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The NSAA National Convention and Tradeshow drew a total of 880 ski industry operators and suppliers to the Fairmont Princess Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., May 5-7. The focus this year was clearly on developing and retaining new skiers and riders, a fitting aim for soon-to-retire NSAA president Michael Berry’s final act.

Berry, who championed the Growth Model and has elevated new skier and rider development to top of mind for the past 15 years, devoted his final keynote to the topic. And this was the theme for several well-attended sessions throughout the convention. Discussions on outreach and partnership programs expanded on the usual learn-to and strategy topics.

Data—what it shows about the state of the industry, how to use it, and why more resorts should contribute to it—was another frequent topic. RRC’s Rob Linde, David Belin, and Nate Fristoe chronicled this past season and urged greater participation by resorts, as more complete data serves all resorts better. Linde outlined the results of the beginner conversion study, Belin delved into the Kottke end-of-season survey, and Fristoe reviewed NSAA’s various research projects, from the demographic survey to the Economic Analysis. This last session emphasized that the industry already has a greater store of data than most, while pointing out the benefits of broader participation.

Data from the Beginner Conversion Study showed that conversion is up a tick to 18 percent this year at participating resorts. The panel for this session discussed a variety of strategies—and challenges—that affect the guest experience, and ultimately conversion. PSIA/AASI CEO Nick Herrin stressed the importance of refining the entire experience, not just what happens on snow: “Education starts in the parking lot, it doesn’t start with meeting your instructor,” said Herrin. Tyler Fairbank recommended everyone become a beginner at something in order to experience what our guests do, and that will help mold decisions. The rental shop experience was a major topic, and one that both Killington president Mike Solimano and A-Basin snowsports director Gates Lloyd said needed some tweaks at their respective resorts, but progress is being made.

The political climate was on everyone’s radar, and uncertainty about the new administration has left a number of questions unanswered about how it will all affect the ski industry, including deregulation and changes to work visas.

NSAA president Michael Berry said in his keynote address that the negative rhetoric from the Trump administration is negatively affecting tourism, and it needs to stop. Berry also suggested major changes should be considered in how PSIA/AASI operates, and how the organization works with resorts.

Saturday’s keynote speaker Geoff Colvin summarized the political landscape before encouraging attendees to innovate and “eliminate friction” in their business model. “If you’re going to win, you can’t be doing the same things everyone else is doing,” said Colvin—a common theme in the ski industry.

A large number of new suppliers peppered the tradeshow, which drew large crowds throughout the weekend. From hardware to software and services, the tradeshow proved once again that innovation and creativity are alive in winter sports.

Here’s a look at how it all went down:

For more photos from the NSAA Convention, check out Dave Gibson's Facebook gallery here.