Ski Rentals During COVID
Without question, a major part of our winter business comes in the from of rentals. Skis, snowboards, helmets, snowshoes, and this year uphill or A/T rentals. We have the largest and most up to date rental fleet of any shop in the area. We've built a very successful and user friendly online rental reservation system that allows customers to reserve and pay for rentals in advance. Once reserved we pull the equipment, set it up, and have it waiting on the customer when they arrive. All the customer needs to do is make sure the boots fit and they're on their way.
In one sense, having the online ski rental system in place puts us in a great position to be able to continue to offer that service to our customers. In almost all other ways, we have a lot of planning and arranging to do in order to maintain both our safety and that of our customers.
During busy rental times, we'll have sometimes 50-60 people waiting on rentals. We have a very fast and efficient system in place that allows us to quickly, but accurately, outfit our customers as they come in. Even on the busiest days, customers will only spend 30 minutes or so getting set up, but most days it's less than 20 minutes. While we're proud of our efficiency and accuracy, these wait times do create situations where we have quite a few people in the store at one time. As we all know, lots of people in a confined space is not ideal.
In order to alleviate the crowding issues associated with rentals, we're going to lean heavily on our online rental system, as well as adjusting how we approach rentals in general. I'll detail below what you'll encounter when renting with us...
1. We highly encourage rental customers to utilize our online reservation system in order to save time and speed up the rental process. Obviously, not everyone is aware of that process and others may wish to rent when they arrive in town, for that we'll move on to the next step.
2. When a customer arrives to rent, they'll be offered a QR code which will take them to our rental reservation website, and we'll ask the customers to take a few moments in their vehicles or outside to fill out their information and pay for their rentals online. We've increased our internet speed and WiFi offering in order to ensure that all customers regardless of mobile carrier, can access our website.
3. Once we receive the reservation, we'll pull the equipment and call the customer to come in to one of 2 rental stations where our rental techs will help outfit them with equipment.
4. Once the customers have completed their rental, we'll ask them to take their equipment to their car before completing any other shopping that they have to do; this should help to alleviate further crowding in the rental area.
To make this system easier to understand for everyone, we've spent a considerable amount of money on barriers, crowd stanchions, and signs. We've also put a ton of hours into planning, adjusting, and re-planning our approach to these issues. That being said, we're fully aware of the fact that we're going to have to be fluid and willing to acclimate and adapt to whatever shortcomings there are in our plans that may become evident once they're put to work.
This is our plan to begin the season. It is perfectly plausible that we'll have to change how we work with our rental customers. In as much as we're willing to be fluid in our approach, we ask that our customers also remain open-minded and understanding as we venture into the ridiculousness that this ski season is sure to bring. It might not seem comfortable or easy to wait outside, or to complete your rental reservation on your phone from your car, but as we all know, adapting to change is a must during these times. Please know that we're deeply and genuinely grateful for your patronage and understanding.
Thanks for helping me understand that an online rental system is what the ski rentals use these days to alleviate the crowding during this time of the pandemic. I guess I should look for these services online first now that I want to book a trip for my birthday next month. This will surely keep my family safe from the crowd if I follow your advice.
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Patrick Ross is President and Owner of Tygart Mountain Sports. He holds BA degrees in Secondary Education Social Studies, History, and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Masters of History from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He's been an avid skier since early childhood and has more than 18 yrs experience in the ski industry.