What Golf Can Learn From The Ski Industry

Should we look at the ski industry?

Despite many being impacted by the harsh winter weather and resulting flight delays, the golf industry who’s who met in San Antonio last week. In addition to the typical networking activities, golf outing and other affairs, much information about the state of the golf industry and a variety of solutions were presented in some of the education sessions.

Among the most interesting sessions was one including a presentation by Michael Berry, President of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). The ski industry has strived to “make it easier, not harder” which to some degree contrasts with golf, where toughening up courses during most renovations seems to be the norm. Accordingly, skiing has seen revenue growth from $4.5 billion to $7.5 billion, since 2001 correlating to revenue growth per skier visit from $59.63 to $90.46 over the same period. Certainly, this is more impressive than the golf industry’s flat/declining numbers over the same period.

Why is skiing outperforming golf?

First of all, skiing presents a great family dynamic, which means that the whole family (3, 4 or 5 skiers) participate instead of 1 or 2 golfers. Skiing, despite the golf industry’s efforts has done a great job of implementing “Learn To” and “Bring a Friend” programs that have languished in the golf space. Golf is too difficult, too slow and takes too much time. Additionally, to new golfers, the game is intimidating, and at many clubs there is little to no effort to counter that perception, in fact sometimes just the opposite.

The ski industry, despite its short season in most US locations is inherently a much more efficient use of real estate assets. Even the smallest ski areas of a couple hundred acres (similar to a golf course) can accommodate several thousand skier visits in a day compared to the typical 150-200 acre golf course which can rarely handle 300 players. Skiing has standardized its ability levels while from one golf course to the next, most players don’t know which tee markers might be best for them.

There is much we can learn from the ski industry. They’re growing and we’re not.