Feature Article - April 2017
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Reaching New Heights

Demand for Adventure Fitness on the Rise

By Rick Dandes

Growing (and Keeping) a Clientele

Growing your business is really a matter of being inclusive, and that goes for successful climbing gyms and facilities with challenge courses, Carlson said. If you cater to the high-end user, the most experienced participant, your market is always going to be limited to that high-end climber.

For a climbing gym, Carlson said, "offer a wide variety of terrain that will accommodate everything from a beginner to an advanced climber. Then split it up so that you don't have overlap of the two, because a more advanced, experienced climber wants to focus on the training aspect, whereas a beginner wants to learn."

When you have overlap, it can create some friction. It is important to include everybody, but make sure you have defined spaces for someone just starting up and someone who is more advanced.

For entry-level climbers, offer tools like the auto belays, where beginners don't have to know how to belay to go into a climbing gym and climb. They can get a short orientation on how to clip into the auto belay, and then they can begin to climb and so develop an immediate love of the experience.

If you are conducting classes, such as for beginners, it is good to have, if possible, a separate space or pod, Frain said. "Many recreation centers that have limited climbing terrain—they might only have half a dozen or a dozen climbing lanes—could have times of day set aside for beginner climbers. This makes it a little more comfortable for the beginner, and it means more advanced climbers are not getting frustrated because someone is moving too slowly on a route. Advanced climbers want to be lead climbing, and if you have limited terrain you would probably end up with beginner climbers roping in that same space."

People say climbing is a dangerous activity, and it can be, but modern climbing equipment, whether it is with a belayer or an auto belay, is extremely well thought out and safe.

Within a group setting, make sure you have enough routes that accommodate the beginner, the super beginner to the intermediate, and then ones that are challenging enough for the advanced climber to be able to get what they want out of the indoor gym.

Changing the routes is a must, Carlson said. "We've seen excellent facilities not do well because the routes have remained static. That happens a lot with recreation centers where you don't have an experienced route setter. People get bored. You need to have a constant update and altering of the routes. It should be done often. That goes for beginners as well as advanced climbers. This is such a big, important part of having a successful climbing wall."

With challenge courses, make sure you have different routes that participants can take: one easy, one medium, one hard.

Keep up that level of excitement. If all you can do with a bridge on your challenge course is to make it narrower, it can get boring. Try throwing in elements like free fall. Or have a climbing part of the course. This really adds to the experience.

Engage the entire family, not just kids, and not just adventure seekers, Green said. "We have seen kids as young as 4 on a kids' course, and their parents go with them."

Above all else, understand your market, Moore said. "Your offerings and your hours traditionally are the first thing to establish, and then from there it is making sure that you get new people in by using sales and marketing techniques. Getting the word out is what you can do to build up a clientele."