25 Years with Ski Independence

Nick November 14th, 2019

This year, our Ski Product Manager Nick is celebrating his 25th work anniversary with Ski Independence. As the 2019-20 ski season is kicking off, Nick has given us an insight as to how things looked 25 years ago.

“Back in August 1994 when I started with Ski Independence the world was a very, very different place.

Technology was minimal. There was no internet, no e-mail, no smart phones, iPhones or laptops. Google and Amazon wasn’t a thing. Travel was different. No Easyjet, no airline baggage charges, no Heathrow T5. Whistler and Blackcomb were separate resorts, there was no detachable quad chairlifts, and no Revelstoke. Ski technology was frankly awful. No twin-tips, no free-ride, no big air and no ski/boarder cross. On the whole, 7 night catered chalet packages with charter flights dominated the ski holiday scene.

How did we survive? How did we actually do business?

Information sources, communication methods and technology back in 1994 meant we had to do business in a very different way. Looking back now, it was an incredibly time-consuming process. We relied on travelling constantly to find out things for ourselves, getting out and talking to people face-to-face. Developing and nurturing relationships and learning the product first-hand was so important. Finding out about a ski resort in the USA and Canada required a transatlantic trip, and it worked both ways – we had a huge number of American and Canadian resort partners travel to see us in those first few years.

Back at the start, I was flying transatlantic at least 6 times a season and constantly looking at product, looking at accommodation and researching resorts. We had an atlas in the office to check where things were! How do you find out details about a hotel in a resort you’ve never been to? You had to track down their phone number, give them a call, and ask them to fax over rates and details, and then get them to post you some slides. All pictures for brochure production and advertising came as slides. Navigation on road trips was particularly sketchy. I remember travelling with a Michelin map to help me navigate across the Rockies – great for big scale stuff, but useless within a city. We just had to work it out.

Getting our brand out to the market back then was a whole different ball-game to what we do today. Back in 1994 we advertised our product via the national broadsheet newspapers and ski magazines – if you weren’t advertising constantly in the Sunday Times and the UK ski magazines then you weren’t getting the message out. We promoted the brand at ski shows through the autumn, with the London Ski Show being a whopping 10 day ski consumer event like no other.

In 1994 the brochure was the must-have collateral that clients and agents needed to make bookings – it contained pricing and a booking form, which we had to receive before a booking was confirmed. Clients used to post these with cheques attached…unreal! The brochure launch was an annual event we did in London, usually involving a restaurant full of journalists – always on 4th July, Independence Day.

Back in the office we had files and files of paper containing all of our bookings with everything stapled together. To search for a booking, you had to go to the filing cabinet. Now we have a paper-free office! We used the telephone way more than we do today – both to take inbound calls, but also to make bookings with hotels with everything backed up by fax. When I started we had a Telex machine to communicate to airlines – I can’t even remember what this did now.

Airline tickets were individual paper tickets with a coupon per flight sector and check-in was all done at the airport desk. The airline industry was pre 9/11 back then and the landscape was different – air taxes were as low as £26 transatlantic, Continental Airlines flew direct daily from Gatwick to Denver, with free seating and baggage. There was no premium economy cabin, several airlines were flying back then who are not here today

– Northwest Airlines and Canadian Airlines for example. Some things never change though –  the trusty Boeing 747 was flying back then and is still flying today.

Ski technology totally sucked back then – I skied on 207cm Dynastar Coupe du Monde Slalom skis back then – they look like XC skis now. There was zero side-cut – How we skied bumps and powder on those retro things I’ll never know. We now ski different skis for different conditions, but they’re predominantly shorter and fatter now – a bit like me.

How things have changed! I’m off to buy and check-in for my flight on my iPhone, order an Uber, sip my latte and check my e-mails, before flying out to Canada on a Boeing 787 in Premium Economy watching the latest Box set on my laptop, get myself up to Revelstoke, re-load my lift ticket on WiFi, ride the Revelation Gondola, clip into my Black Crows and rip some pow!

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