STRATTON :: HIGH TOUCH
Stratton uses a combination of efficient layout and personal attention to provide a more upscale and service-oriented rental experience. To avoid bottlenecks, Stratton emphasizes advance online reservations and employs a square layout that rotates guests through the shop, with lots of assistance for those who need it, and an expedited routine for repeat customers and those with reservations.
Stratton also houses skis and snowboards separately; the latter are part of its 900-square-foot Burton Experience center at the base of the gondola, along with helmets, some performance gear, and a little retail. It stocks 200 junior and 450 adult boards.
At the Experience, riders enter and hit the electronic sign-in station. After paying, they get their boots and then boards. The boards are Burton LTR and Progression, all with preset angles. “So it’s pretty much sizing up by height,” says rental manager Wes Huck.
Bootfitting gets a lot of attention. “We show how to lace and unlace. Some of the explanation is via poster, but mostly, it’s done by the techs,” Huck says. As many as four techs work the Center, and snowboard instructors are right there to help. “The concept with Burton is, we’re teaching them how to be a snowboarder,” he adds.
The Alpine shop is cleverly conceived. Perhaps most unusual is the dispatch system for the Head BYS skis. “We have wooden [storage] boxes on wheels, and put them in courtyard to hand out skis,” Huck says. That puts the gear close to the slopes, making transport easy.
Outdoor dispatch also makes it easy for newcomers to find the rental shop. For many, this is their first contact with the rental staff, who can help direct them to the right place: out to the gondola for snowboard rental, or into the Alpine shop. “We also ask how and if they have registered, and we can direct them to the appropriate line,” Huck says.
It’s easy for staff, too. Stratton stocks the Head BYS system and pre-sets the DIN. When a rental form comes to the techs outside, they just check the form and hand the appropriate pre-set skis to the customer. Resort hosts assist with the ski dispatch in the courtyard to ease the task. “BYS has been great, it speeds up the process. It takes less time to rent than to buy a lift ticket,” Huck notes.
The indoor process is similar to other shops, though there’s more staff to lend assistance. Guests enter at one end, boots are at other end with try-on and storage areas. They sign in electronically and provide size information. Stratton encourages renters to make reservations and pay ahead of time on its website; if not, guests proceed to the cashier. A traffic controller stationed in the middle of the shop helps direct guests to their next stop.
Those who have pre-registered go into a different line upon entering. Guests who have paid online may have brought a voucher or a printout. If so, they move right through to boot selection. If not, Stratton has multiple backups; staff can find the reservation easily enough. “It’s a lot easier than the old days,” Huck says.
At the boot dispatch, techs hand boots out for guests to try on. If the size isn’t right, they see a tech for assistance. Once they are set, they head outside to grab their skis and poles.
There are a few exceptions. Kids gear is dispatched inside, along with skis for those who have their own boots or rent high performance skis, since those must be adjusted. “We have 200 sets of high performance skis, plus kids (twintips), and snowboards. We have three levels: sport, performance, and premier,” Huck notes.
All these steps are guided by greeters. A staffer meets renters as they enter. Three staff work with those who have pre-booked, and also handle overnight storage (which the shop offers to all renters). There are up to five cashiers to greet and guide walk-ins, four to six boot techs, and four to six techs to hand out skis.
That personal attention extends to every employee in the shop. “At end of each station, the last thing we tell guests is where they go next,” Huck says.
“Whether there’s a line or not, renters want to be comfortable, they want to know that people are there to help them. The lack of walls helps guests feel oriented, and makes it easy to get everything. Even when there are lines, people are content if they know where they have to go. When they don’t know, they struggle, they get concerned.”
All told, Stratton stocks 1,600 pairs of skis, including high performance and kids, and helmets—all packages include them. In addition to the kids’ rentals in the Alpine shop, Stratton has 150-200 sets for kids in the all-day Little Cub/Big Cub ski school program.
With that much gear in a compact space, Stratton eases the morning rush by inviting guests to come in during the afternoon before their rental begins, between 3 and 6 p.m., and pre-registered renters can pick up their gear as well.
The goal for all this is to create a positively memorable experience. “We want them comfortable, and to say, ‘wow, that’s not how I remember rental,’” Huck says.