By: Shannon Johnson
Photos: Darcy Bacha
For the past two decades, Tim Windell has been at the forefront of our industry’s progression with the development of camps designed to push action sports to new heights. Now action sports and education can go hand-in-hand with the launch of the Windells Academy, giving athletes year round access to terrain, education and the industry. We caught up with Tim Windell to find out how the summer camps were impacted, his plans for the Windells Academy and adapting to the changing industry.
How was this summer as far as attendance?
Summer 2010 attendance was up across the board for Windells. All seven sessions were booked.
Are a lot of your campers return customers?
This past summer Windells saw a 56 percent camper return rate.
What are your most effective means of marketing the camp?
Windells most effective means of marketing has been word of mouth over the years. Once someone has stepped foot on the Windells campus they begin to talk. Hands down without a doubt the Windells campus is unmatched. If you are into action sports then you’re more then likely going to be into Windell’s. It’s one hundred percent action sports through and through. We have the largest indoor skate park, the largest outdoor skate park, the largest BMX Facilities, a foam pit, vert ramp, fishing pond, paint ball arena, North Americas only freeride slope style course, our private down hill Mt. Bike track, 28 miles of cross country trails all right out your door and our very own private lake. In a sense we are the only snowboard camp that has a true camp experience.
How has the economy been affecting you? Are sessions filling more slowly, are costs up or down, etc.?
The main effect the economy has had on me is that I no longer watch and/or read the papers. Sessions this summer filled quicker then in the previous three summers. Windells costs are down overall, due to repositioning loans with lower interest rates. The Windells bubble is a very positive place to be right now.
How have you responded to these changes?
We are offering a more comprehensive, better-equipped, more diverse product then ever before. Windells purchased a private lift, bag jump and vehicles. Remodeled all camper cabins, rebuilt our indoor skate park, foam pit and tramp facilities. Built out the BMX facilities like never before, added a freeride park under the North West School of Freeride that is sick to say the least, added more concrete to Windells concrete jungle, offer more activities and hired better, more qualified staff then ever before.
How has the response been to the Academy program?
The response has been overwhelming to say the least. We often hear it’s about time Windells offered an academy program. Even Danny Kass and Louie Vito, academy students from years gone by, stated this was the right move for Windells to make. Its really quite simple, we have logistics on lock down at Hood. Windells owns everything we currently use, which in a sense is more then most ski areas have. Our partners up at Hood have the only year round ski resort in the country. Their park builders are some of the industries leaders and we can ride lift-accessed parks 12 months a year. All in all, it just makes sense for a Winter sports academy to have access to snow 12 months a year.
How many students will you be able to accommodate and how large a portion of your business would you like to see this be in the future?
Our goal is to keep the academy small, much like summer camp and to offer the most comprehensive academy program available. Twenty Students is our goal.
Did you previously offer camps outside of the summer months?
Windells has been offering winter camps since 1993 and we introduced a weekend program last winter. We offer open skate and BMX sessions to the general population throughout the fall, winter and spring months. Windells operates the largest indoor skate park in the North West, offer free ride and BMX camps under the North West School of Freeride, host birthday parties, industry conferences, cater parties, clinics and reunions. We offer deep discounted room rates and food to all participants in the USASA Hood Series as well as access to Bob. We house pro’s, filmer’s and industry partners for free all year long. Its pretty much action packed year round at Windells.
How has the camp expanded to the demands of year round facilities/staffing needs with the Academy?
We are in the process of transforming one building into a classroom, adding recreational workout facilities on site and will continue to upgrade Windells campus in the years ahead. Since the beginning, Windells has reinvested ten percent of gross revenues back into its campus facilities to keep it fresh, unique and interesting for all to enjoy. It allows Windells to stay ahead of the curve.
Why did you decide to get into this now?
I have been working on the academy platform for 5 years now and summer 2009 has been on my calendar for a launch date since day one. One of the key elements of running a successful program is putting a solid team together and with 5 years of prep, I believe I hit the nail on the head.
What do you think are the biggest issues affecting snowboarding and action sports today?
I see the money crunchers and companies selling direct being one of my biggest concerns in the years ahead. I’m afraid we may see a day where the core snowboard shop is eliminated and without them I’m afraid we will loose a valid core aspect of the snowboard industry. In a down economy companies tend to pay attention to their bottom line, thus sizing down on what they offer, eliminating riders, and paying less attention to new and creative innovations.
I’m concerned about the future of half pipes and I’m afraid snowboarding may be heading down the road that skateboarding has taken with vert ramps.
How will this change your business?
I really don’t see this effecting Windells. I’m the guy sitting in the driver seat at Windells and am always striving to push the limits and boundaries of what we do both on and off the slopes.
What other new additions can we expect to see out of Windells in coming years?
Windells will be purchasing another lift in the coming year. We will continue to add more concrete to our ever expanding concrete jungle, the BMX facilities will continue to expand and programs will grow. Our Freeride program will continue to expand and grow. Windells campers and now Academy kids will continue to dominate the action sports podiums for years to come.
Windells is often referred to as The “Funnest” place on Earth. We will continue to seek out new and innovative means and methods of promoting ways in which to break the “FUNDO” meter for years ahead.
How do you partner with manufacturers and retailers currently?
We have a demo shed that is packed full of next year’s product that our partners supply Windells with. Windells demo’s the hard goods to the campers and then supply the feedback to our partners based on the campers overall impression and experiences with their products. In many ways this is the last chance for the manufactures to see how next years products line up with their competitors and customers. In some cases companies are making changes based on campers feedback. Industry partners have access to a cabin and a 15-passenger van to decorate. Companies like Rome re-brand their cabin, vans, make t-shirts each and every year. The end result is that companies like Rome have a pretty large presence at Windells and the kids are stoked on the energy they bring to the overall camp experience.
Has this changed over the years?
It has, co-branding has become increasingly attractive.
What have been some of the most effective partnerships for both sides?
The most effective partnerships are the ones that engage the campers. Paying and giving some product to a camp is simply not enough in my opinion. The kids that attend camp are the industry leaders back home and they spread out all over the World.