money on non-ski trips than ski trips — but they are still taking four large ski trips per year. It’s just that summer and fall are also looking good these days — largely because many members are now empty nesters, some are retired, and most have lots more time (and more money) to travel year-round. Ski clubs, ski resorts, and tour operators all need to recognize those facts and cater to the not so new older segment of the American ski club market, because that’s where the market is going folks.

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