Saturday, November 15, 2008
Let's Get Ready to Ski!
For whatever reason, it seems like it's been a long time since I've been on snow...
November has always been a bit nutty for me as it involves a great deal of preparation for the upcoming winter season. No matter who you are, if you're involved in the ski business, there's no getting around it - fall is a hectic time of the year! Back in the day...as an athlete, the month of November was busy fine-tuning the training plan so that your body and mind could deliver the results you were striving for. As a manager of Team X-C.com, it was much of the same, except that I wanted to make sure the team looked good doing it! These days, it a bit of the same story, but with a different twist-
As most of you know, after 7-years of managing X-C.com's Racing Team, I decided to dissolve the program last spring to focus strictly on the promotional/consulting side of my nordic business, and to give myself a bit more time to actually ski this winter (Even though I was on snow most days, I barely got a chance to actually ski last winter!). With November once again rolling around, and snow threatening to fall at any moment, I admit that I do miss the racing hype associated with the team. The pride of seeing my crew do so well over the past years, to feel part of the athletes' successes as they graduate to the National Team Program, to see them step onto the podium at Nationals or, of course seeing my star skier Ivan Babikov become a Canadian citizen (after 5 long years) - Regardless of the event, all of these moments make up a wealth of great memories that I will forever look back on. But it was time to move on...
So what exactly do I do now you ask?...Honestly, that's a very good question (because I often ask myself the same thing!).
In a nutshell, I'm a Nordic Specialist. I contract my services specifically to Salomon Canada to promote the nordic component of their business. Still a big vague? Let me explain...
Although the bulk of Salomon's business revolves around the Alpine industry, their nordic component is quite substantial, and with the addition of the nordic ski to their product line-up, it was important for the brand to associate itself with some key nordic identities - that's where I come in...If you're a skier, you know how technical our sport is - and I'm not talking simply about the technique aspect of our sport. Bottom line, you have to be a nordic skier to talk about the technicalities of our sport. I'm not an alpine guy. So if you asked me to talk about alpine skis, boots or bindings, I wouldn't know where to begin...same reasoning.
About 4 years ago, Salomon came out with nordic skis to complement their boot/binding business. As leaders in the nordic boot industry, it was an easy fit for them to continue their partnership with X-C.com (which had been for boots/bindings up until that point) and gain credibility for their new skis by having an elite team represent them on the domestic circuit. With skis now in the picture, I proposed to create a nation-wide Salomon Nordic Demo Tour which included the team's presence at 10 of Canada's most renowned ski marathons events - hence the Salomon Marathon Cup Series was created. Although the marathon program only lasted 3 years, it paved the way to developing the current Nordic Demo Tour that I continue to manage today - this is a great way to promote the product line by targeting nordic enthusiasts directly.
The other component of my work includes more consulting type work...Since Salomon produces alpine, snowboard and nordic equipment, footwear and apparel, most of their sales 'reps' sell a few combinations of each product line within their territory (If you're a racer chasing a sponsorship and only get voicemail, now you know why these guys are so busy!). Despite representing numerous (and ever changing) products, these reps can rattle off every single different specs for each one of their products - that's their job. My job, is to support these reps within their territory specifically on the nordic front. Primarily, I educate them on the concepts of the nordic technique and explain how it relates to the product they are selling - this is a key area that many of our competitors do not understand completely, and it gives the Salomon reps a clear advantage in selling their product line. I also assist in a product demos, product knowledge (PK) clinics at stores (help educate the nordic staff in ski shops), write up product reviews or pass along media features on Salomon athletes. Another important part of my job includes touring the country to visit the reps' key retailers and answer any question/concerns about the latest product line - For example... This past week I visited over 10 retail shops in the Montreal and Quebec City area. The recipe is simple...the rep sells the line, and I confirm its performance based on my experience and reputation in the industry (with numerous products out there, the sales reps' credibility is key as it may be result in the retailer buying another competitors product instead of yours!).
It's been a great tour so far with lots of excitement on Salomon's equipment line-up. Next week I'll tour the Ottawa area stores before making my way back to Canmore and prepare for my next tour of duty at Silver Star Mountain Resort in Vernon, BC. where I'm one of the head coaches at the Silver Star Mountain Cross Country Ski Camps (Nov 28-Dec 7) which will also include a Salomon Demo Day (Nov 28-29), a SWIX Waxing Clinic (Dec 3) as well as numerous other presentations and activities over the course of the week.
Ok, I think you get the picture...There's a bit more to it than that but I figure that's enough shop talk for tonight. It may not be your run of the mill 9 to 5 job, but the most important thing for me is that I love it-
Silver Star Nordic Festival - With all the brands represented, you have to know the product inside and out!
Selling the brand - At work at last year's Silver Star Nordic Festival Expo