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The Climbing Wall Association's newly-launched blog is a place for indoor climbing industry professionals to find useful and relevant information from industry and business experts. Stay on top of best practices, thought leadership, and trends by subscribing to Thrive - A Climbing Business Blog! www.climbingwallindustry.org/lines

 

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My Gym Is Closed, Now What?

Posted By Garnet Moore, Friday, March 20, 2020
Closed Now What

Whether you closed your gym voluntarily, or you are in an area where your gym was forced to close, you are dealing with some challenging questions at the moment. We want to remind you that you do have options and that the CWA is here to help in any way possible.

 

If you have not done so already, reach out to your insurance provider, your landlord, and any lenders to see what deferments are available. All of these providers know that this is not your fault and that indoor climbing, in general, is a viable business model. They will prefer to help you rather than see you go out of business. In some cases, they may be eligible in the future for aid in relation to any assistance they provide, and as the situation develops rapidly, they may even have restrictions on when and how they collect payments.

 

Many banks are offering 90-day deferments for loans. You may even be able to accumulate your principal and interest payments for the next 6 months and have them added to your final loan payment. The best course of action is to start the conversation as soon as possible. Similarly, your landlord may be willing, or mandated to, defer your rent payments and to wait to collect any rent owed until after the pandemic is over.

 

Likewise, insurance policies could be frozen, claims could be filed, and there may be some potential to renegotiate liability premiums to account for changes in your forecasted income. The CWA’s partner, Monument Sports Group, is working to negotiate with the insurance carriers on behalf of the entire industry. Mid-term policy adjustments, payment deferments, and extending policy terms are some possibilities to ease some of the pressure you are feeling. Monument has also contacted carriers outside of the CWA program to encourage that they explore similar options.

 

Possibly the most difficult decisions you will be making are around your employees. Assistance is coming rapidly and you should pay attention to your local department of labor for any changes they have made which could allow you to lay off or reduce the hours of employees knowing that they are eligible for unemployment benefits to make up for the lost wages.

 

On March 18th the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and its provisions will help support those efforts. This act also will affect what leave you have to provide your employees and how you must pay them during extended leave. For a more thorough review, read our analysis of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

 

An often-overlooked area of savings is the benefits that you offer your employees. You can explore the option to suspend or cancel any non-essential benefits such as dental or vision insurance and retirement benefits. Discuss these options with your lawyer to make sure that you are not violating any employment contracts.

 

While the full range of assistance programs are being determined, the most immediate program you may have access to is the SBA Disaster Loan Program. If you qualify, you are eligible for a loan up to $2 million at an interest rate of 3.75% with a term of 30 years. To apply go directly to their website and begin the application.

 

The CWA will be here for you throughout this crisis and after. The long-term future of the climbing industry still looks very bright and it is vital to remember that your customers can’t wait to get back into the gym.

 

Garnet Moore Head ShotAbout the Author

Garnet Moore is the Director of Operations at the Climbing Wall Association. Garnet brings more than a decade of experience in the climbing industry, including his time as the COO at Brewer's Ledge.

 

Tags:  coronavirus  COVID-19  financing  human resources  leadership  management  operations  risk management 

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CWA’s Public Policy Agenda: Protecting Our Sport

Posted By Robert Angell, Monday, February 17, 2020
Climbing Gym Regulations

If you are a gym owner or operator, chances are you have been approached by a representative of a government agency in your state at one time or another, and informed that the agency has begun, or is about to begin, a licensing and inspection scheme involving your operation. This article will walk you through the CWA’s stance on regulatory issues and how those issues can impact climbing wall operators like you.

 

Through its public policy agenda, the CWA works to prevent inappropriate licensing and inspection schemes that drive up costs for you and your members and may increase your members’ risk of injury.

 

The CWA’s public policy agenda includes the following policy statements:

 

The CWA’s public policy agenda involves educating our members on policy matters that may have an impact on their programs and businesses; promoting positive regulatory and business conditions for the industry; and promoting sound public policy regarding health, physical education and recreation. The CWA ... coordinates activity on the state and local levels to defend against policies, laws, or regulations that might be harmful to our members or the public.

 

Legislatures have proposed laws that would allow state or provincial governments to establish licensing requirements, enact regulations, and administer climbing gym inspections. Frequently this is accomplished by applying amusement licensing laws to sports and recreation facilities, which we oppose.

 

Several state legislatures have proposed bills that would severely restrict use of visitor or participation agreements, specifically weakening liability protections for the business owner[;] we maintain that these liability protections are necessary for the long term health and viability of a sport like climbing.

 

State amusement licensing laws were mainly enacted before the advent of the dedicated indoor climbing facility and are somewhat similar from state to state. Ohio’s law is fairly typical:

 

"Amusement ride" means any mechanical, aquatic, or inflatable device, or combination of those devices that carries or conveys passengers on, along, around, over, or through a fixed or restricted course or within a defined area for the purpose of providing amusement, pleasure, or excitement. (ORC 1711.50(A))

 

The three elements, “mechanical device,” “carries or conveys passengers on, along ... a fixed or restricted course,” and “purpose of providing amusement, pleasure, or excitement” are common to the pre-indoor climbing amusement statutes.

 

State agencies charged with regulating amusement devices and venues have indulged some tortured interpretations of these elements in order to fit commercial climbing walls into the amusement regulatory scheme. Most of these efforts involve the “mechanical device” and “fixed course” elements. State agencies have contended that carabiners, auto belays, holds, and harnesses fit the definition of “mechanical device.”

 

One state regulator even asserted that the wall itself is a “mechanical device” that “conveys passengers” to the top. The regulators then argue that the set routes on the walls fit the definition of “fixed course.”

 

The practice of classifying climbing walls as amusement devices has real-world consequences for the operator. States can:

  • impose high registration and licensing fees (which may be assessed per-wall instead of per-facility);
  • subject operators to inspections by inspectors trained to inspect amusement rides;
  • adopt operational standards designed for the amusement industry;
  • and subject operators to onerous penalties for failing to comply with the regulatory scheme, including hefty monetary penalties, cease-and-desist orders, and even criminal liability.

Classifying climbing gym employees as amusement workers may result in as much as a fivefold increase in workers’ compensation premiums. In turn, the cost of participation goes up.

 

The CWA does not oppose regulation per se. We recognize that state agencies are charged with protecting the public and ensuring competent operations. However, we believe that regulation should be appropriately tailored to the realities of our sport.

 

Our argument is that a commercial climbing gym is a training and fitness facility that cannot be appropriately regulated as an amusement venue, and that applying amusement regulations to our sport may result in increased risk to participants.

 

The CWA has developed valuable resources that help us to make those arguments, including the Industry Practices, standards for climbing wall instructors, work-at-height, design and engineering, structural inspections, and the ClimbSmart! program. This focus on the function of the facility has served us well in a number of states.

 

If state regulators come calling at your gym, we are ready to help! Give us a shout or an e-mail if you have questions or concerns.

 

Bob Angell Head ShotAbout the Author

Robert Angell is an Ohio- and Colorado-licensed attorney concentrating in the areas of administrative law, recreation, amusement, and entertainment law, and business formation. He served on the CWA Board of Directors from 2006 to 2013 and was reappointed to the Board in 2019. Bob has been instrumental in regulatory initiatives on behalf of CWA members across the U.S. since 2005. His clients include many gyms in Ohio and other states.

 

Tags:  certifications  operations  public policy  regulations  risk management  standards 

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Long Term Athlete Development: From Good to Great in Climbing

Posted By Heather Reynolds, Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Long Term Athlete Development Climbing Escalade Canada

With the Olympics now entertaining climbing as a competitive sport worthy of being an ongoing part of the games, many young climbers have far greater dreams than those who came before them. Now youth can dream of podiums, medals, and national flags. Social media is bringing the best of the best front and center on our Instagram and Facebook feeds, influencing an entire generation of young climbers to dream of competing among the elite.

 

Growth in participation, as well as the elevated aspirations of our young athletes, is an exciting opportunity for the sport of climbing. However, it is important to think long-term when creating training plans and programming for young athletes; that’s where Long Term Athlete Development comes in.

 

THE HISTORY OF LONG TERM ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT

To understand where the LTAD program came from, you have to go back to the 1952-1988 era of Russian dominance at the Olympics. The repeated defeats on the international stage forced countries like Canada, Britain, and the US to look at what Russia was doing to develop their winners.

 

What they discovered was that Russia had created academic schools which also focused on developing athletes. Russia was simply using a concentrated method of developing the skills, strength, and agility of athletes from a young age.

 

In 1995, Istvan Balyi, a sport scientist working with the National Coaching Institute in British Columbia, Canada, packaged the Long Term Athlete Development program to provide a framework for improving sport systems in Canada.

 

The initial LTAD program described four stages of development, however with more research and review, and the development in understanding athletes, the model now describes eight stages of developing athletes.

 

Each stage is geared toward development physically, mentally, and in skill.

  1. Active Start: Birth to age 6
  2. FUNdamentals: Age 6 to 8 (F) or 9 (M)
  3. Learn to Train: Age 9 to 11 (F) or 12 (M)
  4. Train to Train: Age 11-15 (F) or 12-16 (M)
  5. Learn to Compete: Age 15-17 (F) or 16-18 (M)
  6. Train to Compete (Sport Climbing: Learn to Win): Age 16 and older
  7. Train to Win (Sport Climbing: Winning for a Living): Age 18 and older
  8. Active for Life: Any age after the growth spurt.

Like most sport organizations who now recognize this LTAD model as a foundation for athlete development, Climbing Escalade Canada has rewritten the LTAD for Sport Climbing.

 

This comprehensive document provides athletes, parents, coaches, and climbing organizations a great opportunity to identify the stage of an athlete’s development, to structure and focus training development, and to bring a higher level of safety and professionalism to our sport.

 

It is important to note that this is not a one-size-fits-all model. Take Stage 3 as an example (the full chart is on page 13 of the CEC’s LTAD document):

 

Long Term Athlete Development Matrix Example

 

You’ll notice that not all 10 year olds will naturally have the FUNdamentals, or a solid foundation of movement skills, and those athletes may need additional support to catch them up in those areas. On the other hand, some 10 year olds may actually already be exceeding the Learn to Train level in strength and agility.

 

The CEC’s LTAD document breaks down each stage in full detail, which provides a guide to the appropriate strength and agility training, technical training, and mental and emotional development of the athlete. Use this guide to help you understand how to support your athletes at their various stages of development.

 

As our sport continues to grow and develop it will become more and more essential that coaches working with prospective competitors are able to provide a sustainable and healthy approach to athlete development. Stay tuned for my next post, where we will take a deeper look at the goal of the Long Term Athlete Development model.

 

References:

 

Heather Reynolds Head ShotAbout the Author

Heather is a licensed kinesiologist, High Five Trainer (Sport, PCHD), CEC Climbing Coach, and CWA Climbing Wall Instructor Certification Provider Trainer. She blends her knowledge of movement, physiology, and education to develop a multitude of successful climbing programs designed to support and engage youth. Having worked with youth for over 30 years as a recreation instructor, leader and educator, Heather supports the values and expertise available in the High Five Program, bringing quality assurance to youth-based sport and recreation programming.

 

Tags:  coaching  LTAD  programming  risk management  staff training  youth team  youth training 

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Interview with an Unclipped Auto Belay Accident Survivor

Posted By Laura Allured, Friday, December 13, 2019

Helen Cassidy of The Climbing Academy, a UK-based chain of climbing gyms, reached out to us to share the story of Sam, an experienced climber who recently took a fall from an unclipped auto belay. While Sam was very lucky to walk away from the accident with her life, the impacts of this experience are real.

 

The Climbing Academy said in a press release, "We are aware that falls do happen and we know that many operators are concerned by this. The Climbing Academy therefore thought it was important to bring this issue to the fore by talking to Sam and sharing her story. Our hope is that this will act as a tangible reminder to all climbers, whether brand new or highly experienced to try to climb in a more mindful and safe manner."

 

Watch the video below to learn more about Sam's story:

 

 

For more information, visit The Climbing Academy's website.

 

Tags:  operations  risk management 

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Creating a Positive Workplace Culture for Safety in the Climbing Gym

Posted By Aaron Gibson, Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Safety Culture

In this article we will take a look at how we can take a positive approach to creating a culture for safety in the climbing gym environment. At the end of the article, be sure to download our one-page quick reference guide to developing a safety program.

 

The term “Safety Culture” was coined by the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group following the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. In their summary report, ‘safety culture’ was pointed to as an underlying cause for the catastrophe. It was used as an explanation for the attitudes, actions, and systemic failures that led to the cascading effect of failures.

 

Over the years, ideas about ‘safety culture’ have evolved with research but the concepts, application, and understanding of what creates a broader “culture for safety” remain vital.

 

The Case for Workplace Safety

First, it is important to distinguish between those risk management issues that we deal with at a customer/patron level versus those at an occupational level. A customer chooses to accept a certain level of risk, most often via a liability waiver, in order to participate in climbing activities.

 

Juxtapose this with an employer who has a duty, to maintain a workplace free from recognized hazards “likely to cause serious physical harm or death” and “comply with occupational safety and health standards.”[1] Likewise, each employee must also comply with health and safety rules, regulations, and standards, in addition to gym policies and procedures.

 

Besides the legal obligation that workplace safety is a requirement, there are other worthwhile reasons to move towards a pro-safety workplace.

 

Morally, it’s the right thing to do! Climbing gym employees and employers are often a collective of fellow climbers and friends. In such a community, we look out for each other.

 

Another reason is that there’s a business case for safety. A recent study found that workplace safety influences customer satisfaction, “suggesting that there are likely spillover effects between the safety environment and the service environment.”[2] This study showed that customer satisfaction and a company’s safety climate and injury rates were “significantly correlated.”[3]

 

Although the research was conducted in the electrical utility industry, and no specific research has been conducted correlating climbing gym customers and worker safety, it’s worth considering the parallels within service industries as a whole. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when employers take the safety of their employees seriously, they benefit through customer loyalty. In other words, a safe gym environment translates to a safer environment not only for your employees but to the customer as well.

 

Finally, a good safety program reflects a level of professionalism. Climbing walls/gyms in the modern age are legitimate operations that offer lifelong careers and provide health and fitness opportunities for generations of climbers. Employees are looking for opportunities for growth and desire to have lasting employment in a professional environment. Having written programs and systems in place is a key component for demonstrating that employee safety, health, and wellbeing are core values.

 

Safety Culture Characteristics

Looking to lessons from the nuclear power industry again, they identified five basic characteristics of a culture for safety that we can adapt to the climbing gym environment:[4]

  1. Safety is a clearly recognized value
  2. Accountability for safety is clear
  3. Safety is learning driven
  4. Safety is integrated into all activities
  5. Leadership for safety is clear
Safety Culture Characteristics

Each of these characteristics has specific attributes that contribute to sustaining safety culture.[5] For example, in order for safety to be a clearly recognized value (item 1), safety conscious behavior must be socially acceptable and supported by the employer and employees alike.

 

Item 3, “Safety is learning driven,” means that a questioning attitude prevails, that learning is encouraged, and assessments are used and tracked.

 

And for item 5, “Leadership for safety is clear,” the commitment to safety should be evident at all levels, and management should build trust to ensure continual openness and communication with individuals.

 

Positive Safety Leadership

Management reacting solely when there is an incident is short-sighted and ineffective. In a reactive safety environment, employees hide or do not want to report an injury for fear of retaliation or punishment. Consequently, blaming an employee rarely results in a positive outcome or a safer workplace.

 

Instead, management should take a proactive approach to make accountability a positive not a negative. Rather than focusing on blaming someone for a mistake, focus on what it takes to remedy the situation and enabling workers to practice safe work habits.

 

Accepting that hazards are inevitable and there is always the possibility of an accident, involve employees and work towards solutions that are meaningful to them. Positive reinforcement does not mean incentivizing employees for safe work but instead rewarding them through recognition and praise when someone does something well.

 

Measuring Safety Progress

Data have shown that there can be prolonged periods of time between incidents, but an unsafe working environment can still exist. The traditional approach, simply measuring accident rates is not a good means of determining if you have a sustainable safety program.[6]

 

In order for us to confirm that we are on the right track with our safety program, we have to be able to measure key components of the program.

 

Good data begins with selecting the right things to measure. Focus on measuring positive performance aspects of your program like:[7]

  • Safety Activities
  • Participation Rate
  • Perceptions
  • Behaviors
  • Conditions

Track the behaviors of workers on things like accident prevention, reporting unsafe situations, taking corrective action, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and participating in training. For example, track the use of protective eyewear rather than the number of eye injuries.

 

Gym Program Areas

Below are some of the program areas that may be relevant to your climbing wall or gym. This is not a comprehensive list as activities vary among facilities, so it is important to consider all the potential hazards and program areas.

 

Within each of these areas there are specifics that need to be tailored to the facility while keeping in mind OSHA regulations, state and local laws, insurance requirements, and industry standards.

  • Fall Protection – Comprehensive for routesetters and awareness level for other employees. Include training on dropped object prevention.
  • Portable Ladder Safety
  • Eye Protection
  • Hearing Protection
  • Emergency Action/Response Plan
  • First Aid/CPR
  • Aerial Lift Safety
  • Spill Response
  • Slips/Trips/Falls
  • Access/Egress

Example Scenario

Take a look at the following situation and consider the questions that follow:

 

A loose hold on a top rope climbing wall is reported to the front desk staff person by a member. Unfortunately, no routesetter is available but the staff person, who has some experience tightening holds, is eager to help, and takes it upon themself to address the issue. In an effort to tighten the hold quickly the staff person avoids getting a stepladder, extension ladder, or using a harness/rope system and instead climbs about eight feet high. In the course of tightening the hold with an impact wrench, the staff person slips from another loose hold, lands awkwardly, and seriously injures their back.

  • What contributing factors might have resulted in this accident?
  • What areas for improvements are there?
  • If you were in a management role how would you communicate with the employee? How would you communicate with other staff?
  • What can be learned from and improved upon from this incident and how is that communicated?
  • What other proactive measures might be considered going forward?

Clearly, the intentions of the staff person were good, as they were attempting to demonstrate good customer service and be proactive in remedying the situation on their own. But unfortunately, the choices the staff person made resulted in their injury.

 

For this situation a number of other variables would exist based on the facility itself. We might want to explore if there was a system or rule in place for who is authorized to address climbing wall maintenance. From there we could determine if the person was authorized to tighten holds and if they had the appropriate training. Other things we would want to look at would be the standard work practice for climbing wall work, do we allow someone to climb and set or should they be working off a ladder, lift, or via a harness and rope system?

 

Unfortunately, sometimes we do not know there is a weakness in our program until something goes wrong. Part of moving towards a culture for safety includes anticipating various types of incidents and proactively addressing them, but that’s not always possible. We have to accept that even the best programs can have gaps and take a productive approach.

 

In this case, the focus would be on improving the systems, communication, and training that can prevent future incidents from occurring and then tracking those changes going forward.

 

In Conclusion

Maintaining a positive safety culture is a process. There will always be pitfalls and areas for improvement.

 

The National Safety Council sums it up best by stating, “In an organization with a positive safety climate, where safety does not take a back seat to productivity, employees are likely to believe they have permission to do things right. Doing things right is a permeating value in a work unit that is likely to reach into several domains of work behavior, some of which influence the quality of work.”

 

Download our cheat sheet for a quick-reference resource containing guidelines for developing a safety program!

 

References

  1. OSHA General Duty Clause
  2. Does employee safety influence customer satisfaction? Evidence from the electric utility industry, P. Geoffrey Willis, Karen A. Brown, Gregory E. Prussia, 2012, Journal of Safety Research
  3. Can Worker Safety Impact Customer Satisfaction?, Laura Walter, EHS Today
  4. Chernobyl: 30 Years On - Lessons in Safety Culture, Aerossurance
  5. Culture for Safety, International Atomi Energy Agency
  6. Building the Foundation for a Sustainable Safety Culture, Judy Agnew, EHS Today
  7. 5 New Metrics to Transform Safety, Terry L. Mathis, ProAct Safety

Resources

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron is a climber of over 27 years and an EOSH Professional specializing in fall protection, health, and safety. He holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Epidemiology & Toxicology and is an Associate Safety Professional (ASP) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. He has over fifteen years of experience in workplace and environmental health and safety serving local, state, and federal agencies as well as private industry. Aaron has applied his experience to the climbing industry as a safety industry consultant/expert, as well as a gym owner and manager, a USA Climbing coach, USA Climbing certified routesetter, CWA Climbing Wall Instructor Provider, and AMGA Single Pitch Instructor. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer service  human resources  management  operations  OSHA  risk management  staff training 

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The Routesetter as Professional: In Conversation with Ward Byrum

Posted By Willis Kuelthau, Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Routesetter as Professional

As the sport of climbing grows, its infrastructure must grow along with it. Climbing gyms continue to multiply, and the demand for high-quality routesetting has increased in tandem.

 

As a result, routesetting is changing as a profession. To get a handle on what that means for the job and the sport, I spoke with Ward Byrum, Director of Routesetting for Earth Treks.

 

Ward oversees all routesetting operations for the seven gyms under Earth Treks branding. That includes hands-on setting work as well as team management for locations from Virginia to Colorado.

 

WK: Do you feel like routesetting is changing at all? How does routesetting fit in with what’s happening in climbing and climbing gyms?

 

WB: That’s a big question. I think in general, routesetting is changing — the rate of change is really accelerated right now. Gyms are more aware of the value that high-quality routesetting brings to a facility.

 

Also, because there’s this heightened awareness of its value, there’s a movement to compensate people better for routesetting. And routesetters who are good have elevated their value.

 

The trick is that there’s maybe not enough supply to meet that demand now.

 

WK: You mean there aren’t enough good routesetters to go around?

 

WB: Correct. And we’re playing a game where everyone’s kind of poaching everyone. I think a lot of people haven’t really sorted out how to grow and create routesetters from scratch in these local communities.

 

We spend a lot of time talking about our company’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion efforts. That’s one of the biggest successes we’ve had recently as a setting program. We acknowledged that if we continue to look for amazing experienced routesetters, then our setting teams will be largely white men, because they represent the people that currently have the experience.

 

By tuning into that, we were able to create a wealth of entry-level positions and then actively open the doors to underrepresented groups to come in and interview for the base positions. Then we can grow them into full-time roles. It’s something that’s paid off in our ability to have more female setters represented, for example.

 

WK: What do you think it takes for a climber to become a good routesetter?

 

WB: I look at routesetting as essentially a form of product design. A lot of how we interpret routesetting is around that theme.

 

I think being a successful routesetter is being aware of who you’re setting for. The more variety we have represented within the setting team, the more empathy and awareness and perspectives we have represented when we go to produce that product.

 

WK: Are there certain things you look for in team members?

 

WB: It doesn’t come down to being the strongest climber. They don’t have to have the most routesetting experience. We’re looking for people who are creative, who thrive in a group-oriented environment where we critique each other’s work constantly…

 

It’s difficult. It’s more aligned with product design, as opposed to the older terms, which were about replicating outdoor climbing, or a personal pursuit to create whatever the routesetter wanted to make.

 

WK: Obviously routesetting is very physical work. Do you have any best practices for keeping a team running smoothly under the demands placed on commercial routesetters?

 

WB: It’s important just to know the physical abilities of everyone on the team. We try to have very team-oriented goals so that everyone is able to plug into that system and work at the highest level. We’re able to change who is setting on what sections or what grades based on who’s going to be most successful at that task.

 

Having a realistic projection of output is important. There are plenty of routesetters who can come in and set four or five routes in a day, but that might not be sustainable, or it might not be the level of detail we want invested into the product. It may not allow us to forerun and sample and test that product enough before it becomes open to the public.

 

It’s about finding that balance between the level of product you want and the capability or energy you have to apply. Plus how much the company is willing to invest. It’s balancing those three categories.

 

WK: Do you see any misconceptions about routesetting staff among members and climbers?

 

WB: A lot of our efforts lately in some of the member clinics we host or in our social media content are about removing the mystique behind routesetting. We want to allow people to peek behind the curtain and understand the process of setting.

 

We want people to understand that the setters aren’t coming in and trying to set a sandbagged V4. They’re legitimately coming in and trying to set something that serves the members.

 

One of our catchphrases is: “Every route and every boulder could be someone’s project.”

 

So we try to think about the person who is investing a lot of time trying to accomplish this goal.

 

WK: Are there any sticking points between routesetting staff and gym management?

 

WB: I don’t think there’s a friction point, but I think something that’s important is the transition of routesetters from climber to worker.

 

One thing that’s helped us is interpreting routesetters not as climbers but as work-at-height professionals.

 

Once we begin to interpret them as work-at-height professionals, it enables the routesetters to take their job a little more seriously… they’re in a work mode. It creates a feeling that things are different and they need to conduct themselves differently.

 

The other component is that gym owners, gym managers, people at the front desk, and members all see us operating differently. They see us utilizing these professional tools. So we’re seen as more professional and further distinguish ourselves from just climbers who are putting holds on a wall.

 

That theme of professionalization has helped us gain respect industry-wide. It’s enabled us to gain things like better pay and better benefits because of this specialization. I think that trend will continue, and I think it will further define what professional routesetting looks like. It’s always a moving target.

 

WK: How does routesetting fit into the growth or stability of the sport in the future?

 

WB: Early on — I’m talking 20 years ago — maybe we kept a loose eye on bell curves and what grades are represented in a facility.

 

Now I’m going to keep a much closer eye on the amount of time each routesetter in a team is spending doing certain tasks associated with their job. I’m going to look at the product in pretty detailed ways. Eventually we will build that out much further.

 

I think stuff like Vertical Life and other programs that have back-end routesetting management tools but front-end capability to interact with members will be increasingly common. They’ll be an important part of the process as the conduit for the information members want to give a setting team.

 

I think we’ll see those systems perfected. Right now we’re still trying to see what data points are needed.

 

WK: Now and moving forward, what do you think gyms can do to make sure routesetting is a strong point for their facility?

 

WB: Ultimately, we need to find better ways of allowing the consumer to tell us what they want. It’s tricky, because the person might not have a ton of climbing experience. A lot of user responses might be just: if I was successful, I like it, and if I wasn’t, I don’t.

 

It’s really dissecting what a diverse climbing experience might be like. Some of our efforts now are around producing lifelong climbers. How do we keep members of the community engaged over long periods of time?

 

That includes social and community events, but there’s a routesetting component too. How are we engaging with the community and keeping them excited so that it doesn’t become a fad?

 

WK: Is there anything else you think is important for the routesetting profession in the future?

 

WB: While we’re in this time of flux where routesetting is becoming a better compensated role within a gym and better respected, it is of equal importance that the routesetters themselves realize that they need to rise to that standard as well.

 

You also have to be professional. It’s little things like wearing safety glasses, and it’s big things like when members complain about a route that you’re able to receive that information graciously and mediate to the best of your abilities. Make sure members feel heard.

 

Ultimately, we have to represent our companies and routesetting in a positive way so that we can break some of the stigma of, you know, the double-digit boulderer dirtbag climber who’s doing this as a way of climbing for a living.

 

If you want to work full-time and you want to pay a mortgage and raise a kid and routeset for a living, you have to bring something else to the table.

 

I think that a lot of focus in past years was on how gyms need to pay routesetters more. And that has started to happen. The follow up is: routesetters need to rise to the occasion as well and do their part to elevate the industry.

 

Willis Kuelthau Head ShotAbout the Author

Willis is the rare local who was actually born in Boulder, Colorado. He attended Williams College and works as a freelance writer out of Providence, Rhode Island. When he's not writing, you'll find him rock climbing, playing with his cats, and drinking too much green tea.

 

Tags:  company culture  risk management  routesetting  routesetting management  women  work-at-height  workplace diversity 

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Oh Canada: My Experience at the First CWA Meeting in Calgary

Posted By Chris Stevenson, Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2019
Chris Stevenson Speaking at CWA Meetings Calgary

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

I have always believed that the most successful people in any industry are the ones that focus on consistent professional development. In fact, “grow through constant learning” is one of my company’s core values.

 

I learn in many different ways. I read daily. I listen to podcasts while I’m driving or working out. I follow thought leaders on social media. I use apps like Blinkist and Ted Talks. I subscribe to relevant blogs and newsletters. All of these diverse methods of self-improvement allow me to learn different things, in different ways, at different times.

 

While all of these modalities are fantastic, I have found that live events are the most effective method of learning. Live events provide a level of energy and engagement that cannot be found anywhere else. They allow you to build relationships with other industry professionals. You simply can’t beat a well-executed live event.

 

I have been a part of the climbing industry for several years now, including workshops and keynotes at the annual CWA Summit for the last three years. If you haven’t attended this event, make it a priority. I present at events all over the world and the Summit is truly one of my favorites.

 

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of presenting at the CWA’s first-ever regional event in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This event was special. There were three things that stood out; the intimate workshop, the brewery (yes, the brewery) and the keynote with a roundtable.

 

Intimate & Focused Workshop

On the first day of the event, I ran a full-day workshop at the Calgary Climbing Centre Rocky Mountain, which is an absolutely beautiful state-of-the-art facility. When I arrived at the gym for the workshop, the energy was off-the-charts. I mean, just feast your eyes for a moment on this striking outdoor wall!

 

Gloves for Hand Protection

Photo courtesy of Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership, Architect Renante Solivar

 

The workshop was one of the best I have ever facilitated; and it wasn’t because of me. It was because of the smaller setting and focused group of attendees. In this context, everyone participated, which created a platform for diverse perspectives and in-depth discussions.

 

I know that I have some good things to teach, but the amount of sharing and discussion that occurred was just as valuable, if not more. There were healthy debates and discussions. The information-sharing was uniquely fantastic. I was the facilitator and I learned a ton. It was amazing.

 

CWA Meetings Management and Operations Track

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

Time to Unwind at the Brewery

Another thing that made this event exceptional was, well, beer. Yes, you read that correctly, beer.

 

After the full day of workshops, there was a reception at a brewery called Last Best Brewing & Distilling. The reception set the perfect scene for everyone to unwind after a long day of learning.

 

Guests were able to get to know each other better and build new relationships. Discussion and information sharing continued. People exchanged cards and connected on social media. They laughed and had a good time. The food was delicious, and the beer was refreshing and tasty.

 

I often joke that some of the best parts of events happen afterwards at the hotel bar. This time, it wasn’t a hotel bar, it was a brewery and it was a really strong part of the event. A good social experience at an event is crucial. The CWA team nailed it.

 

Informative Conference Sessions & Roundtables

The next morning, I had the honor of presenting the opening keynote to kick off the conference day. The gist of the keynote was about being the highest performer you can be while being a great team player at the same time.

 

Chris Stevenson CWA Meetings Keynote

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

The keynote seemed to go over well, and I think the attendees learned a lot. The kicker, however, was the roundtable discussion afterwards.

 

Whenever I present a keynote, my goal is to accomplish two things: to give very tangible information that people can use, and for them to actually take action. Let’s face it, all of the knowledge in the world is useless if you don’t take action on it.

 

The roundtable afterwards allowed me to drive those two points home. We took the five key teaching points in the keynote and spent 15 minutes discussing each of them in-depth. This gave everyone a chance to dig in deeper, share their thoughts, and teach each other.

 

I love roundtables. They are so beneficial, and I get to take a back seat and let the audience do the talking. 😜

 

The keynote, followed by a roundtable, was an absolute homerun. Wait, this was in Canada. The keynote followed by a roundtable was a hat trick.

 

A Great Event with a Healthy Dose of My Cheesy Canadian Jokes

Intimacy. Interaction. Information sharing. Learning. Networking. Fun. This event had it all. It was truly something special. If I had to grade the event, I would have to give it an… EH!

 

CWA Meetings Roundtable Discussion

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

I started this post by talking about the importance of learning. Learning keeps us relevant. It motivates us. It makes us better at our craft.

 

I encourage you to find ways to do diverse methods of constant learning. Get a new book. Download a podcast. Subscribe to a blog. Plan to attend live events like the CWA Summit and/or CWA Meetings like the one in Calgary. Schedule time for learning. Put it in your calendar. What gets scheduled gets accomplished.

 

When it comes to live events, lock it in your calendar. Set aside funds in your budget. Plan to attend at least one or two a year. While all methods are good and should be done, you just can’t beat the all of the amazing benefits of live events.

 

I’m very excited to head to Hoboken in a few days for the second CWA Meeting. If you’re in the New York/New Jersey area, I hope to see you there! Or join us next month in San Francisco. I have no doubt they're both going to be great events.

 

LEARN MORE

 

Chris Stevenson Head Shot About Chris Stevenson

Chris Stevenson is the owner of Stevenson Fitness, a full-service health club in Oak Park, California. The club’s success is based on providing an unparalleled member experience, which centers on proper staffing, systematic operations, and world-class leadership. This success is reflected in the club’s Net Promoter Score, which is consistently in the high 80s (industry average is in the 40s). Chris is an international speaker who presents viable, applicable lectures that resonate with every audience.

 

Tags:  company culture  customer experience  customer satisfaction  customer service  CWA Meetings  employee engagement  leadership  management  operations  programming  risk management  staff retention  staff training  standards 

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Effective Workplace Training

Posted By Aaron Gibson, Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Workplace Training

Of all the methods of managing risk that climbing facilities employ, a robust training program is one of the most effective means of reducing accident rates for visitors and workers alike.

 

Studies have consistently shown that the likelihood of an accident is higher in the first month of employment and decreases with time. One study in particular that examined workers’ compensation claims [1] showed that workers on the job were four times more likely to have an accident in the first month compared to workers that had been employed for a year.

 

Therefore, timeliness in training new employees or employees that have been assigned new duties is critical to ensuring their safety.

 

Training, with all its methodologies, approaches, analysis of retention, measures of effectiveness, etc. is a wide-ranging, voluminous topic. This article touches on a few of these areas but focuses primarily on safety and health program training and presents some guidelines for improving your local program.

 

At the end of this article are some links to training resources and articles that may be helpful in evaluating and improving your current program.

 

Types of Training

The purpose of training, by definition, is to impart a particular skill or type of behavior such that it improves performance. Training is intended to prepare a person for a job, a task, or a specific set of circumstances.

 

There are multiple approaches and methods of delivering training: web-based, audio-video, operational, experiential, lecture, coaching, and in-service or on-the-job training are a few forms. A sound approach is to ensure the training translates directly to the workplace.

 

While there are web-based modules available that “check the box” for a training requirement, these are not necessarily the most effective means for ensuring an employee is competent in a particular area. To achieve a level of competency, one should customize the learning to their facility and circumstances.

 

Safety and Employee Orientation Training

Workplace safety training is a requirement to protect workers from injuries and illnesses. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.9 Subpart A [2], states that, “The employer must train each affected employee in the manner required by the standard…” based on the type of work performed, an analysis of workplace hazards, and a worker’s level of responsibility.

 

The type of safety training required is based on the type of work performed and varies with departments. Some specific programs to consider include the following:

  • Fall Protection, Including Slips, Trips, and Falls
  • Emergency Action Planning and Fire Prevention Plans
  • Powered Platforms, Manlifts, and Vehicle-Mounted Work Platforms (for those facilities that use this equipment)
  • Occupational Noise Exposure (Hearing Protection)
  • Electrical Safety
  • Confined Space Entry (for controlled access areas behind or inside climbing walls)
  • First Aid, CPR, and AED
  • General Housekeeping and Storage

 

Training for Specialized Work

Specialized work includes job tasks that are unique in nature and require particular skill sets, techniques, and equipment in order to accomplish the work.

 

Routesetting is an example of specialized training. There are key elements, based on the terrain (i.e. bouldering, top-roping, lead terrain), the tools (ex: impact drills), and the equipment (ex: aerial lifts and ladders).

 

Beyond the technical and creative aspects of creating functional and worthwhile routes, safety is paramount for routesetters. It’s important to identify those requiring specialized training and only allow those who have received training and demonstrated a sufficient level of competency as authorized to perform such work.

 

In other words, if a staff member has not received formal training on work-at-height and routesetting they should not be performing that work unsupervised.

 

The Evaluation Phase

Hosting a brief “tailgate meeting” safety session about a topic and assuming everyone is trained is not sufficient to ensure competency. Incorporate an evaluation phase into training wherein employees are challenged on their understanding and performance and a measure of retention can be determined.

 

Evaluations can differ in form and function based on the type of training but some examples include quizzes, peer assessments, and skill challenges followed by constructive feedback.

 

Written Programs

A written training program is the roadmap that drives your training program. A well-conceived written training program is not burdensome – it sets expectations, identifies requirements, and acts to empower employees and management alike.

 

It is used as a policy document that shows what your training standards are, it helps to ensure everyone is receiving an appropriate and consistent level of training, and it provides a reference from which to work.

 

At a minimum, an annual review of your training program should be performed to check on changes to facilities, equipment, tools, and work practices – your training program should be updated accordingly and subsequently, refresher training should be performed and documented.

 

Training Development

When workers have a voice in the workplace and input about how training is developed, training programs are more effective. It is often the employees that come to know their tasks and working conditions the best and are acutely aware of the hazards.

 

Your staff can point out the strengths and weaknesses in a program. Incorporate employee input into the development and delivery of training.

 

Retraining and Refresher Training

According to OSHA, retraining is required when there is a change in work practices, tools, or procedures. For some programs, refresher training is required.

 

However, even if refresher training is not required, it is a good habit to ensure employees have the necessary level of competency.

 

Continuing education opportunities are a great means of ensuring that knowledge is being disseminated through the team, that problem areas are being addressed, and that there are not gaps in work practices. Likewise, refresher trainings, skill assessments, and certifications should be documented.

 

Training Records

You have probably heard the saying, “If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.” The same goes for documenting training.

 

Typically, if a worker is injured and there is an investigation or claim one of the first questions is: “Did the employee receive adequate training to do the job?” If the answer is “yes,” but you do not have the documentation, then there is no record of when or if the training actually occurred.

 

OSHA recommends that employers maintain training records for a period of five years, but requirements may vary based on state laws and insurance. The best practice is to maintain a record of all training and certifications for each employee.

 

Setting up a training record system can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Not sure where to start? Download our sample training tracker as an example resource.

 

In conclusion, an effective training program is essential to maintain worker safety, accomplish work effectively, and meet State and Federal regulations, and insurance requirements. Involve your employees, implement a robust program, and don’t leave the program on the shelf - review it, refine it, and adjust it as necessary.

 

References:

[1] Trial by fire: a multivariate examination of the relation between job tenure and work injuries
[2] Training Requirements in OSHA Standards

 

Additional Articles:

- Exceed Safety Training to Increase Operational Learning and Safety at Work
- Training Effectiveness - A Quality By Design Approach

 

Aaron Gibson Head ShotAbout Aaron Gibson

Aaron Gibson is a climber of over 27 years and an EOSH Professional specializing in fall protection, health, and safety. He holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Epidemiology & Toxicology and has over fifteen years of experience in workplace and environmental health and safety serving local, state, and federal agencies as well as private industry. Aaron has applied his experience to the climbing industry as a safety industry consultant/expert, as well as a gym owner and manager, a USA Climbing coach, USA Climbing certified routesetter, CWA Climbing Wall Instructor Provider, and AMGA Single Pitch Instructor. You can contact Aaron at aaron@rockislandclimbing.com.

 

Tags:  certifications  employee engagement  human resources  leadership  management  operations  OSHA  risk management  routesetting management  staff training  standards  work-at-height 

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CWA Meetings: Calgary Recap

Posted By Emily Moore, Monday, August 19, 2019
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2019
CWA Meetings Calgary Attendees

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

Last week, the Climbing Wall Association team launched the first-ever CWA Meetings event in partnership with Calgary Climbing Centre!

 

Over the summer, we have heard from many of you who have questions about this brand-new program: what are CWA Meetings all about, who are these events intended for, and where are you headed next?

 

Let’s take a deeper look into CWA Meetings through the lens of our first event in Calgary.

 

Specialized Job Training

CWA Meetings are job training events by design. A ticket to a CWA Meetings event gives you access to:

  • One full day of workshops, for hands-on skills training
  • One full conference day, for discussion and lecture-based training

When you sign up for the event, you will select a content track that best aligns with your role in a climbing gym. This designation will determine the workshops, roundtables, and lectures you participate in for the duration of the event.

 

CWA Meetings content tracks include:

  • Routesetter, designed for routesetting staff, or head routesetters
  • Management/Operations Staff, designed for front desk managers, gym managers, and gym frontline staff
  • Adult/Youth Instruction, designed for program coordinators, trainers, and commercial coaching staff (competition coaching is not addressed)

 

Routesetters Workshop

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

Community Building

Since CWA Meetings are regional events, the program calls in attendees from gyms in the surrounding area to connect with and learn from each other. Building these relationships is an opportunity to strengthen our industry, broaden professional networks, and keep dialogue open among different climbing facilities.

 

Aside from the conference curriculum, CWA Meetings offers a Member Meetup, which invites gym staff from the region (not just attendees) to socialize and make new connections.

 

Management Roundtable

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

How Do CWA Meetings Differ from the CWA Summit?

CWA Meetings offer a unique opportunity to spend several days collaborating with folks in similar job functions. Unlike the CWA Summit, which offers a broad set of conference topics and a full-blown trade show, CWA Meetings are highly focused.

 

Upon registration for a Meeting, you select a track and then remain with that track from start-to-finish. The three tracks contain their own workshops, lectures, and roundtables in a highly engaged learning environment. The CWA selected top workshop facilitators and presenters who can offer a meaningful experience and help hone important skills for each attendee.

 

Additionally, the curriculum goals of CWA Meetings are largely suited towards early and mid-career professionals. While upper-level management are best-served by the Summit, CWA Meetings are built for growth-oriented professionals who are seeking to increase their professional responsibilities through training, discussion, and certification.

 

Management Roundtable

Photo by Matthew Huitma, commissioned by Calgary Climbing Centre

 

Tell Me About CWA Meetings in Calgary!

Not only was this the first CWA Meetings event, this was the first CWA event in Canada. Let’s take a quick look at the event by the numbers:

  • 1 outstanding host facility (Calgary Climbing Centre)
  • 13 facilities in attendance across 3 Canadian provinces and 2 U.S. states
  • 4 workshops
  • 1 keynote
  • 1 film
  • 3 breakout presentations (1 per track)
  • 6 roundtables (2 per track)
  • 2 product presentations

Here’s a look at the event from our attendees’ viewpoint:

 

“CWA Meetings Calgary was a terrific event. I participated in the Youth & Adult Instruction track, and the information was fresh, well presented, informative and extremely applicable. CWI Provider course was also very well run and is such a great certification to have. Facilities, logistics and communication were also very good. Well worth the trip from Chicago!”

- Dave Hudson, Co-owner and Program Coordinator, First Ascent Climbing and Fitness

 

“I found the whole event to be great opportunity to meet other setters and see where standards are at the moment. We have a lot of work ahead. But this event created that energy to keep pushing leaning and standards in the right direction.”

- Juan Henriquez, Head Setter, Calgary Climbing Centre Hanger

 

“CWA events are a necessity for newer gyms. It allows you to get all of your staff up to speed with the industry in a very short amount of time. Send them to it.”

- Terry Paholek, BLOCS

 

Get Involved

The strength of CWA Meetings is found in a diverse representation of facilities and attendees who can contribute a variety of ideas and experience to the event. Don’t miss out on taking part in year one of CWA Meetings!

 

Check out our CWA Meetings Hoboken and CWA Meetings San Francisco events coming up:

  • Hoboken: September 16-20
  • San Francisco: October 21-25

Register yourself or your staff today for CWA Meetings! If you have questions, you can email Emily Moore at emily@climbingwallindustry.org.

 

REGISTER

 

Tags:  certifications  coaching  customer experience  customer service  CWA Meetings  employee engagement  human resources  leadership  management  member retention  operations  programming  risk management  routesetting  routesetting management  staff training  standards  work-at-height  youth training 

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Child Care, Risk Management & Member Retention

Posted By Laura Allured, Monday, August 19, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Child Care in Your Climbing Gym

Most gym owners consider offering child care to members at some point, but does it make sense for your gym?

 

There are advantages to offering child care; it’s a great benefit to members with children and can give your climbing gym a competitive advantage over gyms that don’t offer child care.

 

On the other hand, it’s difficult to create a child care program that generates revenue, so you have to carefully consider your financial model. Plus, child care presents additional liability, which you’ll need to address with thorough risk management strategies.

 

The advantages and disadvantages to child care are numerous, but does it make sense for your business strategy, brand, and members?

 

Any new business offering is an investment, and while regulations for child care vary state to state, there are a few things to consider before deciding if offering child care is a good investment for you.

 

Do You Have the Real Estate for It?

If you are considering offering child care, the obvious first consideration is whether or not you have the real estate for it. Is there an area of your gym that you can re-purpose to a child care area?

 

The area that you use for child care needs to be appropriate for the children that you will care for – the last thing you want is to end up on an unhappy parent's blog.

 

When considering the type of space will need, you’ll need to know:

  • What are the regulations in your state for child care; child to care giver ratios, background checks, cameras in care areas, first aid and CPR certifications?
  • What type of facilities do you need for infants and toddlers?
  • Will you have a separate bathroom for child care?
  • What type of child care do you want to offer: full-service, basic supervision, member co-op, an open play area, kids-specific classes?

 

What Do Your Members Want?

Polling your members is the easiest way to determine if child care is a service they would like to see offered. Survey questions should include:

  • Would you use child care if it was offered?
  • What child care services are most important to you?
  • How many days a week would use it?
  • What days and times would you use it?
  • What are the ages of your children?
  • Would you prefer to pay a monthly flat rate or per visit rate?
  • What price range would you pay for child care? (list price ranges you are considering)

 

Risk Management of Child care

Risk management is simply anticipating situations that can lead to injury for members and taking steps to reduce the chance of those situations actually occurring. Implementing risk management is important as it reduces liability and expenses related to injury or harm.

 

Child care can be an outsized liability if it’s not set up and managed correctly. Follow or exceed state regulations and be sure to consult with your insurance company every step of the way. Train all staff members on procedures and protocols with the child care program. Review your policies and procedures frequently.

 

You’ll want to clearly outline your child care program. Define what you are able to offer and how you will manage different aged children. Outline to parents all policies that you put in place for how children will be cared for at your gym.

 

ROI

As a new business offering, it’s important to weigh the investment, risk, and possible returns of offering child care. Once you’ve set up your space and invested in initial expenses, you may find yourself with a program that only breaks even financially.

 

Though child care fees may not be a significant source of revenue, the offering can have significant impact on member satisfaction and retention, while also attracting new members.

 

US Census data indicates that about 40% of families have children under 18 living at home. Both dual income families and single parent families find it difficult to use fitness facilities without child care.

 

Despite the potential for a small ROI, it is increasingly common to see child care in climbing gyms because they can support your brand and strengthen your gym’s community in immeasurable ways.

 

PIAT (Putting It All Together)

Depending on available space, the percentage of members that would use child care and how much they are willing to pay for it; you can determine whether or not child care in your gym makes sense.

  • Know Your State’s Regulations
  • Ask Your Members What They Want
  • Clearly Outline Your Child Care Program
  • Balance the ROI of Revenue, Branding, and Member Retention

 

Amanda Ashley Head ShotAbout Amanda Ashley

Amanda Ashley is a writer, climber, and a climbing mom. From her early days spent training on the musty community woody in The School at the New River Gorge to training in modern mega climbing gyms all over the West, she's seen the rise of climbing gyms and the evolution of routesetting up close and personal for the past 20 years. Amanda writes about climbers, routesetting, changes in climbing movement and performance, and the climbing industry. Amanda's work has appeared in Climbing Magazine, Climbing Business Journal, and the Utah Adventure Journal.

 

Tags:  community development  customer experience  customer service  member acquisition  member retention  operations  risk management 

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