SNOWSPORTS WESTENDORF, ONE YEAR LATER
After 30 Years of service, Austrian Andreas Aschaber thought it was time to pass on the torch in 2019. Two Dutchmen, Danny Kater and Stefan Aalders, who also owns Snowsports Nederland, saw their chance to realize their dream: opening a ski school!
To ensure a smooth transition of administration and organization they kept Andreas as chief of the school and took Laurens Van Calster on board as Manager of their project. They had an idea with unique selling points. 100% dutch courses, best price in Westendorf, and an all-in-one concept. Lessons, rentals, a small shop… 1 stop to get it all.
Laurens was prepared to share his experience of this first year and talk about the future.
When did you guys start?
We arrived end of October 2019 in Westendorf to organize the start-up phase. The official opening was on December 7th. Normally the season would run until April 13th. Bud due to the Coronavirus we were forced to end the season on March 15th
When did the season really get going?
The tourist season started in the first week of the Christmas holiday. Before this time there where mostly locals and short ski visitors.
Which was the absolute top week for you guys?
Christmas and Carnival from the Dutch and Belgians.
How many instructors do you have on a permanent basis and how many during high season?
We work with 8 to 10 instructors on a permanent base and during school holidays we have 20 up to 25.
In how many languages do you offer de lessons?
All our instructors have Dutch as their native language but are also speaking German and English. Some of them even speak French or Spanish.
What was the biggest target group of Snowsports Westendorf?
For a clear view, we need to split it into two: school holidays and the low season.
During the low season, we offer only private and group lessons for adults. We always had 3 groups and the rest was giving private classes. In times of holiday we added group and private courses to our program. If you like numbers … I would say Christmas we had 60 children and at carnival 80. In percentage, it would be 45% group lesson adults, 45% group lesson children, and 10% private lessons.
You offer an all-in concept, how should I imagine your rental park?
We offer a wide range of Fischer and Head products. It is divided into three groups. Bronze, silver, and gold which matches with the level ski lessons. In total, we have around 600 pairs of skis and snowboard, which allows us to serve weekly 600 customers smoothly.
Did the first season live up to expectations?
For sure! We never expected to get a team of 25 fully booked in the first year. Of course, we could never accomplish this without the efforts of the entire team. Instructors, interns, Belgian, Austrian and Dutch partners. Obviously, there were ups and downs the team always made the best out of it.
How was the atmosphere within the team?
The foundation of happy customers all starts with the selection of our own staff. Because Stefan also has the Certified instructor school ”Snowsports Nederland” we can select our members straight from the school banks. We think it’s very important to leave the team members in their comfort zone and respect their preferences. One prefers to teach children, the other one less so… We truly believe a happy employee creates a happy customer. At the end of the day, we all go for a beer or a bite as one big happy family.
Did the Coronavirus had a huge influence on your season-ending.
Absolutely, it shortened the season with one month. It is a significant turnover that we could certainly use in the first year. Bud beside that…end of the season is also the time where friendships are made. Instructors have more time to do stuff together and we miss the party week in Westendorf.
Will this have consequences for next year?
For the moment I think we are still safe. I expect that people will not be able to go on summer holiday. Some people will have something extra to spend during winter, for others, it may be not possible to go. So I think this will keep the consumer’s behavior balanced.
What are the goals for next year? Grow, expansion…
The target is to keep the same flow and curve similar to this year. Besides expansion, we also want to improve the quality of the activities we offer. We know there is enough improvement possible. For group lessons, there are a lot of possibilities. A daily theme, ski show, nice lunch activities. For the moment we are also checking the possibility to get our own magic carpet lift and snow scooter to improve the practice area. In December 2019 we already expanded the rental service and build a 3-unit container house, we would like to extend that even a bit further. In other words, a lot to do!
Are there things you want to do differently next year?
Of course. We want to expand the kiddy land. We noticed that it is was just big enough for the past season. The extension will include the magic carpet and a new storage room. Of course, there will be some small adjustments, but the foundation is good. With Danny, Stefan, and myself there is plenty of experience to get this thing running.
Summer activities, is this something that gets on your minds?
At the moment we rent out a few apartments in Westendorf, one of which has a sauna. Next to this, we are investigating what the needs for summer tourism are in Brixental. But it’s nothing real yet, the corona stress isn’t helping in this case.
It’s a known secret that locals are not always hospitable to foreign entrepreneurs. How do you experience this?
In many cases, it all starts with yourselves. If you’re friendly, honest, open to the community, and integrate well, it should work just fine. We have good cooperation with de Bergbahnen, local restaurants, and other ski schools.