What’s the best way to get newbies to take up skiing or riding? Mission Ridge, Wash., just might be onto something with its Freedom Pass.
Getting groms on snow is the future, so a ski area in central Washington asked itself what’s the best way to maximize the chance that newbies will return. Championed by ski school director Jodi Taggart, “we decided unlimited beginner lessons would be a breakthrough,” says Mission Ridge marketing director Tony Hickok. “There’s no rush or pressure or schedule. You decide.”
Often, it’s difficult to see beyond the good to the better. Or even to the great. Mission Ridge, outside of Wenatchee, Washington, cranked out new skiers through its Learn 2 Ski in 3 program at a nice clip. For $99, you got gear, lift access to the beginner area, and three lessons. “It went through the roof,” says Tony Hickok, Mission’s marketing director. An expected response could have been: Great work everyone. Let’s go skiing.
Not so much at Mission. “We looked at the participation and saw that people were signing up for it multiple times,” Hickok says. “It just didn’t feel like the answer.” So it was back to the conference-room white board.
The number three is sacred in the instruction world. Research shows that it takes three lessons for a skier to get good enough to want to return. Searching for a fresh angle, the Mission gang kept coming back to the idea that the three in the Learn 2 Ski in 3 might be a box to break out of. The turning point came two seasons ago when Josh Jorgensen, Mission’s 30-something GM, agreed to a staff suggestion of moving to unlimited lessons. The Freedom Pass was born.
Winner of last season’s National Ski Areas Association’s Conversion Cup, the Freedom Pass strategically breaks down the barriers to entry into skiing, offering gear, lift access, and unlimited instruction for about $160. “It takes the pressure off,” says Hickok. “You learn at your own pace.”
There are lots ways to measure effectiveness. Hickok has his own. “An indicator of the Freedom’s success is that the program has been at capacity for two years and we’ve done zero marketing,” says Mission’s marketing director. “I like that.”