Thursday, January 15, 2015

From Apple to Aspen

Joe Nevin skiing at Buttermilk
When a former Apple executive launches a ski business, he naturally brings some forward-thinking research and technology with him.

Joe Nevin, founder of BUMPS FOR BOOMERS ®, first defined his target market back in 2003, deciding to focus on baby boomers (now 50-68 age range) due to sheer numbers. “In 1962 there were four million skier days in the USA. Currently there are approximately 60 million skier days,” he says. “That growth was fueled entirely by the boomer demographic. These are folks who started skiing when they were young, got married and introduced their families to skiing and now the children of their children are being introduced to the sport. Skiing has become a family theme full of great memories and boomers want to continue skiing into their later years and continue to make memories with their family members.”

Nevin teaching a BUMPS FOR BOOMERS class
As those boomer parents become empty nesters, Nevin sees even more of an opportunity: “As family members leave the nest, boomers now have more free time to spend on the sport that they love - but also on continuing family holidays with the extended family. But the challenge is that metaphorically boomers are physically starting to ‘circle the drain’ with undesirable metrics going up - increased weight, higher blood pressure, increased fatigue, more anxiety about possible injury, joint discomfort, etc. - and undesirable metrics going down - eyesight declining, less muscle mass, lower bone density, slowing reflexes, etc. It is a battle of how to ski better versus the realities that come with age. Boomers clearly understand these dynamics and are looking for solutions that enable them to safely ski into their later years.” That is where BUMPS FOR BOOMERS becomes very relevant.  "It turns out the skills required to ski moguls are the exact same set of skills required for skiing longevity: Better Balance, More Control and Smart Tactics,” Nevin elaborates. 

He first taught skiing at Alpine Meadows, while working in California for Apple. On retirement in 2003 he moved to Aspen where he set up his unique three and four day clinics backed by the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen:I worked for Apple for 12 years where the DNA is all about making complexity simple so what I started with was integrating short boards with teaching progressions.”

Choosing Aspen was also key: it is one of the most luxurious ski resorts in the world. Outside the BUMPS FOR BOOMERS offices, the sidewalk has underground heating, so no one has to negotiate icy patches in their slippery ski boots. There is a ski valet just up the stairs by the lift station and a kiosk dispensing free coffee nearby. On the slopes there are complementary, ski-in cider and water bars. And the on-mountain lodges feature in-house masseurs along with all the typical cold-weather comfort food.

Having established his market, his resort and his product, Nevin then turned his attention to marketing, choosing the Internet as his vehicle. With his Apple background, he believes firmly in the distribution of free content. “We offer free mogul and powder skiing tips specifically designed for boomer skiers,” he explains. “Uniquely, these techniques emphasize controlled skiing, increased efficiency, less fatigue and do not require fast reflexes. These are techniques that will enable boomer skiers to keep up with their grandchildren who want to ski more exciting terrain than boring old groomed runs.” As 80 percent of skiers congregate on the groomed runs, collision – and therefore injury - potential is actually higher than skiing in the off-piste areas.

Other freebies include two ski fitness videos to ensure optimum physical readiness for skiing and help reduce the chance of injury. There is also a Mogul Techniques Learning Center on the website as well as testimonials from participants. After registering for a BUMPS FOR BOOMERS course, Nevin sends prospective pupils free mogul and powder skiing tips by email to give a head start on the learning process.

In the world of instantaneous communication, Nevin is at the forefront of social networking as a tool for business promotion, using blogs, video, website, Facebook, You Tube and Twitter to disperse information about his innovative techniques. Right from the get-go, Nevin knew that social networking was the modern-day “word of mouth” needed to heighten awareness about his company. His marketing efforts have been reinforced by Virginia-based BCF, a brand communications firm that specializes in marketing products and experiences to baby boomers.

Nevin speaks knowledgeably on subjects such as search engine optimization, database management and anchor texting. He has even produced a summary of how he uses technology for marketing. And he’s also media savvy, having hosted a large number of journalists to take part in the program. He finds topnotch accommodation adjacent to the BUMPS FOR BOOMERS meeting place for them, wines and dines them at Aspen’s finest eateries, furnishes everything needed for a positive story and involves them in the propagation of his philosophy. He has an extensive media room accessible via the website. His greatest success came when an article on BUMPS FOR BOOMERS was published in the New York Times. He saw an immediate spike in website hits having tracked the response through Google, which resulted in an increase in business.

When approached by media he works with the resort to arrange complementary accommodation and ski passes. “Then in advance of them coming, we’ll brief them on what we think are the key elements of the program. What’s new and different, interesting story angles, something of interest,” Nevin explains. “We have pre-arrival telephone conversations to find out their objectives, send out written material, encourage them to go to website to read about our techniques, demographics and the results of our customer service surveys.” He can also provide photos or help them with staging them during their stay. “We try to deliver things on a silver platter to make their job and role very successful.”

With its “Ski For Life” tagline, BUMPS FOR BOOMERS has become one of the most popular specialized instruction programs offered by the Aspen Skiing Company, with skiers flying in from around the country weekly, from the middle of December through March. The original clinics have been joined by a new MBA – Master of Bumps Academy featuring a different mountain for each of the three days of mogul ski lessons, enabling participants to experience the diverse delights of AspenHighlands, Snowmass and Aspen Mountain.


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