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Thursday November 15, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

Some think the oldest ski club in the UK has lost its way. Can an ambitious new strategy turn it around? If not it faces a bleak future.

A new Chief Executive, Darren Neylon, took over at The Club in March.

Along with a new Chairman and the Club's Council, the former investment banker has been busy shaking things up.

Delivering on the new vision will be challenging.

The intention is to double membership, subscriptions, holiday numbers, revenue, insurance policies and commission.

All in the next three years.

And all at a time when almost the entire UK based ski industry is contracting and the Ski Club of GB's own membership is on the decline.

It's been falling consistently at a rate of 1% a year and currently stands at just under 27,000.

SCGB Membership pie chartsSCGB Membership statistics

So, can it be done?

In an exclusive interview with PlanetSKI just before announcing the plans at the Club's AGM, Darren Neylon admitted it represented a "huge ambition".

Yes, it can be done, he said, but only with fundamental change.

"The Ski Club has become increasingly irrelevant to the masses," the straight-talking Australian told me.

"Our existing demographic is getting older and older and we are not bringing new blood into the club..... the average age of our membership was 46 in 2009 and now, in 2018, it's 53."

Darren Neylon does not want the Club to become the "Saga of snowsports", as he puts it.

He says that's an unsustainable position as ageing members gradually "fall off the perch".

Darren NeylonDarren Neylon aiming high for SCGB

So, what's the thrust of this new strategy?

In a nutshell, the Club wants to:
  • create compelling reasons to be a member of the Ski Club, through fun on snow experiences and engaging social activities, providing our members memorable lifetime ski journeys
The idea is that the Club should become more of a .... er.... Club.

It should focus more on its members - those it has and, crucially, those it wants to attract.

"We need to grow in size and become relevant to many more skiers and snowboarders," says Chairman Malcolm Bentley in his report to the AGM.

"We wish to see far more people skiing, snowboarding and socialising together through a Ski Club connection.

"This is entirely consistent with the guiding purpose of the Club established at its foundation, indeed it will take us back into some areas where we were much more active in the past as well as new initiatives."

There has already been reaction on the PlanetSKI Facebook page:

Facebook reactionFacebook reaction

See the PlanetSKI Facebook page to add your comments.

Darren Neylon rejects any suggestion that we've heard it all before and still nothing's changed.

"It's the first strategy the Ski Club has had in decades," he said, while insisting he's not in the business of criticising his predecessors.

Darren Neylon told PlanetSKI there is a simple mission behind it.

"Most of our membership, they just want social experiences on snow. They just want to get together with like-minded, like-ability people and have a great time.

"So we are about embracing that one mission - to enhance that social skiing aspect."

SCGB group in Tignes 2010Social skiing with the Club in France in 2010

Social skiing and snowboarding, that is.

Yes, that's right. Even snowboarders are welcome.

Before he was appointed Neylon sent an email to the Club, posing as a snowboarder, and asking what they could offer in the way of activities and holidays.

The response, he says, was not at all positive.

"We have done nothing for snowboarding," he told me, putting a heavy emphasis on the word ‘nothing'.

SnowboarderA rare sight among SCGB members













A principal strand of the strategy will be to substantially improve the Club's presence in the UK domestic scene.

We are chatting at The White Haus, the Club's new meeting place in central London where it plans to hold events, talks, social nights and presentations for members.

It's an alpine-themed gastropub & coffee house on three levels, each with its own vibe.

It's owned by a man with a passion for skiing who has put some of the Club's archive is on display.

The White HausUpstairs at The White Haus


















The White HausSki boots from the Club archive at The White Haus
















So what detailed plans are involved in the new vision?

  • domestic competitions at indoor & dry slopes including recreational awards programmes
  • activities for the schools & universities sectors
  • music gigs & other events to draw in younger members
  • races, family days & cultural events in resorts
  • expansion of its Freshtracks holidays to include culture, food, wellness & city breaks
  • trips for 20-somethings, singles & possibly a ‘resort takeover' festival-style week
  • holidays in the UK with training weekends in North Wales, summer trekking & mountain biking
  • establishing the Ski Club Of Great Britain - France, which will be a separate organisation based in France and able to operate under French law.
Sunset suns at the Ski ShowMusic gigs to attract the young
















That's an awful lot of stuff.

Darren Neylon says they won't rush headlong in.

They'll be testing the waters and going big where they have most success.

"We are going to go gold-mining in some respects," he told me.

"We're going to mine across all these areas and where we see gold seams we'll go deep.

"If we don't find the gold we'll come out."

And going back to that target of doubling the membership within three years?

"I'm confident we can do it but if we do it in four or five years, fine, I'm not going to get hung up on it.

"You need a goal to head towards. If we fall slightly short of that goal, it doesn't matter.

"We're going on this journey, this expedition into the unknown in many respects."

SCGBWith the Ski Club of Great Britain - photo Melody Sky















Ski Club of Great Britain's 5 objectives for the future

  • Enhance services for existing members
  • Offer something for new audiences in resorts and in the UK
  • Expand its commercial activities eg holidays & insurance and reinvest the revenue in member services
  • Raise the Club's profile to make it a leading voice in the industry
  • Promote mountain safety & awareness
The PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, has had close relations with the Ski Club GB over the years and has written about its position in the past.

He is a former Director of the Club, Council member, founder-member of its Environment Committee, advisor member on alpine safety and editor of its web site.

He was a Rep (including Rep of the Year in 2002) and represented the Club in Zermatt, Verbier and Whistler as well as leading holidays.

"Make no bones about it, this is a sink or swim moment for the Ski Club of Great Britain and the organisation itself knows it," said James.

"It is at a cross roads."

"It has become increasingly irrelevant in recent years for many reasons, but now it needs to dust itself off, believe in itself and offer itself as an organisation that all skiers and snowboarders want to be associated with."

"It needs to get back on its game."

"Darren's judgements, as an outsider, are spot on but whether he can deliver is another matter altogether."

"As a passionate believer in The Club and its aims I hope so, but some think it is just an idea past its sell-by-date. Time will tell. "

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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