Perfect weather and a strong turn out for World's Largest Lesson at Mount Hood Meadows.
Copyright: Mount Hood Meadows
2016 could be a record-breaking year for Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM)—World Record-breaking, in fact. Last month, the entire U.S. ski industry joined forces on January 8 in hopes of setting a new record for coordinated participation in a Learn to Ski or Snowboard lesson. Nearly 150 resorts from East to West outfitted aspiring skiers and riders with equipment and hit the hill at 10 a.m. (local time) for a synchronized attempt at the World's Largest Lesson.
“One of our goals was to motivate first-timers to learn how to ski or snowboard by taking a lesson and engaging with fellow participants,” said Mary Jo Tarallo, spokesperson for the National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. "We thought a fun event like this would serve as an ideal kick-off and a way for us to get everyone talking about ways to stay active during the winter months.”
New skiers grab a lesson at the base of Snowbasin.
Annually, Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month (LSSM) receives strong support from resorts and ski associaitions nationwide who offer steeply discounted (and sometimes free) packages, including rentals, lift tickets and a beginner lesson to encourage first-timers to try out a new winter sport. Combining that with a World Record attempt this season put a unique challenge to resorts and beginners who have hemmed and hawed about trying a new sport. They rose to the challenge, and their response likely has a new Guiness World Record (if not several) in the bag.
Hugh Reynolds—marketing director for SNOW Operating and former general manager at Mountain Creek—came up with the idea for the World’s Largest Lesson during his final season at Mountain Creek.
"Our waterpark participated in the World’s Largest Swim Lesson, and I thought this would be great to do for snow," said Reynolds. "Originally, we were going to try to set the record with only our SNOW Operating Terrain Based Learning Resorts, but our team felt it should be something the entire industry participates in, so I brought the idea to Mary Jo and Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month."
What goes into coordinating such a widespread event? "A lot of perseverance, dogged communication and help from the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), along with the state/regional resort associations," says Tarallo. "Folks from all aspects of the industry—suppliers, reps, retailers and media helped to support it. This year's event generated an enormous amount of publicity for skiing and snowboarding, and that was a major objective."
Wachusett had one of the biggest single-resort turnouts for World's Largest Lesson.
Copyright: Wachusett Mountain
In mid-January, LSSM announced that an estimated 6,000 first-timers were in attendance for a 10 a.m. lesson at participating resorts from Maine to Alaska. Exactly how that translates to a Guiness World Record is yet to be determined by the international organization. The current record for World’s Largest Ski Lesson is 594 skiers, set in 2008 by the Swiss Snowsport School. But there's a surprising amount of granularity that comes with determining fame and glory for LSSM this year.
"The Guinness people have very strict requirements," explains Tarallo. "We had to submit numbers according to time zones because the lessons all had to be given at the same time. Then we had to split them between ski and snowboard lessons. We hope to announce the final results at the NSAA national convention in May."
Even without knowing the official outcome from this year's event yet, LSSM is already planning the 2017 event, which might include some "friendly competition" with Canadian resorts. Stay tuned for news coming out of The National Ski Area’s Association National Tradeshow and Convention, which takes place May 18-21 in Nashville.
Here's what attendees and participating resorts had to say during the #largestskilesson on January 8.